On Saturday 8 December, following the celebration of the Divine Liturgy, the Portsmouth Parish of Saint Mary the Mother of God and Saint Moses the Black held its Annual General Meeting. Subdeacons Antony-Paul Holland and James-Antony Kelly were elected to the offices of Secretary and Treasurer respectively for 2013. Financial matters discussed and decided were principally the payment of the Church tithe to Central Fund for both 2012 and the previous year as something that simply must be done as a spiritual and Biblical requirement and also that the Portsmouth Church would commit to supporting (through regular monthly payments via the Barnabas Fund) a displaced Syrian Christian family throughout the forthcoming year. Father Simon reminded the assembled Church members of the Syrian origins of the British Orthodox Church back in the nineteenth century with the consecration of our first bishop and of the debt we owed Syrian Christianity. There was unanimous support for the motion and the Portsmouth congregation followed on from the recent decision of the Bournemouth congregation to likewise (via the Barnabas Fund) support a Syrian Christian family throughout the forthcoming year.
On 8 November, Father Simon Smyth, accompanied by his wife Sheila returned once again to Moorlands Bible College to lecture on iconography. A double session had been booked by Alistair McKitterick, Tutor and Lecturer in Biblical and Theological Studies, thus allowing plenty of time following the lecture for questions and discussion. Why we kiss icons and what it means to kiss them; the distinction between worship of God and veneration of icons manifesting Christ our God; Christology; the goodness of creation and matter; prayer and spirituality were among a host of related topics considered. A number of these were helpfully and insightfully fielded by Sheila Smyth, displaying a female touch, and providing a useful contrast to Father Simon’s sometimes academic responses. Further questions and discussions continued over an excellent dinner.
After a pause last year, the Glastonbury Pilgrimage resumed its annual commemoration at Glastonbury Abbey this year on 16 June. Abba Seraphim was the Orthodox celebrant in the morning in the abbey’s undercroft, assisted by Father Simon Smyth, Deacon John Stuart, Subdeacons Paul Ashdown and Daniel Malyon and Readers Anthony-Paul Holland and James Kelly.
Although the weather was blustery and threatening, the rain providentially held off and did not disrupt any of the pilgrimage. The Anglican Liturgy followed the Orthodox Liturgy at noon. The principal celebrant was the Bishop of Beverley (The Right Rev’d Martyn Jarrett) and the preacher was the Bishop of Ebbsfleet (The Right Rev’d Jonathan Baker) who preached an eirenic sermon about our Lord’s kingship, rich in patristic as well as historical references to St. Dunstan and the English coronation service. At its conclusion the Bishop of Plymouth (The Right Revd John Ford), who is also of the Glastonbury Pilgrimage Association, specifically welcomed Abba Seraphim and his clergy. After lunch Abba Seraphim and his clergy joined in the Procession of Witness through the centre of Glastonbury.
The British Orthodox Church has marked the Diamond Jubilee of H.M. The Queen with a special thanksgiving prayer used in all its churches and missions,
“Almighty God, who rulest over all the kingdoms of the world, and dost order them according to thy good pleasure: We yield Thee unfeigned thanks, for that Thou wast pleased, as at this time, to set Thy Servant our Sovereign Lady, Queen ELIZABETH, upon the Throne of this Realm. Let Thy wisdom be her guide, and let Thine arm strengthen her; let truth and justice, holiness and righteousness, peace and charity, abound in her days; direct all her counsels and endeavours to Thy glory, and the welfare of her subjects; give us grace to obey her cheerfully for conscience sake, and let her always possess the hearts of her people; let her reign be long and prosperous, and crown her with everlasting life in the world to come; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
At its recent meeting, the Synod of the British Orthodox Church also sent a Loyal Address to Her Majesty:
“We, Your Majesty’s faithful subjects, the Metropolitan and Priests, together with the officers of the British Orthodox Church, assembled in Synod in London on this thirtieth day of May, in the Year of our Lord 2012, desire to assure Your Majesty of our loyalty and devotion to Your Person and to Your Throne on the occasion of the national celebration of the Diamond Jubilee of Your Majesty’s Accession.
Throughout these sixty years Your Majesty has maintained a steadfast witness to the Christian Faith as well as setting us all an admirable example of fidelity to the precepts of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
The support and encouragement shown by Your Majesty for the diverse pastoral and charitable activities undertaken by the churches has provided a constant and powerful witness in a changing society which has edified and encouraged us all.
Your Majesty’s example of self-sacrifice, lifelong commitment to the service of the common good and unwavering witness to the abiding significance of spiritual values has strengthened the witness of all Christians as they endeavour to show the love of the Lord Jesus Christ to the world in which they live.
The British Orthodox Church, having the privilege to worship in St. Felix Chapel at Babingley, a property on the Sandringham Estate, which Your Majesty has graciously permitted us to use for our worship since 2001, has an especial reason to be grateful for Your Majesty’s support and munificence.
In all the liturgical services of the British Orthodox Church it has been our joyful duty to pray for Your Majesty and all the Reigning House but it is with heartfelt devotion that our congregations throughout the United Kingdom now celebrate with special thanksgiving this auspicious anniversary, continuing to beseech Almighty God to grant health, happiness and Many Years to Your Majesty, to Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall and all the Royal Family.
Metropolitan of Glastonbury
Hegoumenos Simon Smyth
Chairman of the Priests’ Council
Father Peter Farrington
Secretary of the British Orthodox Synod”
The celebration of the Divine Liturgy in Portsmouth on Saturday 12th May included the latest baptism, that of young Alexander Bahy Eladham Ramsay Mahrous. He was beautifully behaved throughout the service and beamed wonderfully when he was dressed in the miniature priest’s garments at the conclusion. This is not just a ‘nice touch’ or a good ‘photo opportunity’ but is in fact an important symbol emphasising that all the baptised are members of the “royal priesthood” (1Peter 2:9). The ordained priest does not celebrate the Liturgy on behalf of the congregation who are merely spectators – no, the ordained priest leads the celebration in which all present participate, offering the eucharist together and he may no more offer it without a congregation than the congregation may dare to offer it without an ordained priest.