On 8 September Abba Seraphim celebrated the Divine Liturgy at St. George’s Church, Bridge Street, Newtown, Birmingham, at the invitation of Father Mulebrhan, the newly ordained priest for the local Eritrean Orthodox community within the Diocese of Europe, under His Grace Bishop Makarios. Assisting him were Father Mulebrhan and Father Yonas Tesheme from Sheffield as well as a number of deacons. Abba Seraphim preached on the Gospel of the day (Matthew XI: 1-20) to a large and devout congregation. Following the service and traditional religious songs and dances, Abba Seraphim spoke about his long association with the Eritrean Orthodox Church in the UK and answered questions from the congregation about the situation of the Eritrean diaspora following the uncanonical removal of His Holiness Abune Antonios, the Eritrean Patriarch, in 2006. This congregation remains loyal to the Patriarch, whom it continues to pray for in the diptychs. Thanks were also expressed to Abba Seraphim for his unwavering support for the loyalist Eritrean clergy and faithful.
Abba Seraphim was among the guests who attended the opening of the new Barnabas Fund library at Pewsey, Wiltshire, on 12 September. The library is housed in a purpose-built, state of the art building designed by the distinguished classical architect, Quinlan Terry, who was among those present. The library is a specialist collection on Islam and Christian-Islamic relations and contains some 50,000 volumes as well as periodicals and electronic resources. Housed on three floors, it includes open shelf reference books, a delightful Reading Room as well as reserve stacks, with a capacity for 10,000 volumes. The Barnabas Fund is also planning to extend its residential capacity to facilitate research conferences and extended research by scholars and specialists.
Following an introductory speech, detailing the scope of the library, by Father Patrick Sookhdeo, the Fund’s International Director, and prayers & scriptural readings marking the library’s inauguration, the guests were entertained to a delightful lunch. After this Father Patrick briefed them on current priorities of the Fund, whilst Caroline Kershaw and Mark Green spoke specifically about the projects undertaken by the Fund to support Christian communities around the world.
Abba Seraphim, a noted bibliophile, spoke enthusiastically of the great service the Fund would now be able to offer to scholars of Islamic-Christian relations. “For years the Barnabas Fund has offered support and practical comfort to beleaguered Christian communities by reminding Christians in the West of the fact that being a Christian is often a dangerous conviction, requiring profound commitment and bravery. This practical support for the neglected and persecuted, done out of deep fraternal love and a desire to follow the Lord’s command to support our weaker brethren, has now expanded to meet the intellectual and philosophical challenges of the dialogue between faiths. The Barnabas Fund has always been rooted in a profound understanding of Islam and to engage Muslims with a sound appreciation of the tenets of their faith, leading to improved relations with Christians and mutual respect.”
Since the London Mission began at Shadwell, the monthly Study Evenings have proved popular and well attended. Following three talks on Prayer by Father Peter Farrington, Abba Seraphim led a series of study sessions – using the Bible and church fathers – on “Understanding Ecclesiology: Images & Marks of the Church”. This was followed by a joint session by Abba Seraphim and Father Peter on “The Apostolic Fathers”, dealing with the Didache, St. Ignatius of Antioch and Clement of Rome. The current session, also jointly led, is on “The Ecumenical Councils”, Nicaea, Constantinople and Ephesus. During April, May and June there will be a new series on “Understanding the Liturgy” and in July, August & September “The Apostolic Fathers” will continue. Whilst each topic is introduced by an instructive exposition, the meeting encourage those present to engage in discussion and analysis and original texts are distributed at each session.