It is with regret that we announce the death of Father Michael Robson at Morden College, Blackheath, on 17 October 2014. Father Michael had been suffering from bronchitis for a few days and had been unable to attend the celebration of the Orthodox Liturgy in Morden College Chapel on 7 October, although Abba Seraphim and Subdeacon Michael Kennedy took Holy Communion to him and he also received the anointing for the sick. His health deteriorated suddenly the morning of his death and he died peacefully in the afternoon.
Father Michael was born in Manchester in 1933 and was ordained a celibate priest in 1978. His secular work had been as working for a number of charities, concluding with running a Christian Retreat Centre in Kent, which he did for twenty-five years until his retirement in 1998. For a number of years he served as a General Priest, assisting with services in London, but he began to host occasional services of the North Kent Mission, which eventually grew into the Chatham Parish. He served faithfully as its first priest until poor health forced him to retire in 2009. When he became too frail to travel to church services, arrangements were made to hold services at Morden College, since when they have been celebrated there regularly.
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 Michael Robson suffered a fall on 3 February during which he fractured the pubic bone in his pelvis and was admitted to hospital for treatment before returning to Morden College. He has since developed a chest infection which is causing some concern and on Friday evening, 4 February Abba Seraphim, attended by the chaplain of Morden College, Father Nick Woodcock, visited him and administered Holy Unction. Although in some pain and sedated, Father Michael was alert and able to follow and join in the prayers.
Only on Tuesday morning, 1 February, Abba Seraphim, assisted by Father Peter Farrington and Subdeacon Dr. Michael Kennedy, celebrated the Divine Liturgy at the Chapel of Morden College. Father Michael was not well enough to attend but afterwards Holy Communion was taken to him in his room and he was able to enjoy a time of fellowship with some of those present.
Your prayers are asked for Father Michael, who is in his 78th year.
Father Michael Robson celebrated his 77th birthday at Callum Welch Court, the nursing home attached to Morden College at Blackheath. Although physically frail he remains in good spirits and enjoys opportunities to meet old friends. He is much loved and respected at Morden College and although he was not well enough to attend the Liturgy when Abba Seraphim last celebrated it in the college chapel on 24 August, many other members of the college attended and prayed for him. For his birthday, Father Michael had several visitors and was busily occupied opening the many cards and greetings received. Abba Seraphim, returning from the Liturgy at Babingley, brought him Holy Communion and prayed with him and gave him the latest news of the church.
The next Morden College Liturgy will be on 12 October (see the Calendar for details).
Divine Liturgy – 10:30am
Divine Liturgy 2.30 p.m.