Dear brothers and sisters,
Deacon Mark and I were very struck by the beauty and prayerfulness of today’s service in Cheltenham, where a dozen of us gathered to chant the Hours and Typika, during which most of those present confessed and communed of the Holy Mysteries.
After the Typika, we offered a short litia in honour of the Venerable Fathers buried in the Far Caves of St Feodosiy in the Kiev-Caves Dormition Lavra, and then celebrated the feast with a conversation-filled lunch in the little meeting room, where we were able to congratulate Natalia on her nameday (which was also her birthday, and her son’s 16th birthday). Many years to them both!
It was wonderful to stand with three generations of one of our Cheltenham families as they chanted together at the kliros, and a special joy to be with our Exeter parishioners who have been able to be with us for the last two Liturgies due to rail industrial action.
I was particularly touched by the loving and warm concern shown by the matriarchs of the parish when I felt off-colour before the service, realising that as they commandingly sat me down and set about ‘dealing’ with my headache and the blood-circulation of my hands, they were praying fervently, so that I could hear the words of the hymn to the Mother of God, ‘Pod tvoya milost’ / Under thy merciful care…’
Our Cheltenham services are always striking in their warmth and and the bond that unites our small parish-family, but today so overflowed with heart-warming love that it felt that the Lord was allowing us to experience it in a very real and palpable way – as a grace and gift to lift and restore us. Glory to God!
I must also admit that today brought me a new personal-experience of the little chapel in Prestbury, where we currently worship in nonconformist bareness and simplicity.
As we entered, its characteristic smell was a joy and comfort, reflecting how the familiarity of the Victorian red-brick tabernacle with its features and furnishings imperceptibly becomes part of our lives – with today as a realisation of how special it is.
It is, of course, very different from the High Victorian and High-Church splendour of All Saints, Pittville, but in its own quiet way it has become just as special, and I now happily anticipate turning the street corner in Prestbury and seeing the polychrome brickwork of the chapel and its characteristic tower. It really feels like a pilgrimage, with all of the joys and blessing that a pilgrimage brings!
Heartfelt thanks go to our parishioners, and especially mama Galina and mama Liuba, as well as to Oksana and her family for singing at the kliros. Spasi Gospodi!
As some parishioners are away on the expected weekend planned for next month’s service, we now hope that our next Cheltenham Liturgy will be a week earlier, on Saturday, 8 October, when we will celebrate the repose of Venerable Sergius of Radonezh.
May God bless you all!
In Christ – Hieromonk Mark