As the British Orthodox Church Secretariat is in the Royal Borough of Greenwich, Abba Seraphim was delighted to join in the celebrations of our local martyr, Saint Alfege. St. Alfege was Archbishop of Canterbury 1005-1012, having previously served as Abbot of Bath and Bishop of Winchester as a protégé of St. Dunstan. When the Vikings attacked and burned Canterbury, they took Alfege prisoner and attempted to ransom him for a huge sum of money. Declining to place his flock under this burden, he refused to be ransomed and was slaughtered during a drunken feast in the Viking encampment at Greenwich, where the parish church dedicated to him now stands.
Joining the pilgrims for a commissioning service at Southwark Cathedral at midday, led by the Bishop of Southwark (The Right Rev’d Christopher Chessum), Abba Seraphim and the other pilgrims set off for Greenwich during heavy rain. Accompanying the main party were the Bishop of Bergen (The Right Rev’d Halvor Nordhaug) and representatives of the Scandinavian Churches in London. At this point they were also joined by the Archbishop of Canterbury and boarded a specially chartered pilgrim boat to travel to Greenwich by water. By the time they reached Greenwich the heavy showers were subsiding and the pilgrims were met at Greenwich Pier by various civic dignitaries led by His Worship the Mayor of Greenwich (Councillor Jim Gilman).
The first stop was at St. Alfege Primary School where the pupils greeted them with heartily sung songs and the Archbishop spoke to the pupils about the message of St. Alfege. The procession formed-up led by the pupils in home-made Viking longships which the Archbishop helped to steer through the town centre to the Parish Church. Here there was an Anglo-Saxon encampment by the Regia Anglorum who greeted the pilgrimns.
The festivities concluded with a Solemn Eucharist in St. Alfege’s Parish Church, at which the Archbishop presided and preached. The entire day was a very worthy commemoration of St. Alfege and brought together a diverse mix of pilgrims who had all come to honour his memory and perpetuate his message of the real worth of every human soul.
On 27 March Abba Seraphim was delighted to welcome His Eminence Archbishop Aram Ateshian, General Vicar (Acting Patriarch) of the Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople to the British Orthodox Church Secretariat at Charlton and to take him on a tour of some of the religious and historical sites of Greenwich. His Eminence was visiting London for a few days and was accompanied by Father John Whooley, with whom he was staying during his visit. Accompanied by Mr Trevor Maskery, Abba Seraphim met the Archbishop at Greenwich Pier and the party lunched together before touring Greenwich.
The first site was St. Alfege’s Parish Church, where they prayed at the memorial marking the place of the saint’s martyrdom a thousand years ago. After this they visited the Old Royal Naval College (now Greenwich University) beginning with the Painted Hall and concluding with the fine chapel, where they were received by the chaplain, Rev’d Jeremy Frost. They then drove into Greenwich Park to view the Royal Observatory and the fine views across London. After this they drove to Charlton where Abba Seraphim introduced Archbishop Aram to his three resident aquatic Van Cats: Hripsime, Shoushan and Senekerim. They later discussed matters of mutual interest, before dining together in the evening.
The British Orthodox Church and the Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople have long enjoyed warm relations and since the illness and incapacity of Patriarch Mesrob II, Archbishop Aram has served as Acting Patriarch. Abba Seraphim will be visiting Istanbul this summer and Archbishop Aram assured him of a warm welcomed at the Patriarchate in Kumkapi.