Abba Seraphim, accompanied by Deacon Daniel Malyon and Subdeacon Trevor Maskery, visited the Church and congregation at Cusworth for the weekend of Saturday & Sunday, 30 & 31 August. After the Raising of Evening Incense on Saturday evening he dined with Father David Seeds and the clergy at Sprotbrough. The following morning they were joined by Father Peter Farrington, Archdeacon Alexander Astill and members of the Stoke Mission for the Sunday morning Liturgy. During the service Abba Seraphim presented Father David with a relic of Saint Hubert, Bishop of Liege (c. 656-727), one of the local church’s patrons. This was a gift of an anonymous donor and was rescued from his shrine in the Benedictine Abbey of Amdagion (now St. Hubertus) in Belgium, when his relics “disappeared” at the Reformation. A parish luncheon in the Battie-Wrightson Memorial Hall followed after the service, during which Abba Seraphim spoke on “British Orthodoxy.”
Following Holy Pascha, at the invitation of His Grace Bishop Kyrillos, Bishop of Milan and Papal Deputy for All Europe, Abba Seraphim and the priestly members of the Synod of the British Orthodox Church, travelled to Northern Italy for a retreat in the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Milan.
Arriving in Milan on 22 April, Abba Seraphim and Fathers Simon Smyth, David Seeds and Peter Farrington, were received at Linate airport by Bishop Kyrillos and clergy, who accompanied them to St. Shenouda the Archimandrite Monastery at Lacchiarella. The next morning, being the traditional British date for the celebration of St. George’s Day, Abba Seraphim and his clergy celebrated the Divine Liturgy of St. James in the presence of Bishop Kyrillos, some of his priests and the monks of the monastery. Later, accompanied by Father Raffaele Gebrail, they were entertained to lunch in Milan with Engineer Salama Salama before being accompanied by Father Antonios Ava Shenouti on the train to Venice, where they dined with Bishop Kyrillos.
The next day, accompanied by Father Antonios, they visited the Basilica of St. Marco and prayed at the tomb of the saint at the high altar. They then visited the Church of St. Zaccaria to pray at the shrines of St. John the Forerunner’s father, the priest Zechariah, as well as those of St. Athanasius the Apostolic. Venice is rich in relics of the saints, those of St. Mark having been stolen from Alexandria by Venetian merchants in 828, although a portion of the relics were returned to Pope Kyrillos VI by Pope Paul VI of Rome. Similarly in 1973 Pope Paul sent a portion of the relics of St. Athanasius to the late Pope Shenouda III in a fraternal gesture. The party ended their tour on foot at the Cathedral of St. Pietro in Castello, where they viewed the ancient throne of St. Peter, which had originally stood in Antioch. In the late afternoon they visited the site of the new Cathedral in Campalto, just outside the ancient city of Venice, where they joined Bishop Kyrillos and prayed for the successful completion of the work.
Returning to Milan on 25 April they lunched with Salama Salama’s son, Tariq, and his wife Christina, who then accompanied them (with Father Raffaele) to some of the significant sites in the city. As it was Independence Day in Italy, the streets were very busy with holiday makers and marchers. They prayed at the shrine of St. Ambrose, before visiting St. Maria dei Miracoli, the Duomo and the Basilica of St. Babila, named after St. Babylas, Patriarch of Antioch, who was martyred in the Decian persecution of 254.
The following morning Abba Seraphim and his priests assisted Bishop Kyrillos perform the marriage of Shady and Guiliana, followed by St. Basil’s Liturgy. This was a fitting climax to a blessed retreat during which the bishops and clergy of the two dioceses shared many insights of their respective ministries and a profound sense of fraternal love which binds them together.
On 12 April the new BOC Stoke Mission at Stoke-on-Trent hosted its first celebration of the Divine Liturgy. This memorable event took place at St Paul’s Church, Church Square, Burslem, Stoke on Trent, ST6 4BY and was celebrated by Abba Seraphim, assisted by Fathers David Seeds, Peter Farrington, Archdeacon Alexander Astill, Deacon Daniel Malyon and Reader Petrous Louis, on his first visit to the UK from Melbourne. The celebration received warm support from our ecumenical partners and especially from the Suffragan Bishop of Stafford, (The Right Rev’d Geoff Annas), who also attended.
Following the Raising of Morning Incense, Father David received four local enquirers as catechumens with prayer and anointing with oil. There are now five adult catechumens in Stoke preparing for baptism and the first of these will take place on 7 June. Father Peter plans to visit Stoke on a fortnightly basis to build up the Mission, when he will celebrate the Liturgy, share a communal meal with them and lead a study & instruction session.
During his homily, Father Peter used the Gospel account of the raising of Lazarus to illustrate our need for commitment and responsiveness to the divine call. Following the liturgy, all those present shared a buffet lunch and time of Christian fellowship.
Since 2002 the British Orthodox Parish of St. Mary & St. Felix at Babingley, Norfolk, has participated in the local Week of Prayer for Christian Unity by sponsoring an ecumenical lecture during The Raising of Evening Incense. This year a full church welcomed The Right Rev’d Alan Hopes, 4th Catholic Bishop of East Anglia. Introducing him to those present, Abba Seraphim spoke warmly of his predecessor, the late Bishop Michael Evans, who had been the speaker at the St. Felix ecumenical lecturer in 2005 and had also served on the Catholic-Oriental Orthodox Regional Forum alongside Abba Seraphim .
Bishop Alan began by reviewing the progress of the Catholic Church’s ecumenical dialogue in the fifty years since the IInd Vatican Council and its serious commitment to ecumenical dialogue with a wide range of Christian traditions, of which the dialogue with the Oriental Orthodox Churches was very active. Abba Seraphim later recalled that the meeting between the two newly elected Popes, Tawadros II of Alexandria and Francis I of Rome, last year was hugely significant, being the first meeting of heads of churches of both Popes, and came exactly forty years after the visit of Pope Shenouda III to Pope Paul VI in Rome.
Following the Evening Service, at which Abba Seraphim was assiated by Father David Seeds from Cusworth and Deacons Christopher Barnes and Daniel Malyon, all present joined together for a very British tea party and Bishop Alan was able to talk with local members of the British Orthodox Church as well as the wider ecumenical visitors.
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.