The British Orthodox Church

within the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate

British Orthodox Churches throughout the UK commemorate His Holiness Pope Shenouda

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.

Advent Carol Service at Cusworth

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.

British Orthodox Churches celebrate Holy Pascha

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.

Special commemoration in all British Orthodox churches

In all British Orthodox congregations this weekend special commemoration of the new Alexandrian martyrs were held and their names read out individually. These were held at noon following the normal Sunday service in order to coincide with similar services being held in Coptic churches throughout Europe. At Portsmouth the service was held on Saturday as the Divine Liturgy was already scheduled then as Father Simon Smyth celebrated the Sunday Liturgy in Bournemouth. The specially designed logo was reproduced and displated around the Portsmouth Church as well as attached to the portable ikon stands. At Cusworth Father David Seeds announced that the church had sent a donation of £250 to the Barnabas Fund to support Coptic Christians in Alexandria.

During his address at Bournemouth, Father Simon referred to the cost of blessings, “True blessing doesn’t come cheap.”  He also pointed to the example of the ascetic lives of the desert Fathers, to the inward pain of the Mother of God, Saint Mary (“my heart weeps when I gaze at Thee on the cross”) and spoke of the supreme example of the martyrs who paid the ultimate price for the great blessing of martyrdom.  “We all want to enjoy God’s blessing – but are we willing to pray the price our beloved Coptic martyrs in Alexandria have just paid?”  He emphasised that the Coptic Orthdox Church is par excellence the Church of martyrs. The memorial prayers for the martyred Copts throughout 2010 were prayed outside the Church building so as to give a greater public witness.  The Church entrance gate and notice board were covered in symbols of the Alexandrian Martyrs with requests for people to pray for them with their names listed.

Weather closes churches

The severe weather which has caused a great deal of chaos in the United Kingdom over the past few weeks resulted in services being cancelled at the Babingley, Chatham and Charlton churches last weekend, 19 December. Even after the snow had stopped falling, the icy roads and wintry conditions made it dangerous to travel and public transport was largely brought to a standstill. One of Father Peter Farrington’s daughters, returning home from Spain for Christmas, found her flight diverted from Gatwick to Luton. As it landed passengers were instructed to brace themselves for an emergency-style landing. Her journey home through the snow took over six hours.

Babingley, being near the Norfolk coast, has suffered heavy snow and sub zero temperatures with Deacon Mark reporting that near him they reached -1o C, although Fr. Anthony Clements in Dumfries reported overnight temperatures there had plummetted to -17 C.  At Cusworth, however, the annual Christmas Carol service was well attended with the congregation wrapped up to wiuthstand the cold. On the previous Sunday Father David Seeds baptised and chrismated two new adult members into the Church. Father Simon Smyth also reported that the main roads were clear between Portsmouth and Bournemouth and services there were uninterrupted and the new underfloor heating made quite a difference. Abba Seraphim expressed regret at the cancellation of services but said he was concerned that church members should be safe and that their welfare was paramount. By God’s grace he had not heard of any accidents to church members either when driving or through the icy conditions on the streets although he admitted that he himself had fallen over on the ice just outside the Church Secretariat, though without serious injury !


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