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 Church of Christ the Saviour, Bournemouth, Advent Carol Service took place this year on Sunday 9 December. Numbers were up on recent years and the enthusiastic congregation sang with joy and gusto. As the service is based on that anciently sung with the Magnificat in Vespers during Advent, the Magnificat was included, being chanted antiphonally. Further additions to the carols in the printed service were two beautiful solos by Diana Radu, Romanian Carols sung in her native language. The address was given by Subdeacon Antony-Paul Holland. He admitted that he had not always been “a great fan of carols” but had come to appreciate them for a number of reasons. There was the unity they offered “with our forbears”, those Christians of previous generations who had sung them before us and indeed who had composed them. Then there was their link with the scriptures, particularly “the prophecies of the coming of a Messiah such as those in the book of Isaiah, and the stories surrounding the Nativity in the New Testament.” Carols also helped us fulfil the numerous Biblical exhortations to sing and to join with the choirs of angels: “Our carolling is certainly an opportunity to join with this unceasing hymn of praise…”
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.
Raising of Incense – 9:45am
Divine Liturgy – 10:30am
10.30am Morning Prayer
9.30 am Raising of Incense
10.00 am Liturgy of St. James
11.45 am Refreshments
Raising of Incense – 9:45am
Divine Liturgy – 10:30am
10.30am Morning Prayer