Bridget McConnachie came to Orthodoxy late in life, initially drawn to the British Orthodox Church through her friendship with Mary Goodchild. Bridget began attending services in 2011 and on her first visit to the Church of Christ the Saviour in Bournemouth was deeply impressed by the sense of peace she encountered immediately on entering the Church grounds. She continued to enjoy this peace throughout her many subsequent visits. She staunchly supported the Southampton mission from its beginnings in late 2011 but always saw the Bournemouth Church as her spiritual home and was baptised and chrismated into the Orthodox Church, at Bournemouth on Lady Day, 25th March, 2012. Bridget attended Bournemouth at least monthly and made sure she was there for the Advent Carol Service and for Palm Sunday and Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Pascha.
Bridget also supported other British Orthodox missions whenever she could, including Shadwell and Glastonbury. She was touched by the plight of Syrian Christians in their tribulations of these last several years and gave generously for the work of the Barnabas Fund in that area.
Following a fall early this year, hospital investigations revealed cancer and Bridget moved away from Southampton to live with her son and daughter-in-law in Windsor, where she was able to attend the Liturgy and receive Communion at Saint Andrew’s British Orthodox Mission. She was admitted to a hospice in May where Father Simon and Tasony Sheila Smyth were able to visit her and pray for her a few days before she died. Father Simon administered the holy unction. Although physically agitated and restless Bridget opened her eyes during the prayers and after the brief service was still and calm. One of the nurses explained that Bridget had spoken much of her faith and Church and priest. Bridget still wore her cross around her neck and was watched over in her room by a photo of the late Pope Shenouda for whom she had a deep love.
Bridget McConnachie, Memory Eternal!
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 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.