On 20 February Father Silas Spear flew into London on a stop-over for his traditional three-month visit to St. Mary’s Coptic Orthodox Church in Kitchener, Ontario, where he assists Father Athanasius Iskander. Abba Seraphim was at the airport to meet him and take him back to the Church Secretariat at Charlton. After a brief rest he accompanied Abba Seraphim and Father Peter Farrington to the meeting at St. George’s-in-the-East at Shadwell. On 21 February Father Silas accompanied Abba Seraphim to Morden College at Blackheath to visit Father Michael Robson, who was delighted to see him. Whilst there Father Silas also visited the College Chapel and met with Father Nick Woodcock, the College chaplain.
As once again, the date for Holy Pascha was common to both East and West, there was a great sense of oneness among Christians in celebrating the Lord’s Resurrection. British Orthodox congregations observed the Holy Week services whilst at Charlton, Father Sergius Scott joined in an Ecumenical Procession of Witness on Good Friday. In all our churches the Paschal Vigil and Liturgy was celebrated on Pascha Eve (23 April), which also coincided with the traditional observance of St. George’s Day in England. The exceptionally fine weather and the fact that so many trees, shrubs and flowers had burst into bloom, added to the sense of the glory of the new life revealed in the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Because of its elderly congregation and the church being isolated in the countryside, St, Mary & St. Felix at Babingley in Norfolk began the Vigil service just before sunset. Abba Seraphim presided and was the first to proclaim, “Christ is Risen”. As there were a good number of Orthodox Christians from Moldova and Russia joining the regular congregation, they were also greeted in Russian. At the conclusion of the Liturgy when Abba Seraphim blessed and distributed dyed eggs, he also blessed their traditional festive foods of pascha and kullich, which they had brought to the church. Father Simon reports that the Bournemouth and Portsmouth congregations celebrated Holy Week and the feast at the Church of Christ the Saviour at Winton (Bournemnouth) and services were well supported. Following the Vigil and Liturgy on Pascha Eve, on the forenoon of Pascha, prayers for the departed were said at church and in a long-established local tradition their graves at Wimborne Road Cemetery were visited and the Resurrection hymn sung as eggs were placed on their graves. At Cusworth the local congregation were also joined by Orthodox Christians from Eastern Europe and the church was filled, whilst at Chatham a new catechumen was received during the evening and the joyous celebration concluded with an extensive buffet which continued into the early hours.
At the conclusion of the service at Babingley Abba Seraphim read the Paschal message from His Holiness Pope Shenouda III and all churches prayed with great fervour for Pope Shenouda and also Patriarch Mor Ignatius Zakka of Antioch, having a great burden of concern for their brothers and sisters in Egypt and Syria who are caught up in the civil disturbances in both countries.
Abba Seraphim returned to London at noon on Holy Pascha and went first to greet Father Michael Robson at Morden College, Blackheath, before visiting sick and housebound members of the church with Holy Communion.
Every two months Abba Seraphim celebrates the Divine Liturgy in the late 17th century Chapel of Morden College at Blackheath. This is where Father Michael Robson has lived for a number of years and the use of the chapel was kindly offered to the British Orthodox Church to minister to Fr. Michael. A warm welcome is always accorded to Abba Seraphim and Fr. Peter Farrington by the College Chaplain and his staff and many others residents of the College frequently attend and support the Orthodox celebrations. The Liturgy on 5 April was also attended by The Right Rev’d Patrick Mwachiko, Bishop of Masasi, one of the sixteen dioceses in the Province of Tanzania,who was visiting friends at Morden College. After the Liturgy there was a convivial gathering for coffee for all those present. Bishop Patrick and his wife were returning home that evening and Abba Seraphim wished them God-speed and assured them that he would pray for the ministry in Masasi.
On 27 February Abba Seraphim marked the fortieth anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood as well as his 63rd birthday. There were no special celebrations organised but thanksgiving prayers were held in all British Orthodox churches and congratulations were received from many clergy in other churches. Abba Seraphim visited Father Michael Robson at Morden College in the morning and was delighted to find him sitting up out of bed and much improved in health and spirits. Later he celebrated the monthly Liturgy at St. Thomas’s Church in Charlton, assisted by Father Sergius Scott and Deacon Theodore de Quincey and preached on the Spiritual Purpose of Great Lent. The regular congregation were delighted to be joined by Reader Seraphim-Mark Boorman and his wife, Susannah, from the Chatham Church also Father Deacon Richard & Dr. Carol Downer from the Melkite Church who had come to greet Abba Seraphim. After the service everyone stayed for tea with a small portion of birthday cake.
Monday, 28 February is the thirty-second anniversary of the death of the late Metropolitan Georgius and Abba Seraphim’s succession as head of the British Orthodox Church.