The recent visit of His Holiness Mar Basilius Mar Thoma Paulose II, Catholicos of the East, to England, was not only a great blessing for the Indian (Malankara) Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom but also a significant ecumenical event. His visit marked a number of historic anniversaries: 80 years since the first celebration of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Qurbana in the Chapel of King’s College, London; 75 years since H.H.The Catholicos, Mar Baselios Geeverghese II visited the UK in 1937; 60 years since the Malayalee migration to the UK and 40 years since the formation of the St. Gregorios Congregation in London.
Abba Seraphim, accompanied by Subdeacon Daniel Malyon and Reader Trevor Maskery, attended the Divine Liturgy celebrated by the Catholicos at St. Gregorios Indian Orthodox Church in Brockley on Sunday, 8 September, and assisted in the liturgical celebration and the parochial speeches and festivities which followed.
On Monday, 9 September a Banquet of some 90 guests was held to honour the Catholicos at Lambeth Palace. In the absence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishops of Gibraltar in Europe (The Right Rev. Geoffrey Rowell) and Southwark (The Right Rev. Christopher Chessum) acted as hosts. Representatives of all the major churches were present as well as many leading members of the Malayalee community in the UK and friends of the Indian Orthodox Church. The British Orthodox Church was represented by Abba Seraphim, Father Peter Farrington and Father & Mrs. Simon Smyth.
On 19 August Subdeacon Daniel Malyon and Janice Oommen were joined together in Holy Matrimony in Kerala. The service was performed by His Grace Gabriel Mar Gregorios, Bishop of Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum) in his Domestic Chapel at Aramana, assisted by three of his priests and was conducted in both Malayalam and English in the presence of some 240 guests. On 16 August Daniel had an audience with His Holiness Baselios Mar Thoma Paulose II, Catholicos of the East, who gave them his blessing.
The Betrothal of Daniel and Janice had been performed on 16 December 2012 by Father Simon Smyth at Christ the Saviour Church in Bournemouth, where Daniel and Janice had first met.
In his letter of greeting to Mar Gregorios, Abba Seraphim had written, “The forthcoming wedding is a source of much pleasure to the clergy and faithful of the British Orthodox Church, not only because we have come to know and love Janice during her stay in the UK; but also because it symbolises the deep affection band respect with which the British Orthodox regard the venerable Orthodox Church of India, which has proved such a vibrant witness to our common faith, both here and in its homeland in Kerala.”
Although the Oriental Orthodox churches in the United Kingdom share a common faith, they do not share a common calendar, so the Nativity Feast was celebrated on 25 December for the British, Indian and Syrian Orthodox, on 6 January for the Armenian Orthodox and 0n 7 January for the Coptic, Eritrean and Ethiopian Orthodox.
On 6 January Abba Seraphim presided at the Blessing of the Waters and Divine Liturgy at St. Mary & St. Felix Church at Babingley, Norfolk, where he preached on the meaning of the Holy Theophany, one of the seven great feasts of the Church. Having blessed all those present with the newly sanctified water, they afterwards took away bottles of the holy water for use in their homes. That same evening, Abba Seraphim presided at the Nativity Vigil of the canonical Eritrean Orthodox Church (recognising Patriarch Antonios) in London meeting in Archway, Highgate, where he was warmly welcomed by Father Shenouda Haile and his congregation. Also assisting in the sanctuary was Subdeacon Daniel Malyon from the British Orthodox Church. At the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy clergy and people sat together to enjoy a festive meal and Abba Seraphim blessed two birthday cakes as well as the traditional enjera, hambasha and wat.
On 5 December, Abba Seraphim and Subdeacon Daniel Malyon attended a performance of scenes from the York cycle of the mediaeval mystery plays, which was being performed at St. George-in-the-East Church at Shadwell. This was the first year that the Players of St. Peter, a long established group of amateur and professional actors, had performed at Shadwell. The extracts ranged from the Fall of the Angels and Moses and Pharoah through the Annunciation, Nativity and Baptism and concluding with the Last Judgement.
Mystery plays, depicting biblical stories from Creation to Doomsday were a common way of marking religious festivals in towns and cities and traditionally performed by different trade guilds were widespread throughout England, but fell into disuse at the Reformation when puritans disapproved of religious drama as much as they did of liturgical worship.
Commenting on the genre, Abba Seraphim observed that they had served as a catechetical device for rustic people of simple but strong faith at a time when the scriptures were not readily accessible. They were sound in doctrine and encouraged a good knowledge of both old and new testaments as well as a lively sense of good and evil. Despite our sophistication and ready access to the scriptures, we live in a society where the Bible is a little-read best seller and, apart from regular church goers, knowledge of God’s purpose in creation and redemption, is abysmal today. He commended such plays and agreed with the Players’ desire to feel in touch with a very ancient English tradition of celebrating religious festivals.
On the evening of Thursday 11 October, Fr. Peter Farrington and Subdeacon Daniel Malyon represented the British Orthodox Church at an event commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council. This was held at Heythrop College and organised by the Society for Ecumenical Studies. The event involved talks by the Most Rev’d Kevin McDonald, former Roman Catholic Archbishop of Southwark, and the Rev’d Dr James Hawkey, a Minor Canon of Westminster Abbey, on the state of ecumenism in the fifty years following the Second Vatican Council of the Roman Catholic Church.
Archbishop Kevin Mcdonald looked at his experiences working with the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity (later renamed The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity). He covered key parts of the development of Rome’s Ecumenical relationships with the Oriental Orthodox, Eastern Orthodox and Anglicans as well as a number of protestant groups. He then went on to discuss the Roman Catholic policy towards other religions, especially Judaism. The talk was well received due to its in-depth detail and the relevance of his experience in the field.
This was followed by Rev’d Dr James Hawkey, who responded to the talk by highlighting the gains and challenges to be faced in the future of the movement. This talk also looked at the social challenges we are facing as Christian communities, such as the varying approaches to secularism and the vastly changing modern society.
The two talks were followed by observations from Methodist and United reformed Church ministers and some very well thought out questions from the audience which tackled the issues of the role of women in Roman Catholicism, inter-faith dialogue and grass-roots responses to the Ecumenical movement. These reminded us again of the many issues facing all Christian communities in the modern world.
Altogether, the night was extremely educational and informative for all there, from those who have been involved in ecumenical relations for decades to those who are new to the concept. It also demonstrated the willingness of the Christian Community to come together and work to understand each other and our shared Christian faith without compromising on their own values and practices, which is the key value of the movement itself.
- 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)
- Raising of Incense and Liturgy: ChathamRaising of Incense: 10:00 am
Divine Liturgy: 10:30 am