On Thomas Sunday, 8 May 2016, Abba Seraphim preached at St. Alban’s Church, Chatham, on the Lord’s Resurrection appearance to the Apostle Thomas, where he specifically confronted Thomas’ doubts. Questioning is inherent in our human condition, but it can be used by the Devil to entice us away from truth. Doubt is part of our journey of faith and is not in itself wrong. There is an honesty about it because it faces up to intellectual challenge, to issues in our personal lives and to conflicting emotions and unstable mood swings. Like Thomas, it is only through a personal encounter with the Risen Christ that we can overcome these challenges and be brought to a deep and enduring Christian faith.
At the Cusworth Church the congregation celebrated Thomas Sunday with the baptism of two adult catechumens, Natalie Steive Riches and Brynie Louise Blackham, who had been under instruction by Father David for several weeks and were now admitted to the fellowship of the Church and received their first communion. Also joining them was one of our church members from Lincoln. The Cusworth congregation is a healthy mix of ethnic Orthodox and local South Yorkshire folk, who have found strength through the Orthodox Faith. Father David observed, “Our Mission is to bring the fullness of faith to all local people, which is a universal gift and not the preserve of any particular culture or ethnicity.”
On 15 May, the second Sunday of the Glorious Fifty Days following the Lord’s Resurrection, following the Divine Liturgy at the Church of Christ the Saviour, Bournemouth, Abba Seraphim and Archdeacon James visited the graves of departed members of the British Orthodox Church in the Wimborne Road cemetery and sang the Paschal Troparion at their graves. Abba Seraphim said, “They died in the hope of the Resurrection and the Scriptures tell us that the dead in Christ will rise first; so sharing that blessed hope, we cannot forget them but come to proclaim that Christ is Risen.”
The Bournemouth Church also has a cinerarium in its churchyard, where the ashes of departed members are reverently deposited. The large stone covering, which one passes on the way into the church, acts as a constant reminder of the Resurrection.
On 6 June 2016, Abba Seraphim officiated at the funeral of Mrs. Christine Khopoaka (née Kryworuczka), who died on 20 May. Christine was a third generation member of the Bournemouth congregation, having been baptised at the church as a child and also married there in 1984 by Abba Seraphim. Following the tragic death of her youngest daughter in February, Abba Seraphim had visited Christine, but the shock of her loss had caused her own poor health to decline more rapidly. Abba Seraphim, assisted by Father Nathan and Archdeacon James, conducted the funeral service in the presence of some fifty members of the family, after which her body was interred in the Wimborne Road Cemetery, where many other members of her family and church members lie buried. As she died during the Glorious Fifty Days of Pentecost, the theme was one of Thanksgiving and Paschal joy, with the Paschal canon sung at the graveside.
On Sunday, 25 September 2016, the congregation at St. Mark & St. Hubert’s Church in Cusworth Village, Doncaster, witnessed the admission of a new member of the Brotherhood of Monks. Father Alexis Raphael of Lincoln was admitted as a Rasophore Monk and ordained to the Order of Reader at the hands of Abba Seraphim, Metropolitan of Glastonbury; with Father David Seeds and Archdeacon James Maskery assisting. As Fr. Alexis received the tonsure twice on the same day, in his homily, Abba Seraphim spoke of the origins and symbolism of the tonsure, both for admission to the monastic brotherhood and for the clerical state. At the conclusion of the Liturgy, the Cusworth congregation hosted a celebratory buffet lunch. Father Alexis, who has been assisting at the Cusworth Church for some time, lives as a solitary in Lincoln.