Wednesday 3 August 2011

Coptic Language Summer School

Thanks to the support and blessing of H.E. Metropolitan Seraphim, the planned Coptic Language Summer School has been organised and will take place in September. Although events like this are not evangelistic, and will involve the particpation of only a relatively small number of students, the fact that it is taking place at one of the major universities in London, and is being widely advertised, will help to promote an awareness of the British Orthodox Church, which is sponsoring the event.

The student numbers are limited to approximately 10, and places are already filling up.

The details are as follows:

Coptic Language Summer School
King’s College, London

Monday 5th – Thursday 8th September, 2011

Session 1: 11:00-13:00
Lunch and Discussion Break: 13:00-14:00
Session 2: 14:00-16:00

The tutor will be Dr Carol Downer, an experienced and well qualified lecturer in the Coptic language.

The course material will be based on Introduction to Sahidic Coptic by Thomas O. Lambdin.

The cost of the School is £60, payable in advance.

Those wishing to book a place should urgently contact the School organiser:

Father Peter Farrington –

and make an online payment of £60 using the following link..

Tuesday 17 May 2011

Orthodox Mission - Using Educational Opportunities

I have a great love of languages, and my desire to learn has always been limited by the opportunities open to me. But of course there are many thousands and millions of other people who have the same love of language. And not only of language but of many other skills, crafts, arts and abilities.

We love to learn things. It is part of being human, and therefore this very human aspiration can be used in the service of mission and of the Orthodox Gospel.

I am presently developing plans to organise a Coptic Language Summer School in London towards the end of August. To some extent this is because I want to have the opportunity to study the Coptic language in a formal setting, but it is also a mission possibility which I wish to make the most of.

I hope that there will be Coptic Orthodox Christians who would like to study Coptic for a week, but I am also hopeful that this will be an opportunity for others who are not Orthodox, to spend some time in the company of Coptic Orthodox Christians, studying in a situation which makes exposure to some aspects of our Orthodox Life a natural and interesting situation.

I wonder what other educational opportunities are open to other Orthodox in other situations? Perhaps it would be possible to organise an Iconography Summer School, or a series of classes describing the Orthodox heritage with representation from the various Orthodox churches. Our faith IS interesting, and contains many different aspects which non-Orthodox and even non-Christians find interesting and intriguing. Such educational opportunities are usually only the beginning of evangelism, but the friendship and trust which is experienced in such situations has great benefit for ongoing evangelism.

Missionary Activities - Starting a Mission

Mission involves not only sharing the Orthodox Christian Faith where we are, but also going to other places to share the Faith. Most people find it difficult to make the commitment to travel great distances to explore and experience Orthodoxy, especially at the beginning of the journey, and so it often falls to those engaged in missionary work to undertake to travel to where those who might want to learn about Orthodoxy can be found.

It is not unknown, for instance, for all of the Orthodox Christians in a State to be found in the main city, while many of those who would like to discover Orthodoxy live in the smaller centres, perhaps hundreds of miles from the city. Mission is not only about going overseas, there is also a great need to consider travelling within our own States and Countries to allow as many people as possible to experience our Faith for themselves.

Here in the UK there are places where it is not easy for British people to experience the wonder and glory of the Orthodox Liturgy in their own English language, nor is it easy for them to find a community of English speaking people who can share the substance of the Orthodox Faith with them.

As part of the ongoing mission of the British Orthodox Church within the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate a new mission is being planned here in the UK. I will share more information as the plans are firmed up. But it is enough to say that it has as its aim the objective of reaching those many British people who are interested in Orthodoxy but need someone to come close to them so that they have the opportunity to understand it for themselves.

Do pray for these plans. At the moment we are considering a location, and are in communication with various organisations to see where exactly it would be God's will for us to begin this work.

Thursday 24 March 2011

Orthodox Mission - Ethiopia

It is always beneficial to consider how the Orthodox Faith has been introduced to various nations, and to commemorate the activities of Orthodox missionaries through the ages. Among the most famous are the brothers Frumentius and Edesius who were used by God to bring the Orthodox Faith to the people of Ethiopia.

According to the early writer Rufinus, who appears to have spoken with Edesius, the young brothers accompanied their uncle Meropius on a trading trip to Ethiopia. On their way through the Red Sea the whole crew was killed by the people of the area with the exception of the two boys, who were taken as slaves to the King of Axum. The boys gained the trust of the King as they grew into manhood, and shortly before his death he gave Frumentius and Edesius their freedom.

The Queen prevailed upon them to stay and assist her in the government of the Kingdom and the education of her young son, the Prince Ezana. They encouraged the practice of Christianity among the merchants who regularly came to the Kingdom and later were able to convert some of the Ethiopian people to the Orthodox Faith.

When Ezana came of age Edesius chose to return to Tyre where he was ordained a priest. His brother Frumentius hoped that the Faith could be more properly rooted in the country and chose to stay. But he travelled to Alexandria with his brother and asked St Athanasius, who was the Patriarch at that time, to send a bishop for the Ethiopian people.

St Athanasius considered that Frumentius was himself the best candidate to be consecrated as bishop for the Ethiopians and so he became bishop in about 328 AD. He returned to Ethiopia and baptized King Ezana who had ascended to the throne. Then he engaged in much missionary activity throughout the Kingdom and built many Churches with the support of the King. The people called him 'Revealer of Light' and 'Father of Peace'.

It is interesting that St Patrick, the Enlightener of Ireland, had also been a captive and a slave, and became the means of bringing the Christian Faith to his captors. In the same manner St Frumentius was first introduced to the Ethiopian people as a slave, and yet was used of God to bring the freedom of life in Christ to those who were his captors.

This should suggest to us that missionaries need not be strangers to those among whom they serve, even if they are of a different cultural and ethnic background. To be a missionary is to have been 'sent' by God, but it does not mean always abandoning the situation into which God has placed us. The members of the Coptic Orthodox Church may not feel that they have a right to share their faith in a country that has welcomed them as immigrants, but if our Orthodox Christian Faith is a treasure hid in a field, or a pearl of great price, then we have a responsibility to share it as a gift.

We see that in common with the Prophet Daniel and the Holy Youths, who experienced captivity themselves in an alien culture, St Frumentius and his brother never abandoned their faith and their inward spiritual culture, but preserved it even among a pagan and unbelieving people. When the time was ripe St Frumentius was enabled to bring in a harvest of souls because he had remained faithful even in a foreign land. He had been a slave, the lowest of all, but he became the confidant of Kings and the head of the Church in Ethiopia which he was blessed to establish.

Friday 18 March 2011

Orthodox Studies - First video presentation

Thanks to the financial support of a few dear Orthodox friends I have been able to set aside some time to begin to develop a whole series of video presentations. These will be about 10 minutes in length and first of all will examine the teaching of the Orthodox Faith about the sacrament of the Eucharist. They have as the intended audience both existing Orthodox faithful, and of course those non-Orthodox who are seeking to gain a better understanding of what we believe.

I am sure that I will change various features of these presentations as I become more used to producing them, but this first one is at least comprehensible. Please consider if you, or those you know, are also able to financially support this ministry so that more presentations can be produced. At present the ongoing support for this work allows only for about 3 days of activity to be committed to it. Your financial support would allow for more time to be set aside from secular employment to produce these instructional videos.

Here is the first video. I'd appreciate comments and ideas to improve it.

Tuesday 15 March 2011

Missionary Resources - New Lecture

Over the last few days I have been completing a 6,000 word article describing how and why I became Orthodox, and some of the differences I had to take account of between the Evangelical Protestantism I had grown up with, and the Orthodox Faith I was growing into. Such accounts of how a person became Orthodox are useful, (not that mine has any particular merit) because they allow others to see that they also could become Orthodox.

Here is a section of it...

I am immensely grateful to my parents and those other faithful Christians who gave me a knowledge of God and a desire to serve Him. I am grateful for many of the opportunities I received to serve God and to exercise a measure of faith and trust in Him. But I gave up all of this evangelical experience, and all of the possibilities which lay before me within the evangelical protestant world and I became Orthodox. I was not a nominal protestant, I was entirely committed to God. I was not ignorant of the faith, but had trained for ministry. I was not without any prospect of service, but had already received an invitation to become a youth pastor in an evangelical church in which I had helped to run a children’s mission.

If the person who has become Orthodox does not adopt a negative and polemical approach towards the community of their origins, and this is rarely useful, then the description of the various teachings and practices which they had to reconsider in the light of their journey towards Orthodoxy can become something which produces thoughtful reflection on the part of the one reading such a testimony. This is because the questions raised are from a person who has shared the same background, and not from someone who might be considered an 'outsider'. There is sometimes a sense that within Orthodoxy people should not share their testimony, or their life story, but it need not and should not be a matter of self-pride, indeed more often than not it is a cause of great thankfulness towards God.

I have recorded this particular talk and it is available for download here - Born Protestant, Became Orthodox. I'd be very interested in any comments folk might have.

Thursday 10 March 2011

Mission as it happens

Over the past few days I have been trying to find some time to work on a couple of documents. One is the first section of the Enquirers book/course. I have managed to write about 4,000 words out of the 5,000 I want to publish. Here is the very beginning of this beginning..

How to begin an introduction? Do we start with the question – what is the Orthodox Church? Or do we ask – what is Orthodoxy? For many people the two are synonymous. Orthodoxy is what the Orthodox Church teaches and lives out. But of course much of the substance of Orthodox teaching and practice is also taught and lived out by many other Christians. Does this mean that Orthodoxy is no different from every other Christian community? Or does it mean that no other Christian community believes and lives out the Christian life? 

Neither of these extreme positions needs to be adopted. But the context in which this Orthodox teaching is lived out does make a difference, both to the spiritual ends in view and the means which are used to reach them. Many religious people fast, for instance, but why do Orthodox Christians fast? Most religious people pray, but how and why do Orthodox Christians pray? The reason why we do things makes sense of what we do. So this brief description of Orthodoxy and the Orthodox Church will not pretend that no other Christians believe and practice many of the things which Orthodox Christians believe and practice, but it will try to describe why and how the Orthodox practice might have a different meaning or value.

I have also been working on the text of a video presentation called Born Protestant, Become Orthodox. It begins with some aspects of my own life and experience, but is also going to look at the significant differences between Orthodoxy and Protestantism. I am working hard to make sure that it remains a truthful and honest account of my life and the reasons why I came to reject Protestant theology and spirituality, so that it is useful both within the context of the Orthodox Church, and to those within Protestantism, as I was, who are seeking a deeper and more fruitful experience of God.