On 7 August the Synod of the British Orthodox Church elected Father David Seeds to the Sacred Order of the Episcopate to serve as Auxiliary Bishop to Metropolitan Seraphim. During a session of the Supreme Ecclesiastical Court of the British Orthodox Church convened at Charlton on 16 September, following publication of the details of Father David’s election at Alfreton in Derbyshire and at Cusworth in Yorkshire, and having received his assent to his election, Abba Seraphim duly signed the Apostolic Mandate. This authorised the consecration and set the date and place for the ceremony as Sunday, 29 October at St. Mark & St. Hubert’s Church at Cusworth, Doncaster.
Father David was elected as an Auxilary Bishop to the titular see of Priddy, a title last held by the late Bishop Ignatius-Peter Smethurst (1921-1993), who also served at the Cusworth Church for many years. Priddy is a village in the Mendip Hills near Wookey Hole in Somerset, and some 11 miles from Glastonbury Abbey. Lead ingots dating from the Roman occupation have been found in the neighbourhood and the ruins of St Cuthbert’s Leadworks remind us that it was an ancient mining village for generations. There is a local saying, “As sure as our Lord was at Priddy”, which derives from the Somerset tradition that our Lord in his youth visited the area whilst accompanying his great-uncle, St. Joseph of Arimathea, on one of his trading voyages to Britain.
Father David Seeds was born at Codnor, Derbyshire, on 7 October 1939 and was educated at Swanwick Grammar School. He graduated from Manchester University with a B.Sc. in 1960 and from the University of Birmingham with a post-graduate Certificate of Education. He studied at Linacre College, Oxford University and Ripon Hall Theological College, where he graduated with a B.A. in Theology (1967) and was later awarded an M.A. (1987). He taught for a number of years in boys’ secondary schools and also served as Assistant Curate at St. Cyprian’s, Frecheville, Sheffield 1967-1970, having been ordained deacon (1967) and priest (1968) in the Church of England. From 1972-1976 he was Religious Education Advisor to the Bishop of Derby; served as Warden of a hall of residence at Bishop Lonsdale College, Derby and Priest in charge of Christ Church, Belper and Holy Trinity, Milford. His last appointments were as Vicar of St. John’s, Mickleover, Derby 1982-1987 and as Vicar of Alfreton 1987-1995. He left the Church of England over the ordination of women priests and was received into the British Orthodox Church, being ordained to all the orders of the ministry, concluding with ordination to the Sacred Priesthood at Cusworth on 22 December 1996. Father David has been the much-loved parish priest at Cusworth for over two decades. He was ordained as Hegoumenos on 5 July 2009. Father David is a celibate priest and will make his monastic profession on the eve of his consecration.
Commenting on the forthcoming consecration, Abba Seraphim remarked that this was a significant historical event in the history of the British Orthodox Church, as the last occasion when a Bishop had been consecrated for the British church was over forty years ago, when he and the late Andrew Bateson were consecrated as auxiliaries to Metropolitan Georgius. Although he had performed and participated in the consecration of other bishops, these were all for service in churches abroad and not for the British Orthodox Church. The consecration of Father David will be performed solus, without co-consecrators, as there are currently no other bishops in communion with the British Orthodox Church and although Abba Seraphim has fraternal relations with a number of hierarchs of other traditions, he feels that only Orthodox bishops should be invited to participate. The tradition of using co-consecrators expresses the spirit of collegiality in the universal church but there are many occasions when solus consecrations have been performed out of necessity, not least the dozens of consecrations (many without co-consecrators) performed by St. Jacob Baradaeus, Bishop of Edessa (543-578) in order to preserve the apostolic succession for the Oriental Orthodox churches.
The scheduled episcopal consecration of Father David Seeds was an historic event in the history of the British Orthodox Church. The last consecration of an Auxiliary bishop for the See of Glastonbury had been the late Bishop John (Peace) of Wirral (1923-1990), who was consecrated by Abba Seraphim in 1981 but retired from active ministry in 1986. Since the death of the late Bishop Ignatius Peter (Smethurst) of Priddy (1921-1993), who served from his consecration by Metropolitan Georgius in 1966 until his death in June 1993, Abba Seraphim has been the sole Bishop of the British Orthodox Church.
The preliminary service for the consecration of Father David Seeds began on Saturday afternoon, 28 October at St. Mark & St. Hubert’s Orthodox Church in Cusworth Village. Supported by the two presenting priests, Fathers Antony Westwood and James Maskery, Father David was brought before Metropolitan Seraphim for The Office of the Examen, at which the Protocol of his election with its confirmation and the Apostolic Mandate were publicly read. Following this formality, the Bishop-Elect made the three traditional Professions of Faith, responded to the Interrogatories relating to his purpose, resolution and engagement concerning the duties of the episcopate; and swore the Oath of Canonical Obedience, before making a General Confession and receiving Absolution. Following a short break, Bishop-Elect David then made his monastic profession and was admitted to the monastic brotherhood by Abba Seraphim, following which was held the Office of the Raising of Evening Incense. These services were well attended by local church members, who had come to support their much-loved parish priest.
The following morning, Sunday, 29 October, during the celebration of the Divine Liturgy, and in the presence of a full congregation, enlarged by the Bishop-elect’s friends and former congregation from Derbyshire, the Rite of Episcopal Consecration, according to the Alexandrian tradition, took place prior to the Reading of the Holy Gospel, with Fathers Antony and James supporting and Deacon Athanasius Hall acting as coadjutor to Archdeacon Mark. As Primate of the British Orthodox Church, Abba Seraphim, acting solus, performed the consecration through the laying-on-of hands with prayer and the vesting of the new bishop. He then preached a homily on the Gospel text taken from John X: 1-16.
The new bishop then concelebrated the Divine Liturgy with Abba Seraphim and the priests, and administered the Lord’s Body to the communicants, before receiving the Divine Breath from Abba Seraphim. A particular feature of the Alexandrian Ordination Rite is that after receiving the Precious Blood, and before he drinks from the dismissal water the bishop gives the new priest or bishop the breath of the Holy Spirit, saying “Receive the Holy Spirit” in emulation of the words our Lord spoke to His disciples when he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained” (John XX: 22-23). Some ancient liturgical commentaries say the bishop addresses the ordinand with the words of Psalm LXXXI: 10, “Open thy mouth wide and I will fill it”, to which the priest responds, “I opened my mouth and panted” (Psalm CXIX:131), and opens his mouth so the bishop breathes into it the breath of the Holy Spirit and repeats these words and this breath three times. The breath of the Holy Spirit is used by the priest in all the Sacramental prayers and other prayers, such as praying over the sick, or blessing holy oil or water.
At the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy, Abba Seraphim read the traditional Injunction to the new bishop before enthroning him under the name, title and style of ‘His Grace Abba David, Bishop Titular of Priddy and Auxiliary to the Metropolitical and Primatial See of Glastonbury’. He was then invested with the Priddy Crozier, made for the late Bishop Ignatius Peter of Priddy in 1989 and other episcopal regalia, before receiving the congratulations of the congregation and conferring his blessing, whilst seated on the throne.
Following the Liturgy, a reception followed in the Battie-Wrightson Memorial Hall, of traditional Yorkshire steak pies with mushy peas (‘Yorkshire caviar’) and Abba David made a speech expressing his heartfelt gratitude to everyone who had made this such a memorable occasion.