Paschal Eve Liturgy was celebrated in the British Orthodox churches in Babingley, Bournemouth, Chatham and Cusworth; but the Palm Sunday Liturgy was celebrated at Charlton and additional Holy Week services were also held in Portsmouth. Services in all churches and missions were well supported and numbers were augmented on Pascha Eve by the attendance throughout of Orthodox from Eritrea, Moldova, Roumania and Russia, so that ‘Christ is Risen’ was proclaimed in several languages. Abba Seraphim officiated at St. Felix at Babingley and returned to Charlton in time to host a Paschal barbecue at the Church Secretariat for the London Mission. The marked improvement of the weather over the weekend was much appreciated. The London Mission Liturgy at Shadwell on Saturday, 11 May, will serve as the paschal celebration for London.
The traditional services of Holy Week and Pascha were observed by the British Orthodox churches and missions during the past week and reports indicate that they were all well supported. Father Simon Smyth reported that services were held in the three South Coast communities of Southampton, Portsmouth and Bournemouth from Palm Sunday evening to Holy Wednesday but thereafter came together at the Church in Bournemouth for Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Pascha Eve. Representing the local ‘Churches Together’ Father Robin Nash, priest in charge of St. Luke Winton, joined the local congregation for the Paschal Liturgy when he read the Pauline Epistle. On Holy Pascha, Father Simon held a forenoon service and administered Holy Communion to those who had been unable to attend the late night Liturgy, before conducting the usual Memorial prayers around the Orthodox graves in Winton Cemetery.
Abba Seraphim visited the Chatham Church on Holy Thursday, where he performed the Laquan Footwashing and celebrated the Liturgy before travelling to Babingley to preside at the Good Friday prayer and the Paschal Vigil and Liturgy, which took place at sunset, earlier than at Bournemouth, Chatham and Cusworth, which all began at 10.00 p.m. Before the Paschal Vigil Abba Seraphim baptised and chrismated Richard Tawn at St. Felix Church and, dressed in his white chrisom robe and having been given the new name of George, he was joyfully able to receive his first communion and warmly welcomed to fellowship. Abba Seraphim returned to London early on Pascha morning where he took the sacrament to Father Michael Robson at Morden College and to other elderly and sick members who had been unable to attend a liturgy the previous night.
Abba Seraphim, Father Simon Smyth, Father David Seeds and Father Peter all preached on the Resurrection during their respective liturgies but in Bournemouth and Portsmouth the local deacons also took responsibility for preaching during Holy Week. Always popular is the Good Friday Burial Service, where rose petals, herbs and spices are reverently offered by the women, who assist the clergy in preparing the cross for ‘burial’ and its transfer into the sanctuary.
The services at Chatham and Cusworth were also well supported by their local congregations and all churches reported that they were joined by other ethnic Orthodox who were unable to attend their own churches. Although refreshments were provided in all churches following the Paschal Liturgy, many also brought baskets with traditional paschal dishes to have them blessed before returning with them to their homes. Dyed and chocolate eggs were distributed among all the worshippers and always prove very popular with the children.
The fact that Holy Pascha falls within the forty days of mourning for the death of Pope Shenouda undoubtedly contributed to a reflective spirit in all the churches, and the prayers which are normally made for his life were now changed to those for his repose, but also for many this highlighted the common hope of the Resurrection which we all share and the deep joy we feel in proclaiming that Christ is Risen.
Father Simon Smyth of the Bournemouth and South-Coast churches shared this message:
SOUTH COAST CHURCHES MOURN HIS HOLINESS
In the Church of Christ the Saviour, Bournemouth, the photographs of our beloved patriarch, His Holiness Pope Shenouda, were veiled in black with lighted candles and a cross placed in front. The tone of sadness and loss that Father Simon had heard from so many the previous evening as he had ‘phoned to tell them the news could not be hidden during the Sunday Divine Liturgy. At the conclusion of the Liturgy the hymn “For all the saints who from their labours rest” was sung with real meaning and depth of feeling by the congregation.
Father Simon then stood before the veiled photograph and read an extract from His Holiness’ book The Release of the Spirit:
“what can we say about the father bishops each of whom will be asked by God about nearly two hundred thousands or more whether priests or lay-men? …pray for them earnestly that God may help them carry out their duties… Remember how the holy monks used to escape from this position because of its fearful responsibility. And when one of them was taken by force and ordained as bishop he cried out weeping before God and saying, ‘O Lord, you know that I left the world and went to the monastery to seek my own salvation.. But now I return to the world though I have not attained salvation yet and is required to save others also… What about our fathers the Patriarchs, each one of whom God will ask about ten million in Egypt and much more in” the West and around trhe world. “My brethren, you ought to pray for every Patriarch that he may be able to perform his duties and give a good reply to God when He asks him about his own soul and the souls of the bishops, priests, deacons, monks and laymen… and about keeping the church laws and spreading the Orthodox faith all over the world… do not look to God’s ministers and to those who hold any responsibilities just like spectators praising them when they do good and condemning them when they do wrong… You rather pray for them…”
The morning worship ended with the Memorial Service and the singing of “Give rest, O Christ, Thou light of Light Eternal”:
“Though o’er the grave, for loved ones, still we sorrow,
Yet we may commune with them while we’re waiting,
And, in the joyful hope of that ‘tomorrow’:
Sing Alleluia !”
The Portsmouth Church of Saint Mary the Mother of God and Saint Moses the Black was represented by Reader James Kelly who spoke briefly and movingly of meeting Pope Shenouda in Egypt in late 2010. The Southampton Mission of Saint Polycarp was represented by Mary Goodchild. Both in Southampton and Portsmouth the congregations also veiled photos of Pope Shenouda in black and lit candles before them for their Memorial Services.
Archdeacon Alexandar writes on behalf of the Cusworth, Doncaster Congregation
“His Holiness Pope Shenouda III was remembered in prayers at the Sunday Liturgy of the Church at Cusworth, as were the people of Egypt and the authorities tasked with governing the Church until a new Pope is elected. After the Liturgy special memorial prayers were also offered for the repose of our late Pope’s soul.”
The Babingley, Norfolk congregation had to cancel their Sunday Raising of Incense and Divine Liturgy service, due to Abba Seraphim leaving for Cairo. But they instead held a prayer service for His Holiness lead by Deacon Mark and Deacon Christopher Barnes.
Father Peter Farrington of the Chatham, Maidstone congregation writes
“The congregation of St Alban and St Athanasius Orthodox Chuch in Chatham prayed for the repose of His Holiness during the Liturgy, and then offered prayers for him after the Liturgy in the form of the Panikhida (Memorial prayer service).”
Other messages of support were received from other denominations in the UK
Father Marcus Brisley, Parish of the Annunciation and St. Edmund Campion, Bournemouth writes:
On behalf of myself and my parish I would like to pass on sincere condolences to you and your community at the Church of Christ the Saviour on the death of His Holiness Pope Shenoudah III. A charismatic leader who was used by the Lord to continue the great movement of spiritual renewal within the Coptic Church, he has guided his people in a time of challenge and difficulty. I therefore sense how deeply you and all his spiritual children will feel your loss. May the Lord receive him with mercy and reward him for his labours, comforting Coptic Christians as you mourn and raising up a worthy successor to shepherd you.
With prayers and best wishes in Christ
There were other supporters and well wishers who share their prayers and kind thoughts for H.H. Pope Shenouda III and the families of Egypt.
For the twenty-second year the Church of St. Mark & St. Hubert in Cusworth Village, Doncaster, celebrated its annual Advent Carol; Service. Based on the seven ancient antiphons which were sung at vespers in the Western Church since the sixth century, they hail the coming Messiah with his prophetic titles: Wisdom, Adonai (Lord), Root of Jesse, Key of David, Morning Star, King of the Gentiles and Emmanuel. Sung between 17-23 December, they provide an appropriate preparation for the Nativity Feast.
Father David Seeds and Archdeacon Alexander Astill presided and there wsas a good attendance of the regular congregation and local villagers for what has become an important local event.
As once again, the date for Holy Pascha was common to both East and West, there was a great sense of oneness among Christians in celebrating the Lord’s Resurrection. British Orthodox congregations observed the Holy Week services whilst at Charlton, Father Sergius Scott joined in an Ecumenical Procession of Witness on Good Friday. In all our churches the Paschal Vigil and Liturgy was celebrated on Pascha Eve (23 April), which also coincided with the traditional observance of St. George’s Day in England. The exceptionally fine weather and the fact that so many trees, shrubs and flowers had burst into bloom, added to the sense of the glory of the new life revealed in the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Because of its elderly congregation and the church being isolated in the countryside, St, Mary & St. Felix at Babingley in Norfolk began the Vigil service just before sunset. Abba Seraphim presided and was the first to proclaim, “Christ is Risen”. As there were a good number of Orthodox Christians from Moldova and Russia joining the regular congregation, they were also greeted in Russian. At the conclusion of the Liturgy when Abba Seraphim blessed and distributed dyed eggs, he also blessed their traditional festive foods of pascha and kullich, which they had brought to the church. Father Simon reports that the Bournemouth and Portsmouth congregations celebrated Holy Week and the feast at the Church of Christ the Saviour at Winton (Bournemnouth) and services were well supported. Following the Vigil and Liturgy on Pascha Eve, on the forenoon of Pascha, prayers for the departed were said at church and in a long-established local tradition their graves at Wimborne Road Cemetery were visited and the Resurrection hymn sung as eggs were placed on their graves. At Cusworth the local congregation were also joined by Orthodox Christians from Eastern Europe and the church was filled, whilst at Chatham a new catechumen was received during the evening and the joyous celebration concluded with an extensive buffet which continued into the early hours.
At the conclusion of the service at Babingley Abba Seraphim read the Paschal message from His Holiness Pope Shenouda III and all churches prayed with great fervour for Pope Shenouda and also Patriarch Mor Ignatius Zakka of Antioch, having a great burden of concern for their brothers and sisters in Egypt and Syria who are caught up in the civil disturbances in both countries.
Abba Seraphim returned to London at noon on Holy Pascha and went first to greet Father Michael Robson at Morden College, Blackheath, before visiting sick and housebound members of the church with Holy Communion.
- 12 December 2013
- Evening Prayer & Discussion: Shadwell7.30pm Evening Prayer
7.45pm Talk and discussion
- 14 December 2013
- Morning Incense & Divine Liturgy: PortsmouthMorning Incense & Divine Liturgy 10am
- 15 December 2013
- Morning Prayer: BournemouthMorning Prayer: 9.30am
- Raising of Incense & Divine Liturgy: DoncasterRaising of Incense – 9:45am
Divine Liturgy – 10:30am
- Southampton: Morning PrayerMorning Prayer (10.00) (Holy Trinity Church)