The British Orthodox Church – 31/10/17
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.