On 15 March at St. George’s-in-the-East, Father Peter Farrington inaugurated the first of the new London Mission’s monthly evening meetings with a talk, “Lord, Teach us to pray.” Drawing on St. John Cassian’s Conferences he explored the counsels of Abba Moses on Prayer before going on to consider the different, but significant, contexts in which the Lord’s Prayer is introduced in the Gospels of Saints Matthew and Luke. Father Peter will return to the theme in his next talk on 12 April.
On 20 February, at the historic Church of St. George’s-in-the-East, Abba Seraphim announced the launch of a new London Mission by the British Orthodox Church. Although services have been held in the Charlton and Blackheath area of south-east London since December 1972, it was always hoped to organise something in a more central location. Having investigated various possible venues and prayed that something appropriate would become available, the Parish priest of St. George’s (Canon Michael Ainsworth) and the church’s PCC had generously offered their facilities for Orthodox use.
Believing this to be a providential arrangement and being anxious to respond to the increasing number of requests by enquirers and seekers, Abba Seraphim, assisted by Fathers Seraphim Mina and Peter Farrington, have committed themselves to provide monthly liturgies as well as monthly meetings for study and instruction in Orthodox faith and spirituality. The first Monthly Meeting will be held on Thursday, 15 March with Evening Prayer at 7.30 p.m. followed by an address by Father Peter “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke XI: 1-4) with a discussion and concluding with refreshments at 9.00 pm. The first celebration of the Divine Liturgy (St. James) will be on Saturday, 31 March (Raising of Incense 9.30 am, Liturgy 10.00 am; refreshments 11.45 am).
In his address Father Peter spoke of the nineteenth century mission of Father Bryan King, the Rector of St. George’s at that time, whose ministry to the poor and wretched in the notorious Ratcliffe Highway and Docklands environs provoked the 1859-60 Ritualism Riots. There are parallels with our own time and he hoped that our Orthodox ministry would build on the Catholic vision of sacrifice and service. It was our strong desire not merely to bring Orthodox worship and spirituality to the area for the edification of Orthodox Christians but to engage with and reach out to the local people and their needs. He desired that Orthodox would share in the ministry already being undertaken by other local Christian communities.
Abba Seraphim hoped that this mission would be an eirenic one of pan-Orthodox cooperation, demonstrating the universality of Orthodoxy as well as the richness of its local traditions. He welcomed the neighbouring outreach and ministry in the City of London, also beginning next month, under the oversight of His Grace Bishop Angaelos and the Coptic Youth and believed that this was no mere coincidence but an evangelistic impulse of the Holy Spirit. The two ministries would not only be united by a common faith but also in prayerful support of each other.
Father Silas from India, flew into London on 16 March and was met at Heathrow airport by Abba Seraphim, before travelling to the Church Secretariat at Charlton, where he was staying. Upon arrival, Father Silas made a report of his ministry in northern India and in the evening helped to prepare a Lenten Curry Supper for local clergy and members of the British Orthodox Church, during which he spoke of his experiences of ministry over many years. His words were deeply appreciated. He recalled being the first person to stay at the present Church Secretariat, whilst it was still undergoing renovation before Abba Seraphim took up residence in January 1983. Father Silas is on his way to Canada where he will assist Fr. Athanasius Iskander at St. Mary’s Coptic Orthodox Church in Kitchener, Ontario.
On my journey towards the British Orthodox Church, I found myself in a situation where I was very much alone. This was due to the fact that the BOC had no congregation or mission within a two hour journey of my home. Consequently, with Gods help, I looked for and found the Birmingham Coptic Centre, which is only a ten mile drive from where I live. The journey takes about twenty minutes. I phoned the Coptic Centre and spoke with Fr Peter. I explained the situation and asked if I could see him. Fr Peter had previously met Abba Seraphim, and has great Christian love and respect for him.
I now attend the Coptic Centre almost every Sunday. My experience is that the Coptic Christians have been warm and generous in their acceptance of me. Furthermore, they seem oblivious to any distinction between the Coptic and BOC Churches. I enjoy their look of amazement as I explain to them who we are. And I am frequently told that we are the same Church, which is very encouraging.
On Tuesday 4th May, I was baptised at the Birmingham Coptic Centre on behalf of Abba Seraphim and the BOC, by the Coptic Priest Fr Peter. Two English members of the congregation came along to support me. I also received much encouragement and emails from the Coptic Christians.
A new British Orthodox Fellowship group is about to commence. And I believe that Coptic Christians will support this venture. After all, it is our responsibility to bring the “Good News” to the people of this country. And as the task is so great, we need all the prayers and help that we can get.
Keith Bailey – Midlands Fellowship