The Discovering Orthodoxy online catechesis has now been launched by the London School of Orthodox Christian Studies, and the course website can be visited at www.discoveringorthodoxy.org
The first two units are available to any visitors to the site, but a user account system allows only registered students to access future units. This is to allow the provision of proper support to those engaged in catechesis. An introductory unit on Discovering Orthodoxy and others on What is Faith ? Evidence for God, Are the Gospels Reliable are now online.
Other units on Church History, Spirituality, The Bible, and Doctrine are already in preparation. Abba Seraphim has produced a short video “Beginning with Church History”.
There are over a thousand students registered for the Discovering Orthodox online catechesis from around the world. This is truly a global and pan-Orthodox and ecumenical project. The long term target throughout 2013 is to produce 50 interesting units of study, and to have registered 2000 students. Each of the units contains a short written introduction which will include some important references from the Fathers of the Church relevant to the topic. The main content will be a video/audio presentation by one of the course contributors. Followed by a short Bible study on the topic. There will be a few simple questions just to allow us to make sure that the learning material is working and you have understood the topic.
There are over 200 topics for which we material is being planned, and this phase of the project will take several years to complete. It is hoped to produce a serious and useful library of resources that will remain helpful to Orthodox Christians and those interested in the Orthodox Faith. Abba Seraphim says of this project..
“Catechesis is an essential component of the church’s ministry and I warmly support this latest initiative of the London School of Orthodox Studies. A commitment to sharing the Apostolic faith and tradition is not only a witness to the catholicity of the Orthodox Church but also a precious token of love to those of other Christian traditions or none. In each generation our fathers have faced the challenges of their Age but this inexhaustible spiritual nourishment has never failed to sustain and strengthen those who feast on it”.
Although the Oriental Orthodox churches in the United Kingdom share a common faith, they do not share a common calendar, so the Nativity Feast was celebrated on 25 December for the British, Indian and Syrian Orthodox, on 6 January for the Armenian Orthodox and 0n 7 January for the Coptic, Eritrean and Ethiopian Orthodox.
On 6 January Abba Seraphim presided at the Blessing of the Waters and Divine Liturgy at St. Mary & St. Felix Church at Babingley, Norfolk, where he preached on the meaning of the Holy Theophany, one of the seven great feasts of the Church. Having blessed all those present with the newly sanctified water, they afterwards took away bottles of the holy water for use in their homes. That same evening, Abba Seraphim presided at the Nativity Vigil of the canonical Eritrean Orthodox Church (recognising Patriarch Antonios) in London meeting in Archway, Highgate, where he was warmly welcomed by Father Shenouda Haile and his congregation. Also assisting in the sanctuary was Subdeacon Daniel Malyon from the British Orthodox Church. At the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy clergy and people sat together to enjoy a festive meal and Abba Seraphim blessed two birthday cakes as well as the traditional enjera, hambasha andwat.
On 2 February Abba Seraphim chaired a well-attended day seminar on “Glastonbury Abbey – Influence and Legacy” organised by the British Orthodox Church. It was held at the Abbey House in Glastonbury, across the lawns of which the impressive ruins of the mediaeval abbey stand. It was a crisp and sunny day and both the abbey and the town were bathed in sunlight. It was universally agreed that all four lectures were both informative and engaging and during the intervals in the proceedings, there was a relaxed and sociable interchange between lecturers and ‘seminarians’.
Dr. Cheryl Green opened proceedings by talking about the Glastonbury Abbey Excavation Archive Project, which has been analysing and reinterpreting the records of previous excavations made between 1908-1979. Her enthusiasm was matched by her helpful plans and matching slides as she explained some of the exciting discoveries and possibilities opened up by the project. Professor Michelle Brown, who engaged her audience with her brilliant knowledge and command of Anglo-Saxon manuscripts, showed how the wider cultural context impinged on Glastonbury Abbey and introduced documents known to have emanated or been kept at the Abbey before its Dissolution. Dr. Tim Hopkinson-Ball, whose previous studies on Glastonbury have dealt with its more recent history, showed a facile command of its mediaeval history and concentrated on the pre-eminence of the Marian cultus at Glastonbury. Dr. Adam Stout, who has previously dealt with Glastonbury’s little known 18th century history traced the development of the traditions concerning St. Joseph of Arimathea and how they were used as religious propaganda by both Catholic and Protestants. The last two speakers have both made notable contributions and original research to much neglected aspects of Glastonbury’s rich history.
Among British Orthodox clergy present were Father Simon Smyth, Father Martin Lee (Sidmouth) and Deacon John Stuart (Exeter). Following the conclusion of the seminar, Father Thomas Cook, a priest of the Western Rite Vicariate of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, led Vespers at St. Margaret’s Church in Glastonbury.
We were very happy to hear the news of the marriage of Tina Hammond of the British Orthodox Chatham parish with Youhanna Said Hakim Georgious of Luxor. This took place on 31 July at St. Antony & St. Paul Coptic Orthodox Church in Luxor and was performed by Abouna Gladious Gerges and Abouna Bolis in the presence of a congregation of more than a thousand people. The wedding had originally been planned for last year, but the sad death of Youhanna’s mother in August 2011 resulted in a year’s delay until the periods of mourning had been accomplished.
Since his death in 1993, the friends of the late Archdeacon James Goddard (1957-1993) have met together on an evening close to his birthday (21 October) to remember him at a dinner together and to make a collection for St. Christopher’s Hospice, Sydenham, where he was cared for until his death. This year, Abba Seraphim hosted the event on 20 October at the Church Secretariat at Charlton and a cheque for £200 was sent off in support of St. Christopher’s. Through these annual gatherings some £4,000 has been collected.
As part of their 2013 Lent series of talks, Father Simon Smyth spoke at Saint Peter’s Church, East Marden, West Sussex 2013 on “War and Peace in the world: how much is religion a factor in both?” Father Simon was invited to give the second talk looking at the subject from the perspective of the Coptic Orthodox Church.