Accompanied by his wife Tasoni Sheila, Father Simon Smyth represented Abba Seraphim at the consecration of the new Indian Orthodox Church of Saint Mary in Pilning, Bristol, on Saturday 7 September. The building in Bank Road, Pilning, BS35 4JG was formerly St. Peter’s Primary School. The consecration and first liturgy was celebrated by His Holiness Baselius Mar Thoma Paulose II, Catholicos of the East, supported by the diocesan bishop, His Grace Metropolitan Doctor Mathew Mar Thimothius and His Grace Metropolitan Thomas Mar Athanasius, Bishop of Chengannur, together with seven Indian Orthodox priests and an enthusiastic congregation of several hundred. The whole day typified Oriental Orthodoxy at its best, filled with love, warmth and joy.
Although the Indian Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom & Ireland has twenty-three congregations, this is their third freehold church building. The Bristol parish was founded in October 2002 with only 25 families, but began growing rapidly, so that it was constituted a parish in August 2003 and now has 95 families. Plans to erect a traditional Malankara Church facade received support from the local council as likely to enhance the building’s appearance but is being opposed by the County Council as the building falls within the Green belt. Your prayers are invited for a successful outcome to the church’s appeal. Donations to the building fund can be made via the parish website: http://www.stmarysindianorthodoxchurchbristol.com/new-church-project/
On 19 August Subdeacon Daniel Malyon and Janice Oommen were joined together in Holy Matrimony in Kerala. The service was performed by His Grace Gabriel Mar Gregorios, Bishop of Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum) in his Domestic Chapel at Aramana, assisted by three of his priests and was conducted in both Malayalam and English in the presence of some 240 guests. On 16 August Daniel had an audience with His Holiness Baselios Mar Thoma Paulose II, Catholicos of the East, who gave them his blessing.
The Betrothal of Daniel and Janice had been performed on 16 December 2012 by Father Simon Smyth at Christ the Saviour Church in Bournemouth, where Daniel and Janice had first met.
In his letter of greeting to Mar Gregorios, Abba Seraphim had written, “The forthcoming wedding is a source of much pleasure to the clergy and faithful of the British Orthodox Church, not only because we have come to know and love Janice during her stay in the UK; but also because it symbolises the deep affection band respect with which the British Orthodox regard the venerable Orthodox Church of India, which has proved such a vibrant witness to our common faith, both here and in its homeland in Kerala.”
31 August and 1 September were significant dates in the history of the Oriental Orthodox churches in the United Kingdom, as His Grace Dr. Mathews Mar Timotheos, Bishop of the Indian Orthodox Diocese of Europe & Africa, consecrated the second Indian Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom. The new church, dedicated to Saint Thomas, which is to serve the growing Indian Orthodox community in North London – now estimated at some 130 families, is situated just north of the M25 at St. Agnells Lane, Hemel Hemstead, HP2 7AY. The building is a redundant Church which had fallen into disrepair but had undergone extensive renovation, including the construction of a new Western entrance in the style of Malankara churches.
On the Eve of the consecration, Mar Timotheos laid the foundation stone for the altar, which was then solemnly consecrated the next morning. A large congregation attended as well as a number of ecumenical visitors. From the British Orthodox Church, Abba Seraphim, Father Peter Farrington and subdeacon Daniel Malyon assisted in the sanctuary, whilst Father Mina from St. Mary & Archangel Michael Church at Golders Green, represented H.G. Bishop Angaelos and Father Haile Meskel Samuels represented the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.
Father George Joy, the parish priest, and his congregation provided a warm welcome and added to the general celebratory nature of the occasion.
Abba Seraphim was able to join the Indian Orthodox Parish of St. Gregorios at Brockley, in south-east London, for the celebration of their patronal festival over the weekend of 4 & 5 November. The parish was also privileged to have visiting His Grace Yuhanon Mar Dioscorus, Bishop of Chennai (Madras), who presided at all the services. Abba Seraphim joined them for Saturday Evening Prayer after which there was a procession around the outside of the church. This was followed by “Divyarchana”, traditional Christian Folk Arts, in which both the choir and many of the younger members of the congreagation participated enthusiastically.
On Sunday morning, 6 November, Abba Seraphim concelebrated the Divine Liturgy with Mar Dioscorus and the Indian Orthodox clergy. Also assisting was Father Haile Maskel Samuels of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. At the conclusion of the Liturgy Abba Seraphim gave a short address about the contemporary significance of Saint Gregorios, and spoke of his own delight in having been a pilgrim to the saint’s shrine when he visited Paramula in 2010. This was followed by the “Raza”, the procession with crosses and umbrellas around the streets surrounding the church.
On 17 June Abba Seraphim, accompanied by Father Gregory Tillett, paid a courtesy call to greet His Grace Yakob Mar Elias, Bishop of the Brahmavar diocese within the Indian Orthodox Church. His Grace Mar Elias was staying at St. Gregorios Orthodox Church in Brockley, London, during a brief visit to the United Kingdom, which includes visits to Chichester (where he studied theology), Newcastle and Holy Island. Mar Elias received Abba Seraphim and his party when they visited Mount Horeb Ashraman at Sassthamkotta in January 2010, shortly before his consecration at a bishop and both bishops were anxious to renew the friendship they had established during that visit. Father John Samuel, parish priest of St. Gregorios Indian Orthodox Church was also in attendance on Mar Elias.