Although the Church in Cusworth Village, near Doncaster, Yorkshire, was opened in 1965, it wasn’t until 1988 that it became Orthodox. It was consecrated by Abba Seraphim on 30 April 1988 and celebrated its Silver Jubilee as an Orthodox Church over the weekend 18-19 May.
The celebration began on Saturday morning with the arrival of Abba Seraphim and the Raising of Morning Incense, during which he spoke about the significance of the Jubilee and the fact that it was not simply looking back, but also looking forward to the future. In addition to Father David Seeds, the parish priest, and Archdeacon Alexander Astill, they were joined by Father Simon Smyth and representatives of the BOC South Coast congregations, Deacon Christopher Barnes representing the Babingley Church, as well as Fathers Habtom Ftuwi, the Eritrean Orthodox priest in Manchester; Fr. Yonas Tesheme, the Eritrean Orthodox priest in Sheffield, along with Eritrean Orthodox faithful; as well as our good friend, Archimandrite Deiniol of the Wales Orthodox Mission and friends from other parts of the country. Among the many messages of greetings received and read out were those from His Grace Bishop Makarios, overseer of the Eritrean Church in the diaspora, the Catholic Bishop of Hallam and the Anglican Vicar of Doncaster.
After a buffet lunch, traditional Eritrean hymns were sung in Tigrinyan and English in the churchyard and Abba Seraphim gave a talk on “The State of Christians in Ancient Bible Lands”. The day concluded with the Raising of Evening Incense.
On Sunday, 19 May, Father David Seeds celebrated the special Thanksgiving Liturgy for the Jubilee and Father Simon Smyth preached the homily.
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 10 November at the Copthorne Tara Hotel in Kensington, Abba Seraphim gave an address at the Annual Dinner of the Coptic Medical Society. His subject was “Campaigning for the Human Rights of the Copts” in which he spoke of his part in supporting both Copts and converts to Christianity, especially in relation to their asylum claims. He spoke warmly of the support given from organisations such as the Barnabas Fund and United Copts of Great Britain and the Asylum Advocacy Group, of which he was one among several members. He recounted how his concern for Human Rights also extended to the Eritrean Orthodox community and the campaign to support the canonical Patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox Church, Abune Antonios.
As inspiration for this work he took the examples of Abraham offering hospitality to the three angels on the plains of Mamre (Genesis XVIII), and the reminder given by St. Paul, “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Hebrews XIII: 2). Hospitality to strangers is a recurring theme in the scriptures and is given particular emphasis by our Lord when speaking about the Last Judgement, “I was a stranger and ye took me in …” Nor should we forget that our Creator, Saviour and Redeemer was born in a manger because there was no room for him in the inn.
St. Paul also encourages us “to stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free.” (Galatians V: 1) The apostle, of course, was not speaking of civil liberties but of the contrast between the slavery of the Mosaic Law and the liberty of life in Christ, with free will as a gift from God to man. It is therefore the foundation of all human rights. If we rely on governments to grant us human rights then logically they can deny them to us when they chose. Created in the image of God,St. John says, “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God .. and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him.” (1 John III: 1-2). It is precisely because of that divinely-given vocation that a human being’s freedom is so precious and must be upheld.
29 October. Throughout the day the Coptic electors have been casting their votes for the five candidates for the papal throne and this evening it was announced that the three who have emerged as the front runners are Bishop Raphael (1980 votes), Bishop Tawadros (1623 votes) and Father Raphael Ava Mina (1530 votes). These will be the three names which will be placed on the altar at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Abbeseya and from which the next Pope & Patriarch will be chosen by the Sacred Lot on Sunday, 4 November.
Of some 2412 eligible voters, 2177 voted, a turn-out of some 90%. Members of the Holy Synod who were eligible to vote but chose not to, were Metropolitan Mikhail of Assuit, Bishop Serapion of Los Angeles, Bishop Paphnutius of Samalout and Bishop Boula of Africa. Three other bishops, who, as they are not Egyptian citizens, were not eligible to vote: Metropolitan Seraphim of Glastonbury, Bishop Athanasius of France and Bishop Elia of Khartoum.
Among those voting were five Archbishops delegated by the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewehedo Church, which included Archbishop Antonios, who normally resides in London. Under the terms of the Protocol with the Eritrean Orthodox Church there are two official observers who are His Grace Bishop Makarios (New Jersey) and Father Teklemariam of Frankfurt, who is the episcopal administrator of the European diocese, who are both loyal to the imprisoned Patriarch, Abune Antonios. The Coptic Orthodox Church declined to accept any representatives from the government controlled Synod in Asmara.
On 8 September Abba Seraphim celebrated the Divine Liturgy at St. George’s Church, Bridge Street, Newtown, Birmingham, at the invitation of Father Mulebrhan, the newly ordained priest for the local Eritrean Orthodox community within the Diocese of Europe, under His Grace Bishop Makarios. Assisting him were Father Mulebrhan and Father Yonas Tesheme from Sheffield as well as a number of deacons. Abba Seraphim preached on the Gospel of the day (Matthew XI: 1-20) to a large and devout congregation. Following the service and traditional religious songs and dances, Abba Seraphim spoke about his long association with the Eritrean Orthodox Church in the UK and answered questions from the congregation about the situation of the Eritrean diaspora following the uncanonical removal of His Holiness Abune Antonios, the Eritrean Patriarch, in 2006. This congregation remains loyal to the Patriarch, whom it continues to pray for in the diptychs. Thanks were also expressed to Abba Seraphim for his unwavering support for the loyalist Eritrean clergy and faithful.