The traditional services of Holy Week and Pascha were observed by the British Orthodox churches and missions during the past week and reports indicate that they were all well supported. Father Simon Smyth reported that services were held in the three South Coast communities of Southampton, Portsmouth and Bournemouth from Palm Sunday evening to Holy Wednesday but thereafter came together at the Church in Bournemouth for Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Pascha Eve. Representing the local ‘Churches Together’ Father Robin Nash, priest in charge of St. Luke Winton, joined the local congregation for the Paschal Liturgy when he read the Pauline Epistle. On Holy Pascha, Father Simon held a forenoon service and administered Holy Communion to those who had been unable to attend the late night Liturgy, before conducting the usual Memorial prayers around the Orthodox graves in Winton Cemetery.
Abba Seraphim visited the Chatham Church on Holy Thursday, where he performed the Laquan Footwashing and celebrated the Liturgy before travelling to Babingley to preside at the Good Friday prayer and the Paschal Vigil and Liturgy, which took place at sunset, earlier than at Bournemouth, Chatham and Cusworth, which all began at 10.00 p.m. Before the Paschal Vigil Abba Seraphim baptised and chrismated Richard Tawn at St. Felix Church and, dressed in his white chrisom robe and having been given the new name of George, he was joyfully able to receive his first communion and warmly welcomed to fellowship. Abba Seraphim returned to London early on Pascha morning where he took the sacrament to Father Michael Robson at Morden College and to other elderly and sick members who had been unable to attend a liturgy the previous night.
Abba Seraphim, Father Simon Smyth, Father David Seeds and Father Peter all preached on the Resurrection during their respective liturgies but in Bournemouth and Portsmouth the local deacons also took responsibility for preaching during Holy Week. Always popular is the Good Friday Burial Service, where rose petals, herbs and spices are reverently offered by the women, who assist the clergy in preparing the cross for ‘burial’ and its transfer into the sanctuary.
The services at Chatham and Cusworth were also well supported by their local congregations and all churches reported that they were joined by other ethnic Orthodox who were unable to attend their own churches. Although refreshments were provided in all churches following the Paschal Liturgy, many also brought baskets with traditional paschal dishes to have them blessed before returning with them to their homes. Dyed and chocolate eggs were distributed among all the worshippers and always prove very popular with the children.
The fact that Holy Pascha falls within the forty days of mourning for the death of Pope Shenouda undoubtedly contributed to a reflective spirit in all the churches, and the prayers which are normally made for his life were now changed to those for his repose, but also for many this highlighted the common hope of the Resurrection which we all share and the deep joy we feel in proclaiming that Christ is Risen.
The first Liturgy to be celebrated for the new British Orthodox London Mission of SS. George & Paul the Hermit was preceded by a baptism.
On 31 March at St. George-in-the-East, Shadwell, Abba Seraphim baptised, Athanasios, the infant son of Father Yonas Tesheme, one of the priests of the Eritrean Orthodox Diocese of Europe.
During the Liturgy Abba Seraphim was assisted in the sanctuary by Fathers Simon Smyth, Peter Farrington, Seraphim Mina and Yonas Tesheme with Subdeacon Michael Kennedy and Reader Daniel Malyon. Abba Seraphim preached on a text from the Gospel of the Day, “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mark X: 46-52). Canon Michael Ainsworth, Rector of St. George’s, joined the congregation and Abba Seraphim publicly expressed his thanks to him and St. George’s Church Council for their hospitality. The congregation was a happy mix of British, Coptic & Eritrean Orthodox as well as visitors. Afterwards there was a lively time of fellowship with tea, coffee, biscuits and Ambasha.
The next Saturday Liturgy will be on 5 May because of the Western Easter and Holy Pascha falling in April. At 7.30 p.m. on 12 April there will be the Ninth Hour Prayers of Holy & Great Thursday followed by a talk on prayer by Father Peter Farrington.
A Memorial Service for His Holiness Pope Shenouda III was held at St. George’s Cathedral, Stevenage, on 24 March. Bishop Angaelos officiated and clergy of both the Oriental Orthodox and other traditions officiated. Abba Seraphim and Archbishop Athanasios (Syriac Orthodox Church) chanted the psalms; the Bishop of Southwark (The Right Rev’d Christopher Chessum) read the Pauline Epistle and a message from The Archbishop of Canterbury; Abba Seraphim also chanted the Psali Adam and gave the Final Benediction. Among the bishops present were His Eminence Archbishop Antonios (Ethiopian Orthodox Church) and His Grace Bishop Elisey (Russian Orthodox Church) whilst the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Roman Catholic Church, the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Eritrean Orthodox Church were represented by priests. There were also a number of Coptic Orthodox priests who participated in the service. The British Orthodox Church was also represented by Father Simon Smyth, Father Seraphim Mina, Father Peter Farrington, Deacon Mark Saunders, Deacon Christopher Barnes and a number of subdeacons, readers and laity. There was a large congregation including state and civic leaders and all present were invited to sign the Book of Condolence for His Holiness.
At the request of Alistair McKitterick, Tutor and Lecturer in Biblical and Theological Studies, Father Simon Smyth returned once again to Moorlands Bible College, on Wednesday 21st March, to give an illustrated lecture on iconography. This was the fourth time he had lectured on this subject. He was gratified to meet in reception a student who had now graduated with a First Class Honours degree present at last year’s lecture and had clearly enjoyed it, explaining that his highest mark was for the Spirituality module which included iconography.
The lecture considered many aspects of iconography including the apparent prohibition on images in the Ten Commandments. Father Simon explained that these verses in Exodus must be understood in the light and context of other Old Testament verses which showed that there were images of cherubim on the very Ark of the Covenant itself, on the veil or curtain of the Holy of Holies, on the doors, the walls, the furnishings and there were two huge cherubim in the sanctuary, then added that Orthodox Christians also love to see images or icons of angels when we worship and there was an audible intake of breath and a soft “Wow!” from one of the students at the next illustration, from the ceiling of an Ethiopian Church:
The lecture continued that Orthodox go further than the Old Testament worshippers, “we dare to depict not only the angels who worship God but even God Whom they worship…” and so began a consideration of Christology, that as God had become physical and material so physical or material icons declared and proclaimed the truth of the Incarnation.
There was a detailed analysis of a modern Coptic icon of our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ, explaining the significance of the halo (sign of divinity), the cross within the halo (it is the Crucified One Who is God), the Alpha and Omega, the seven-branched candlestick, the sun, moon and stars, the four incorporeal creatures, His throne heaven, the earth His footstool – and the one finger raised in blessing, one finger with three joints symbolic of the Holy Trinity, One God yet Three Persons and also symbolic of the true Christology of our Oriental Orthodox Christian Faith in the One Nature of God the Word Incarnate.
Several students commented how helpful they had found the lecture, especially the emphasis on Christology being at the heart of our Orthodox Faith, how what we believe about Christ informs what we then believe about everything else.
Father Simon Smyth of the Bournemouth and South-Coast churches shared this message:
SOUTH COAST CHURCHES MOURN HIS HOLINESS
In the Church of Christ the Saviour, Bournemouth, the photographs of our beloved patriarch, His Holiness Pope Shenouda, were veiled in black with lighted candles and a cross placed in front. The tone of sadness and loss that Father Simon had heard from so many the previous evening as he had ‘phoned to tell them the news could not be hidden during the Sunday Divine Liturgy. At the conclusion of the Liturgy the hymn “For all the saints who from their labours rest” was sung with real meaning and depth of feeling by the congregation.
Father Simon then stood before the veiled photograph and read an extract from His Holiness’ book The Release of the Spirit:
“what can we say about the father bishops each of whom will be asked by God about nearly two hundred thousands or more whether priests or lay-men? …pray for them earnestly that God may help them carry out their duties… Remember how the holy monks used to escape from this position because of its fearful responsibility. And when one of them was taken by force and ordained as bishop he cried out weeping before God and saying, ‘O Lord, you know that I left the world and went to the monastery to seek my own salvation.. But now I return to the world though I have not attained salvation yet and is required to save others also… What about our fathers the Patriarchs, each one of whom God will ask about ten million in Egypt and much more in” the West and around trhe world. “My brethren, you ought to pray for every Patriarch that he may be able to perform his duties and give a good reply to God when He asks him about his own soul and the souls of the bishops, priests, deacons, monks and laymen… and about keeping the church laws and spreading the Orthodox faith all over the world… do not look to God’s ministers and to those who hold any responsibilities just like spectators praising them when they do good and condemning them when they do wrong… You rather pray for them…”
The morning worship ended with the Memorial Service and the singing of “Give rest, O Christ, Thou light of Light Eternal”:
“Though o’er the grave, for loved ones, still we sorrow,
Yet we may commune with them while we’re waiting,
And, in the joyful hope of that ‘tomorrow’:
Sing Alleluia !”
The Portsmouth Church of Saint Mary the Mother of God and Saint Moses the Black was represented by Reader James Kelly who spoke briefly and movingly of meeting Pope Shenouda in Egypt in late 2010. The Southampton Mission of Saint Polycarp was represented by Mary Goodchild. Both in Southampton and Portsmouth the congregations also veiled photos of Pope Shenouda in black and lit candles before them for their Memorial Services.
Archdeacon Alexandar writes on behalf of the Cusworth, Doncaster Congregation
“His Holiness Pope Shenouda III was remembered in prayers at the Sunday Liturgy of the Church at Cusworth, as were the people of Egypt and the authorities tasked with governing the Church until a new Pope is elected. After the Liturgy special memorial prayers were also offered for the repose of our late Pope’s soul.”
The Babingley, Norfolk congregation had to cancel their Sunday Raising of Incense and Divine Liturgy service, due to Abba Seraphim leaving for Cairo. But they instead held a prayer service for His Holiness lead by Deacon Mark and Deacon Christopher Barnes.
Father Peter Farrington of the Chatham, Maidstone congregation writes
“The congregation of St Alban and St Athanasius Orthodox Chuch in Chatham prayed for the repose of His Holiness during the Liturgy, and then offered prayers for him after the Liturgy in the form of the Panikhida (Memorial prayer service).”
Other messages of support were received from other denominations in the UK
Father Marcus Brisley, Parish of the Annunciation and St. Edmund Campion, Bournemouth writes:
On behalf of myself and my parish I would like to pass on sincere condolences to you and your community at the Church of Christ the Saviour on the death of His Holiness Pope Shenoudah III. A charismatic leader who was used by the Lord to continue the great movement of spiritual renewal within the Coptic Church, he has guided his people in a time of challenge and difficulty. I therefore sense how deeply you and all his spiritual children will feel your loss. May the Lord receive him with mercy and reward him for his labours, comforting Coptic Christians as you mourn and raising up a worthy successor to shepherd you.
With prayers and best wishes in Christ
There were other supporters and well wishers who share their prayers and kind thoughts for H.H. Pope Shenouda III and the families of Egypt.
- 13 March 2014
- Evening Prayer & Discussion: Shadwell7.30pm Evening Prayer
7.45pm Talk and discussion
- 16 March 2014
- Raising of Incense & Divine Liturgy: DoncasterRaising of Incense – 9:45am
Divine Liturgy – 10:30am
- Raising of Incense & Divine Liturgy: Babingley10.30 a.m. Morning Incense
11.30 a.m. Divine Liturgy
- 23 March 2014
- Raising of Incense & Divine Liturgy: DoncasterRaising of Incense – 9:45am
Divine Liturgy – 10:30am
- Morning Prayer: Babingley10.30am Morning Prayer