Palm Sunday saw the Bournemouth Church of Christ the Saviour decorated with palm branches and with palm crosses distributed to the faithful who had come to fulfil the blessed demands of Holy Week. The Monday to Wednesday services (Day And Evening Hours) were led by Subdeacon John Morgan. Father Simon (who had helped with the Portsmouth and Southampton Holy Week services through the earlier part of the week) led a well supported congregation for the Holy Thursday afternoon, foot washing, Liturgy and Eve of Friday prayers. The Good Friday worship was, as always, well supported with many of the congregation expressing what blessing they received through these demanding, even strenuous, yet wondrous services. Deacons and subdeacons were, as always, magnificent, reflecting faithfully Saint Ignatius of Antioch’s famous words of appreciation for the diaconate. The Paschal greeting and response rang out Saturday night in English, Greek, Romanian and Church Slavonic reflecting the Pentecost-like multi-national congregation who had gathered together to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ
On 11 January, during the celebration of The Divine Liturgy at Saint-George-in-the-East, Shadwell, where the British Orthodox London Mission of SS.George & Paul the Hermit worships, Abba Seraphim performed two ordinations. Trevor Maskery, who serves as Abba Seraphim’s PA, who has been a Reader since 2012, was advanced to the subdiaconate; whilst Daniel Malyon, who has served as a Reader and Subdeacon since February 2011 was ordained to the order of the diaconate. Deacon Daniel, who is currently completing his master’s degree in Orthodox Theology at the University of Winchester, also serves on the Council of Oriental Orthodox Churches in the UK. It was a great joy that Deacon Christopher Barnes travelled down from the Church in Babingley to serve as deacon of the liturgy and to perform the role of acting Archdeacon.
Following the ordination in London the two new ordinands and Deacon Daniel’s wife, Janice, travelled down to Bournemouth to visit the congregation there. The next morning, during his homily in the Divine Liturgy, Abba Seraphim complained that his duties had kept him away for too many months, but he was glad to return to share fellowship with the congregation there, and to welcome church members from the other South Coast Mission parishes of Portsmouth and Southampton. It was also a pleasure to return with the newly ordained Deacon Daniel, who had begun his ministry in the Portsmouth and Bournemouth congregations and had met his future wife from among the members of the Bournemouth parish. The day was characterised by warm informality as Abba Seraphim addressed the congregation on a number of issues, some of the members having been gathered almost four decades earlier, when he had immediate pastoral charge of the Bournemouth parish. Following lunch Abba Seraphim took the two new ordinands to the Wimborne Road Cemetery to pray at the grave of the late Archdeacon James Goddard (died 1993).
Mary Goodchild and Bridget McConnachie represented the British Orthodox Church South Coast congregations of Bournemouth, Southampton and Portsmouth at the celebrations to mark the one hundredth anniversary of the death of Etheldreda Anna Benett, the Reverend Mother Foundress of the Society of the Sisters of Bethany. The celebration was held on 29 July 29, the Feast of Bethany, in Saint Clement’s Church, Bournemouth where Mother Etheldreda is buried in the churchyard. His Grace Bishop Trevor Willmott (formerly Bishop of Basingstoke, then with oversight for Bournemouth) presided at the celebratory mass and service of thanksgiving, following which a memorial stone was blessed in the churchyard.
Although originally founded in Clerkenwell in 1866 (the same year as the ordination of Mar Julius as the first bishop for the British Orthodox Church) the society’s association with Bournemouth goes back well into the nineteenth century with a convent built in the 1870s and an orphanage run there for many years. The Bournemouth House of Bethany took a direct hit from an enemy bomb in the Second World War (resulting in the death of two sisters). In the early 1960s the Bournemouth House of Bethany became the Mother House for the society. This was closed in the mid 1980s and the present Mother House of Bethany opened in Southsea. The Sisters of Bethany have always been known for their ecumenical spirit (the Archbishop of Canterbury’s 1890s mission to the East Syrian Christians being a famous example of their ecumenical work) and in their early years received both Russian Orthodox and Syrian Orthodox visitors. This Orthodox link continues to this day with the British Orthodox Church of Saint Mary the Mother of God and Saint Moses the Black in Portsmouth enjoying warm relations with the Sisters of Bethany in neighbouring Southsea.
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.
Following the death of Lyndsey Clare Pratt on 26 April at the age of 48, following a long battle with cancer, her funeral was held at Sacred Heart Church in Waterlooville, Portsmouth, on 9 May. Lyndsey’s husband, David, and her two children, Hannah and Samuel are members of the British Orthodox Church and, although a Catholic, she was always very supportive of their church membership and often attended services with them. The Church was full for her Funeral Mass, which was celebrated by the parish priest, Father Kevin Bidgood. Abba Seraphim and Father Simon Smyth and several members of the BOC congregations in Bournemouth and Portsmouth also attended because of the high regard in which she was held. In his homily, Father Kevin emphasised that throughout her long illness she had shown great Christian fortitude and was determined to live her life to the full, undertaking several strenuous sponsored activities to raise funds for cancer charities and demonstrating her strong Christian Faith.
At the end of the service, Abba Seraphim was invited to intone an Orthodox Prayer of Commendation whilst at the graveside in Catherington Cemetery he led the Orthodox mourners in singing the Paschal Troparion.