The recent visit of His Holiness Mar Basilius Mar Thoma Paulose II, Catholicos of the East, to England, was not only a great blessing for the Indian (Malankara) Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom but also a significant ecumenical event. His visit marked a number of historic anniversaries: 80 years since the first celebration of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Qurbana in the Chapel of King’s College, London; 75 years since H.H.The Catholicos, Mar Baselios Geeverghese II visited the UK in 1937; 60 years since the Malayalee migration to the UK and 40 years since the formation of the St. Gregorios Congregation in London.
Abba Seraphim, accompanied by Subdeacon Daniel Malyon and Reader Trevor Maskery, attended the Divine Liturgy celebrated by the Catholicos at St. Gregorios Indian Orthodox Church in Brockley on Sunday, 8 September, and assisted in the liturgical celebration and the parochial speeches and festivities which followed.
On Monday, 9 September a Banquet of some 90 guests was held to honour the Catholicos at Lambeth Palace. In the absence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishops of Gibraltar in Europe (The Right Rev. Geoffrey Rowell) and Southwark (The Right Rev. Christopher Chessum) acted as hosts. Representatives of all the major churches were present as well as many leading members of the Malayalee community in the UK and friends of the Indian Orthodox Church. The British Orthodox Church was represented by Abba Seraphim, Father Peter Farrington and Father & Mrs. Simon Smyth.
Accompanied by Fathers Simon Smyth and Peter Farrington, Abba Seraphim flew out of London on 25 March and arrived in Cairo in the early hours of 26 March, where he was greeted by Shenouda Mamdouh, Egyptian Secretary to the British Orthodox Church, and taken to St. Mark’s Centre in Nasr City, where they were to stay during this visit. On their flight they had the pleasure of travelling with Father John Sarkis, priest of St. Mary & St. Samuel the Confessor Church in Toronto.
The next morning they were joined by Tina Hammond, a member of the BOC Chatham congregation, her husband Youhanna Said Hakim, and Father Arsanios Amba Boula, who joined Abba Seraphim’s party. Together they drove to Old Cairo where they visit St. George’s Convent and were received by Mother Kyria and visited the shrines and churches of the monastery, before travelling on to St. Theodore’s (Amir Tadros) Convent in Hârat ar-Rûm, where they were warmly received by the Abbess, Mother Adrosios, and the nuns. After leaving the Convent they visited some craftmen in Khan El Khalili. From here they drove to the Old Patriarchate in Ezbekia, where His Grace Bishop Raphael, the newly appointed General Secretary of the Holy Synod, has established his office. Since Pope Shenouda removed the Patriarchate to Abbesseya, the Old Patriarchate has rather fallen into neglect, so it was good to see this historic building restored. Bishop Raphael received all of Abba Seraphim’s party and they discussed a number of common issues and concerns. At the conclusion of the meeting, Bishop Raphael conducted them on a visit to the private rooms and cell of the late Pope Kyrillos VI, which are shortly to be renovated.
On 27 March, Abba Seraphim met with Fr. Seraphim El Souriani, one of the papal secretaries, at the Patriarchate at Abbesseya and, afterwards, His Holiness Pope Tawadros received Abba Seraphim, Fathers Simon and Peter and Shenouda Mamdouh at the Patriarchate, where they reported on the work and ministry of the British Orthodox Church. Following their audience with the Pope, they visited the Coptic Cultural Centre and were received by His Grace Bishop Ermia, who conducted them round the new exhibition of ancient Coptic manuscripts, and afterwards they visited the Library and viewed the collections of the late Bishop Gregorios and Pope Shenouda.
On 28 March Abba Seraphim and his party drove to the Wadi El-Natrun. They first visited St. Bishoy’s Monastery, where they were received by their old friend, Father Arsanios El Anba Bishoy. After praying at the main shrines, they went to pray at the tomb of the late Pope Shenouda. From here they drove the short distance to the Syrian monastery to pray at the church and where they had lunch, before driving out on the Alexandria Road to visit the Anafora Retreat Centre, which has been established by His Grace Bishop Thomas of El Kousseya. Abba Seraphim had visited here in 2002 and 2005 and the progress in the facilities available was impressive. From the moment they arrived everyone experienced the tranquility of this spiritual haven. Bishop Thomas kindly conducted the party around the many facilities and they met and spoke with both staff and visitors present.
On 29 March Abba Seraphim and his companions visited a number of vestment makers, bookshops and craftsmen, before returning to St. Mark’s Centre, where they received a number of friends and visitors. They left a warm, sunny Cairo on the morning of 30 March and returned to a cold London with flurries of snow.
The first Orthodox Liturgy for the British Orthodox Windsor Mission was held at St. Andrew’s Church, Clewer, on 16 March, through the kind hospitality afforded by the Rev’d Louise Brown and St. Andrew’s PCC. Despite the torrential rain it was well supported and by the end of the Divine Liturgy the sun had come out and the church’s beautiful setting could be better appreciated. At the beginning of the service Abba Seraphim received into Orthodoxy, by baptism and chrismation, Dr. Michael Brenton, who has been a catechumen for several months and serves as the Secretary of the Windsor mission. Father Peter Farrington, under whose ministry the Windsor mission was established, preached the homily.
This is a warm invitation to two opportunities to worship with us in Windsor at our Orthodox Mission of St Andrew this week.
On Monday 11th March we are meeting to pray a service of Orthodox Evening Prayer in the English language. We begin our prayers at 6:30 pm at St Andrew’s Church of England, Mill Lane, Clewer, Windsor. Father Peter Farrington will lead the prayers from the Orthodox Daily Office of the Coptic Orthodox tradition in the English language. After the service of prayer there will be time for conversation and refreshments.
On Saturday 16th March, this coming Saturday, we are meeting to celebrate the Orthodox Liturgy in the English language for the first time at St Andrew’s, Mill Lane, Clewer, Windsor. Our morning of worship will begin at 9:30 am with the Raising of Incense, and the Liturgy itself will begin at 10:00 am. His Eminence Metropolitan Seraphim will celebrate the Liturgy assisted by Father Peter Farrington. There will be an opportunity for conversation and refreshments after the Liturgy.
You are most warmly welcome to attend either or both of these services. If you know of others who may be interested in participating in our Orthodox worship then do please pass this message on to them.
The Discovering Orthodoxy online catechesis has now been launched by the London School of Orthodox Christian Studies, and the course website can be visited at www.discoveringorthodoxy.org
The first two units available to any visitors to the site, but a user account system will be implemented over the course of this week and so that only registered students will be able to access future units. This is to allow the provision of proper support to those engaged in catechesis. Registered students will receive their account details before the next unit is published.
Several other units are already in production. The next unit to be published will be Beginning with Church History which will be presented by H.E. Metropolitan Seraphim. Father Peter Farrington is producing a unit looking at the evidence for our faith in God.
There are over 800 students registered for the Discovering Orthodox online catechesis from around the world. This is truly a global and pan-Orthodox and ecumenical project. The long term target throughout 2013 is to produce 50 interesting units of study, and to have registered 2000 students.
Each of the units will contain a short written introduction which will include some important references from the Fathers of the Church relevant to the topic. The main content will be a video/audio presentation by one of the course contributors. Followed by a short Bible study on the topic. There will be a few simple questions just to allow us to make sure that the learning material is working and you have understood the topic.
There are over 200 topics for which we material is being planned, and this phase of the project will take several years to complete. It is hoped to produce a serious and useful library of resources that will remain helpful to Orthodox Christians and those interested in the Orthodox Faith.
H.E Metropolitan Seraphim says of this project..
Catechesis is an essential component of the church’s ministry and I warmly support this latest initiative of the London School of Orthodox Studies. A commitment to sharing the Apostolic faith and tradition is not only a witness to the catholicity of the Orthodox Church but also a precious token of love to those of other Christian traditions or none. In each generation our fathers have faced the challenges of their Age but this inexhaustible spiritual nourishment has never failed to sustain and strengthen those who feast on it.