For over a decade, during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, St. Mary & St. Felix British Orthodox Church at Babingley, on the Sandringham Estate, has made its contribution a lecture followed by the Raising of Evening Incense. The snow and poor weather conditions in January, however, obliged this to be postponed and it was rescheduled to 1 June when the weather was better, even if not summer.
The speaker was a Norfolk lawyer, Nicholas Crampton, founder of ‘Eastern Christian Links’, an organisation established some years ago to foster understanding with and promote knowledge of the Christian Churches of the East. His subject “Nicaea Revisited” was an eloquent appeal to treat the first Ecumenical Council, held in Nicaea in 325, as a foundation stone of theological dialogue between all mainstream Christian traditions.
The Annual Lecture & Service at St. Felix, Babingley, which traditionally conclude the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which was scheduled for Saturday, 19, January, has had to be cancelled as a result of the sudden cold spell, bringing with it heavy snow and serious disruption on the roads. Nicolas Crampton, founder of Eastern Christian Links, was due to speak on ”Nicaea Revisited.” Abba Seraphim said that this was the first occasion in 12 years that the annual lecture had not been held. He stated that the lecture would be re-scheduled for a later date, but he would arrange this for a time when it would not be a hostage to the weather. “We have just installed new heaters at St Felix, so we could have managed with the low outside temperatures, but I am anxious not to put people at risk of accidents or being unable to return home safely and I do agree with the advice not to make unnecessary journeys if they can be avoided.” For the same reason, there will be no Sunday service at St. Felix on 20 January.
During the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity the British Orthodox Parish of St. Mary & St. Felix at Babingley has traditionally invited a guest speaker to give an address and this year, during the service of the Raising of Evening Incense, Dr. Michael Kennedy spoke on “Change for the Better: Ecumenism and the Orthodox Concept of Salvation.” In introducing him Abba Seraphim noted that he not only served as a Subdeacon at the BOC Chatham Church and had a distinguished secular career as a university lecturer, but was still an active artist and artists were capable of viewing the world in a way which gave prominence to spirituality.
In his address Dr. Kennedy noted that when one thinks of the Orthodox Churches perhaps the last thing that comes to mind is the word ‘change’. Orthodoxy seems to be the epitome of that which is changeless and to the visitor Orthodox worship probably appears timeless. The Orthodox Liturgy may feel timeless in the sense that it generally continues far longer than most Western church services, but there is also a sense of timelessness in that the ancient liturgical forms are preserved and cherished. A visit to an Orthodox monastery, for example to one of the Coptic monasteries in the Egyptian desert, prompts feelings of going back in time, of nothing really changing, of a deeper more ancient life of prayer and worship. “For many people this perceived timelessness is no doubt attractive. There is security in the unchanging, a sense of knowing where we are, of knowing that ‘God is in his heaven and all is right with the world’. But it doesn’t take much exposure to the Christian faith to realise that this security is an illusion, a comforting one but an illusion nonetheless. Like education, Christianity is all about change.”
He then quoted from patristic and modern sources, especially H.H. Pope Shenouda, to explain the process by which salvation is achieved, “The Orthodox understanding of salvation asks us not to see it as a simple one-off event, something that has already happened in the past but rather to see it is an on-going process. Furthermore we must get involved ourselves. However contemplative we are by nature or inclination we must collaborate with God. The principal means of doing this is through the church into which we must be baptised and we must build on this sacrament, this means of grace, day by day. So we must be changed and we change ourselves, little by little, through prayer, through study, through sacraments, especially the sacrament of repentance, and through good works. All of these are important and I suggest that we miss the point if we believe that our salvation is already accomplished and we need do nothing further. Salvation understood as a union with God is the goal of Orthodox Christian faith, the end to which our life of prayer and worship aspires.”
Regrettably, attendance by the Babingley clergy was restricted by illness. Deacon Mark Saunders was unable to attend as his wife, Sybil, had only just been discharged from hospital having been suffering from pneumonia and Subdeacon Roger-Kenneth Player had only been discharged from Papworth hospital the previous day following heart surgery. Abba Seraphim had visited him at home and prayed for him earlier in the day. However, the service was well attended and Abba Seraphim was assisted by Father Peter Farrington, Deacon Christopher Barnes, Deacon Theodore de Quincey and Readers Daniel Malyon and Roman Benchak.
- 7 December 2013
- Raising of Incense & Divine Liturgy: Shadwell9.30 am Raising of Incense
10.00 am Liturgy of St. James
11.45 am Refreshments
- 8 December 2013
- Morning Incense & Divine Liturgy: BournemouthWorship commences 09.30
- Raising of Incense & Divine Liturgy: DoncasterRaising of Incense – 9:45am
Divine Liturgy – 10:30am
- Morning Prayers: ChathamMorning Prayer: 10:30 am
Led by the Subdeacons
- Morning Prayer: Babingley10.30am Morning Prayer