News of the Church from divers Quarters
On 18 July 2010, Neil Boorman was ordained Reader at St. Thomas’s Church, Old Charlton, London, SE7 at the hands of Abba Seraphim.
Abba Seraphim, assisted by Father Simon Smyth and Subdeacon Paul Ashdown celebrated the Divine Liturgy in St. Mary’s Chapel in Glastonbury Abbey on 20 March. Although the weather was generally inclement (it having rained heavily the previous day) there was providentially no rain during the service. Afterwards those present inspected the wall-paintings in the newly refurbished St. Patrick’s Chapel.
At the end of Holy Week, the British Orthodox parishes all celebrated the Feast of the Resurrection (4 April) with enthusiasm. This year Holy Pascha coincided with the western Easter so we received few ecumenical visitors, although attendance overall in all parishes was very good. The clergy also reported that the Holy Week services were well supported. Abba Seraphim officiated at Babingley, where the mild weather enabled the procession to go round the outside of the church; whilst at Bournemouth torrential rain made this impossible. However, for the traditional requiem service and visiting of the graves of former church members at Wimborne Road cemetery the next morning, there was a good gathering. Dyed eggs and other traditional Paschal foods were also included in the festivities, whilst “Christ is Risen!” was repeated in English, Greek, Coptic, Arabic, Russian, Portuguese, Romanian, Amharic and other tongues.
Abba Seraphim’s first visit to St. Faith’s Church
On 10 April 2010, Abba Seraphim made his first visit to the British Orthodox Mission at Portsmouth in its present venue at St. Faith’s Church in Craswell Street, Portsmouth, where he celebrated the Divine Liturgy and preached. As it was the Saturday in Bright Week, Abba Seraphim preached on the theme of the Resurrection. Afterwards, there was a buffet luncheon, during which Abba Seraphim announced that following the growth in membership he was raising the ministry at Portsmouth from a mission to that of a parish.
On the north side of the churchyard at Babingley a straggling clump of self-seeded saplings had grown up round the remains of the old stoke-hole or boiler-house dating from the time when the church had a coal-fired central heating system. This had long since been disconnected although holes in the skirting board in the sanctuary are reminders of the former central heating pipes. In April 2010 the collapsed remains of this as well as the saplings were cleared from the churchyard and the surrounding ground levelled, which has improved the general appearance and will make maintenance of the churchyard easier.
The 2010 Oriental Orthodox festival was held at St. George’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral at Stevenage on 8 May with the Divine Liturgy celebrated by His Grace Bishop Angaelos and His Eminence Metropolitan Seraphim with priests of the British, Coptic, Eritrean and Ethiopian Orthodox Church, supported by many deacons of these churches. The British Orthodox clergy who attended were Fathers Simon Smyth, Seraphim Mina and Peter Farrington with Archdeacon Alexander Astill, Deacon Mark Saunders and Deacon Theodore de Quincey. They were supported by faithful from the British Orthodox parishes and communities at Babingley, Bournemouth, Charlton, Chatham, Cusworth and Portsmouth.
At the conclusion of the Liturgy the Eritrean and Ethiopian Orthodox clergy and choirs performed traditional Paschal songs and dances which never fail to delight their listeners. His Grace Bishop Angaelos spoke of the sense of unity always felt at such occasions whilst Abba Seraphim emphasised the rich diversity of the Oriental Orthodox traditions. This was followed by a buffet lunch, comprising exotic Egyptian, Ethiopian, and Keralan foods with traditional British cold meats, cheeses and salads, followed by home baked cakes and syrupy Egyptian deserts. The choir of St. Gregorious Indian Orthodox Church at Brockley, south-east London, performed a medley of traditional religious songs ending with a very lively folk song to which devotional words had been set.
It was a happy and memorable day with good fellowship, and the warm hospitality always shown by Bishop Angaelos and the staff of the Coptic Church Centre at Stevenage was appreciated by everyone. The Oriental Orthodox Festival is an annual event sponsored by the Council of Oriental Orthodox Churches in the UK and provides an opportunity for expressing our unity by a common celebration of the Divine Liturgy and a time of sharing of traditions through informal fellowship together afterwards. It is truly a family gathering.
On Wednesday 19th May 2010, Abba Seraphim, accompanied by Father Peter Farrington, attended the Nikaean Club’s annual ecumenical celebration of Anglican Evening Prayers in the Chapel of Lambeth Palace, the official London residence of the Archbishops of Canterbury followed by a reception hosted by the Archbishop (Dr. Rowan Williams) and his wife. Father Peter attended in his role as the Secretary of the Council of Oriental Orthodox Churches in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
The chapel was crowded with invited guests from a wide variety of Christian backgrounds. Archbishop Gregorios of Thyateira of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese and Archbishop Mar Athanasios Touma of the Syriac Orthodox Church as well as other Eastern and Oriental Orthodox clergy, were among those present.
Archbishop Rowan Williams gave a short homily during the Evening Prayers, in which he reflected on being surprised by the visitation of God in our lives, and through others. The reception following was characterised by its warm fraternal spirit with the opportunity to renew old friendships and to forge new ones.
The Nikaean Club was founded in 1925 under the auspices of Archbishop Davidson to commemorate the centenary of the first Ecumenical Council of Nicaea. It objectives are to “further relations with non-Anglican Christian churches, to assist students from such churches and to offer hospitality on behalf of the Archbishop of Canterbury to representatives of such churches”.
Pentecost Feast in Cairo
H.H.Pope Shenouda III presided over the annual meeting of the Holy Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Church on the Eve of Pentecost, Saturday, 22 May 2010 with eighty-seven members personally present.
The Synod meets in the Church of St. Antony on the second floor of the Papal Residence at Anba Rueis in Abbesaya, Cairo. From the United Kingdom the bishops attending were Metropolitan Seraphim, Bishop Antony and Bishop Angaelos. The meeting lasted from 10 a.m. to 2 pm and discussed the reports of the synodal sub committees for pastoral care, monasticism, the church rites, diocesan affairs and ecumenism. At the conclusion H.H. Pope Shenouda posed for a group photograph with the Synod members before entertaining them to lunch at the Patriarchate.
In the later afternoon Abba Seraphim, accompanied by Shenouda Mandouh and his wife, Mary, visited the Convent of Prince Theodore (Amir Tadros) in Haret-ar-Rum, where they were received by the Abbess, Tamev Adrosios, before returning to Heliopoils to dine with Mr. Mamdouh Abdou and his family.
Abba Seraphim assisted at the Divine Liturgy for the Feast of Pentecost in St. Mark’s Cathedral, Abbesseya, Cairo, on 23 May 2010. During the Divine Liturgy His Holiness Pope Shenouda III ordained a number of new priests for both the churches in Cairo and those in the lands of emigration. These included Father Boula to work alongside Fr. Kyrillos in Abagaya, where Abba Seraphim and other British Orthodox members have been regular visitors; and Fr. Mina for the Coptic Orthodox Parish of St. Mary & Archangel Mikhael at Golders Green.
In the afternoon, Abba Seraphim, accompanied by Shenouda Mamdouh and his wife Mary, visited the Monastery of St. Macarios (Deir Abu Maqar) in the Wadi al Natrun to pray at the shrines of the three St. Makarios, St. John the Short, the 49 Martyrs of Sheheet and the more recently discovered relics of St. John the Baptist and the Prophet Elijah. They were warmly received by the fathers and entertained to lunch. Returning to Cairo Abba Seraphim invited the family of his host, Mr. Mamdouh Abdou to a Nile felucca trip.
On his way to the airport on 24 May, Abba Seraphim called at the home of Miss Effa, one of the first deaconesses to be ordained by His Holiness Pope Shenouda III. Although now frail and elderly Miss Effa is a devout witness to the Orthodox faith and has donated her large house in Heliopolis to the church, which uses it to provide a home for Coptic Orthodox girls living away from home to study for their degrees in Cairo. A number of the students and the deaconesses who take care of them joined Miss Effa to greet Abba Seraphim.
On 25 May, 2010, Abba Seraphim received at the Church Secretariat in Charlton, Deacon Habtu Ghebre-Ab, Professor of History at the University of Cincinatti and one of the board of the St. Athanasios Charitable Society (SACS) and “In Chains for Christ,” the Voice of the Persecuted Church in Eritrea. The Professor was in the UK attending a peace conference in Brighton but travelled to London to meet with Abba Seraphim. They discussed issues relating to the current state of the Eritrean Orthodox Church and the imprisonment of Abune Antonios, the canonical Patriarch, as well as areas of future support and co-operation.
On Sunday morning, 30 May, Abba Seraphim attended the funeral, following the Divine Liturgy, of the late Father Hailemariam F. Mariam, priest of the Debre Madhanit Kidane Mehret Tewahdo Eritrean Orthodox congregation in Shepherd’s Bush, London. The service was held at St. John the Baptist Church, Holland Road, London W14 and presided over by His Eminence Archbishop Antonios of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church (shown with Abba Seraphim above).
Father Hailemariam was professed as a monk of the Waldiba monastery when he was twenty-five and came to London in January 1992 at the suggestion of H.H. Pope Shenouda III to minister to the increasing number of Eritrean refugees. He was a humble and devout priest and when the Eritrean government exiled Patriarch Antonios, Father Hailemariam was horrified by such a sacrilegious act. He visited Abba Seraphim at the Church Secretariat in Charlton in 2007 to thank him for his support for the Patriarch and to affirm his own loyalty. Father Hailemariam died on 25 May 2010 aged 75 after a long battle with cancer. He was a greatly loved pastor and the church was packed for the funeral as well as having a large number of both Eritrean and Ethiopian priests and deacons assisting in the funeral rites. Abba Seraphim paid respect to his loyalty and integrity, “He had deep affection for both Pope Shenouda and Abune Antonios because he loved truth and justice. He is a symbol of the deep spirituality of both the Ethiopian and Eritrean Churches and those who were touched by his ministry should follow his example of fidelity to their last breath.”
Prayer Vigil for Eritrean Christians
A Prayer Vigil was held outside the Eritrean Embassy in Islington, London, on 3 June 2010 to protest at the treatment of Christians in Eritrea. It was called to mark the eighth anniversary of the closure of minority churches in Eritrea, after which even main-stream churches, like the majority Eritrean Orthodox Church have suffered systematic persecution.
The vigil was organised through the collaboration of a number of groups, including Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), Release Eritrea, Church in Chains, Release (voice of persecuted Christians), Open Doors (serving persecuted Christians Worldwide) and the British Orthodox Church. For an hour on a sunny afternoon in London, a committed group of concerned Christians stood on the pavement opposite the Eritrean Embassy – as cars and buses with intrigued spectators passed by – and prayed, read from the scriptures, sang spiritual songs and heard meditative addresses from those working with and for the suffering Christians in Eritrea, regardless of their religious affiliation. Unlike political demonstrations the tone was calm, reflective and prayerful and there was no hint of invective against the oppressors. Both the Eritrean President and the Ambassador in London were spoken of courteously and prayed for fervently. His Eminence Abba Seraphim spoke of his concerns about His Holiness Abune Antonios, the elderly Eritrean Orthodox Patriarch, who had refused to bow to pressure from the government when the persecuition began and because of his stand for truth and justice found himself deposed from office and placed under house arrest. His position of national importance and his unswerving integity made him a symbol of all who were suffering for their Christian faith. At the conclusion of the vigil Abba Seraphim, supported by The Right Rev’d Christopher Chessun, (Anglican) Bishop of Woolwich and Dr. Berhane Asmelash of Release Eritrea, called at the Embassy to deliver a letter addressed to the Ambassador expressing their concerns and asking for the release of prisoners of conscience.
The annual Glastonbury Pilgrimage took place on 19 June and this year Abba Seraphim was invited to be the Orthodox celebrant in the morning. By convention this invitation rotates between the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches each being the celebrant in alternate years. Abba Seraphim was assisted by Fathers Simon Smyth (Bournemouth & Portsmouth) and Peter Farrington (Chatham), Deacon John Stuart (Exeter) and Subdeacon Wulfric Ashdown (Glastonbury). The Liturgy, which was held in the Undercroft, was well attended by a number of Orthodox church members, members of the British Orthodox Fellowship as well as clergy and faithful of other churches. In his homily Abba Seraphim spoke of the important tradition of pilgrimage and gave thanks for the revival of Glastonbury as a spiritual centre after the despoliation of the Reformation, “Through God’s mercy Glastonbury was restored – not as it was – but pilgrims returned and worship was renewed. In spite of its neglect for more than three hundred years it never ceased to be a holy place and we enter with reverence and conscious that our devotions are part of the chain of prayer which links us with past ages.”
Following the Liturgy, the Orthodox clergy joined in the Procession of Witness through the town before attending the Anglican High Mass in the Abbey ruins, celebrated by The Right Rev’d John Ford, Bishop of Plymouth, the new Pilgrimage Chairman, with the Right Rev’d Peter Price, Bishop of Bath & Wells as diocesan presiding from the throne throughout and assisted by a number of Anglican bishops, including the Right Rev’d David Silk, the former Pilgrimage Chairman and the two Provincial Episcopal Visitors, the Suffagan Bishops of Ebbsfleet (The Right Rev’d Andrew Burnham) and Richborough (The Right Rev’d Keith Newton) , The Right Rev’d Edwin Barnes, Bishop Emeritus of Richborough and The Right Rev’d David Thomas, Provincial Assistant Bishop of the Church in Wales 1996-2008. The homily on Priestly Vocations by Father Darren Smith, Secretary of the Additional Curates’ Society, resonated with all Christian traditions. The weather remained dry and sunny and many pilgrims were able to picnic in the abbey grounds. Abba Seraphim and his staff, along with the Mayor of Glastonbury, were luncheon guests of the Pilgrimage Committee.
Anglican-Oriental Orthodox Regional Forum
A meeting of the Anglican-Oriental Orthodox Regional Forum took place at Lambeth Palace on 15 June 2010. This forum exists to promote contacts between the Anglican and Oriental Orthodox communities in the UK, and to provide a context in which discussions about the practical and spiritual challenges facing both communions can take place.
At this last meeting His Grace Bishop Angaelos of the Coptic Orthodox Church was nominated as the Oriental Orthodox co-chairman, and Father Peter Farrington of the British Orthodox Church within the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate was nominated the Oriental Orthodox co-secretary.Other Orthodox bishops present were His Eminence Metropolitan Seraphim of the British Orthodox Church, and His Grace Archbishop Athanasios of the Syrian Orthodox Church, together with Bishop Geoffrey Rowell of Gibraltar in Europe, the Anglican co-chairman. Other Oriental Orthodox clergy represented their churches while the Anglican participation included a number of priests, including Canon Jonathan Goodall, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s chaplain and ecumenical officer.
A fruitful conversation took place among the representative Anglican and Oriental Orthodox bishops and priests, and plans were discussed for the future direction and membership of the Forum. The forum usually meets twice a year.