On the eve of Pentecost, Saturday 7th June, five adult converts to the Orthodox Faith were received into the Church by baptism and chrismation during a moving and beautiful baptismal liturgy at St Paul’s Anglican Church, Burslem, Stoke on Trent. Father Peter Farrington has been preparing this group for baptism, and was encouraged that despite many obstacles laid in the way, they have grown even closer together as they have made their journey towards Orthodoxy.
Father Peter drove up to Stoke early on Saturday morning, and met some of the baptismal candidates at St Paul’s Anglican Church to begin preparations. An inflatable baptistery was unpacked and pumped up, and the a hose pipe began to fill it with cold water. The altar was set up for the liturgy which would immediately follow the baptism. Slowly the candidates all arrived, and then the many guests who were determined to brave the wet weather to share in this special and significant occasion. By the time that the baptismal rite was ready to begin there were over 55 people in the church hall, including Father Samuel from the nearby Antiochian Orthodox Church, and many of his own congregation.
Father David Seeds, from the British Orthodox Church of St Hubert, Doncaster, had made the journey to celebrate the reception of these first five members of the Orthodox Community of St Chad in Stoke. The morning services began with the baptism of Julie, Jenny, Maria, Des and Phil who had taken the baptismal names of Photini, Genevieve, Mary, Anthony and Philip. The baptismal waters were perhaps not as warm as they could have been, but the candidates braved the cold and entered the waters one by one to be baptised into Christ by Father Peter. Standing with the waters of the baptismal font still upon them they were then chrismated, anointed with holy oil, and with the laying on of hands the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out upon them.
The joyful congregation processed behind the newly illumined Orthodox into the church of St Paul where Father David celebrated the liturgy assisted by Father Peter. Before the liturgy itself began two more candidates were received as catechumens by the customary prayers and anointing with blessed oil.
Father Peter preached on the Spirit of Truth, and asked the congregation to consider that the newly baptised had become Orthodox in their own search for Truth, and for a Christian community rooted in the Apostolic Church of the first century.
After the liturgy had concluded, and the new members of the Orthodox Community of St Chad had received the Holy Mysteries for the first time, a warm and generous time of fellowship and conversation was shared in the church hall over an excellent buffet prepared by the Orthodox Community. Father Peter wishes to congratulate the members of the Orthodox Community of St Chad for organising such a successful event, and to thank Father David for his support and encouragement, and Father Samuel for his generous attendance.
Father Peter will be visiting Stoke very regularly to build up the community here, and there are many plans already being considered for local activities.
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 Saturday 15th March, the Orthodox Midlands Mission of the British Orthodox Church within the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate organised a study day in Stoke on Trent as The Orthodox Way of Prayer.
Thanks to the kind hospitality of the Revd. Darren McIndoe and his congregation at St Paul’s, Burslem, participants from many different backgrounds came together to study the Orthodox spirituality of prayer in an atmosphere of friendship and Christian fellowship.
The event began with Morning Prayer from the Coptic Daily Office, and then a series of short talks on various themes such as The Prayer of the Heart, Prayer with the Scriptures and Developing a Prayer Rule were interspersed with practical opportunities for prayer and discussion.
An excellent buffet lunch was provided by local supporters of the Orthodox Midlands Mission and there was a great deal of conversation over the shared food. The event concluded with the offering of the prayer of the Ninth Hour from the Coptic Daily Office.
The participants included priests and the faithful from Evangelical, Anglican, Catholic and Orthodox backgrounds. Father Peter Farrington was especially pleased to be able to meet Father Samuel Carter of the Antiochian Orthodox Church who attended the study day with some of his congregation.
The next event in Stoke will be an hierarchical Liturgy, the first British Orthodox liturgy of the Orthodox Midlands mission on Saturday, April 12th, celebrated by His Eminence Metropolitan Seraphim. A second liturgy is planned for Saturday, June 7th at which an adult baptism will take place, and a second study day is already been planned to build on the success of The Orthodox Way of Prayer.
On Saturday, March 15th, Father Peter Farrington will be leading an ecumenical study day at St Paul’s Church of England, Burslem, Stoke on Trent. This event is the first public activity of the Orthodox Midlands mission in Stoke and has already drawn the interest of clergy and laity from many local congregations representing various Christian traditions in the Stoke on Trent area.
This exciting and interesting day of prayer and study has been organised as The Orthodox Way of Prayer. This will take place in Burslem, Stoke on Trent on Saturday, March 15th, and all are welcome to come and experience a taste of the Orthodox spiritual life of prayer.
Saturday 15th March
Orthodox Way of Prayer : 9:30 am – 15:30 pm
St Paul’s, Burslem, Stoke on Trent
Registration and coffee begins at 9:30, a light lunch will be provided, and the event will conclude at 15:30.
The programme will include:
Orthodox Morning Prayer
What is Prayer?
Morning Coffee Break
The Prayer of the Heart
The Prayer of the Liturgy
Prayer with the Scriptures
Developing a Prayer Rule
Afternoon Coffee Break
Orthodox Afternoon Prayer
All are most warmly invited to this event, and we would be grateful if you shared this information with any others who might be interested. We also have a website with details at www.orthodoxmidlands.co.uk.
To allow us to plan for refreshments and teaching materials it would be very helpful to us if you replied to this email indicating that you intend to participate.