There have been some very encouraging developments in our Coptic Orthodox Community of St Chad in Stoke on Trent. We have continued to improve our use of the Liturgy of St Basil, and our celebrations are becoming much more fluent in every way. I had been away for a month of ministry in Kitchener, Canada and so we were all very pleased to be able to gather together during March. My opportunity to serve with Father Athanasius Iskander in Kitchener was very helpful to me.
Last Monday, 21st March, we had a very interesting Patristic study on the issue of the effort we have to make in salvation, and we especially looked at the passage in the Scripture which says – work out your salvation with fear and trembling. We study passages in the Scripture with the Bible in one hand, and the commentary of Fathers, the great teachers of the Church, in the other. It is always a pleasure to be joined by others from beyond our Coptic Orthodox Community of St Chad on this occasion.
Yesterday, on Saturday, 26th March, we celebrated the Liturgy of St Basil together at St Paul’s Church, Burslem, where we usually meet together thanks to the hospitality of the Anglican congregation and the Rev. Darren McIndoe. As a community of the Patriarchal Diocese of the Coptic Orthodox Church, under the supervision of His Grace Bishop Angaelos, we have transitioned from the ancient Liturgy of St James to the equally ancient Liturgy of St Basil, the usual liturgical text of the Coptic Orthodox Church, and now we are beginning to use the text of the Liturgy of St Basil as produced by His Grace Bishop Angaelos for the St Paul’s Ministry which is based in the East of London and also offers an accessible English language celebration of the liturgy.
It was wonderful to be joined by friends and family of some of our community members, and in the end there were 21 of us gathered together for the service. There were another 4 or 5 people that could have been with us had they not had other engagements and responsibilities. With much prayer and outreach activities of various kinds we continue to seek out those folk who might be interested in our Orthodox faith and spirituality so that our numbers are increased in this year to about 40 people.
I am returning to Stoke on Wednesday, 30th March, when I will be giving an illustrated presentation on the History of Christianity in Roman Britain. This will take place at the Wedgwood Institute, 7pm with doors opening at 6:20pm. It is a public event in a prominent location in the town, and we are hoping that various folk from the area with an interest in the history of the Church in British Isles will join us for the evening.
On Saturday, 2nd April we will also celebrate the Liturgy of St Basil again at St Paul’s Church, Burslem. We worship in English, and our service starts at about 10:30am. We share in food and fellowship together afterwards. Throughout the year we will be increasing the frequency of activities in Stoke as our community continues to develop. Over this present week we have organised three events, and are very pleased with the outcomes. Through the prayers of those who support our mission service here in Stoke we are confident that God will work out his purposes for the salvation of souls.