A Westerner Looks East for the Truth

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Stanley ( Barnabas) Dickinson

+ Memory Eternal!

Kalo Paradeiso! Kali Synandisi! [Greek wishes on a funeral]
May you enter Paradise! May we meet again there!

October 10, 2017
Acts 11:22-24
22 Then news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch. 23 When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord. 24 For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.

It is with gladdening sorrow that we have composed and dedicated this issue of the Stavronian to our beloved elder Barnabas, founder of the Parish of Holy and Life-Giving Cross and Normandy veteran. Our brother Barnabas peacefully fell asleep in the Lord at 21:40, October 10, three days before his 94th birthday. He was not alone when he passed into God’s keeping. Apart from the angels that attended his repose, members of the Parish, his spiritual family, were there as well as his own family were at his bedside. He was holding my hand when he breathed his last breath. He received Holy Unction the same morning. He even drew energy to make the sign of the cross. We asked him for a word from the Lord and he said “Love”! It was a holy repose with the faithful holding lighted candles. I thank God that he entrusted to me the unworthy priest this holy soul and brave soldier of Christ as an example of the Christian life. As a founder of the Orthodox Community of the Holy Cross he will remain forever inour prayers. May angels take him to his just reward in the Heavenly Kingdom of Our Lord Jesus Christ. May his memory be eternal. Christ is Risen!”

Fr. Jonathan
*
HEAVEN: FROM PROTESTANTISM TO ORTHODOXY 
A Westerner Looks East for the Truth
By Barnabas Dickinson
 
“When God the Holy Spirit says ‘Dsomething, you jolly well do it, or else…’,but what? Our loving Saviour had some stern words about lukewarmness, about turning back, having put one’s hand to the plough. … During the years of strife in the Church of England over this matter, pressure groups formed on both sides of the divide, and I attended rallies of the opposition in the Blackburn diocese. …What happens next? What do we do? Where do we go? What is our place in the Church? Speeches and discussion led nowhere… People were bewildered, defeated, hurt. Then, for me, God the Holy Spirit took a hand. Right at the end, in the question and answer session, a priest I did not know [ie. Father Jonathan Hem-mings] said very simply, ‘If anyone is wondering where to go’, they should be aware that Orthodox Church services in English are becoming available’, or words to that effect. Option (7) had come out of the blue, completely unexpected, and when the rally broke up for a cup of tea, I approached him. …
… One Saturday in the Spring of 1995, Fr Jonathan took me to the railway station for my train back to Chorley. He said to me, ‘It’s decision time’. The Patriarch of Antioch, who had taken personal oversight of this English group in May 1995, and the Holy Synod, had decided to accept us into membership of the Orthodox Church. ‘Are you coming, or are you not?’ Father Jonathan said. I said that I would …Grass did not grow under our feet, and quite soon, on Wednesday of Bright Week I was received into the Church, along with half a dozen others, including Fr Jonathan, now a lay member of the Church, having resigned his Anglican priesthood after Easter Day; eastern and western coincided that year. Our baptism in the Church of England was accepted as valid, having been in the threefold Name, and we were chrismated at the hands of Father Alexey, with Holy Oil consecrated by the Patriarch. For the first time I received the true Body and Blood of our Saviour. Now, twenty six years later I would not be anywhere else.

Thanks be to God for bringing Fr Jonathan into my life, and for all things. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.”

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Barnabas’ icons have been bequeathed to our parish. Barnabas’ legacy of icons by the hand of Dimitrios Hakim perfectly compliment the parish icons by the same artist.

To find out more about Barnabas, a most dear father to this poor little city hermit, please have a look at the November Stavronian which this month is dedicated to our beloved elder and co founder of the Church of the Holy Cross, Stanley ( Barnabas) Dickinson at
http://www.orthodox-lancaster.org.uk/newsletter

 

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The Pending, the Proselyte and the Prescient

Three Vignettes 

 

The Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of the British Isles and Ireland held its first Archdiocesan Conference with our own resident Metropolitan, Sayedna Silouan at the Hayes Conference Centre, Swanwick, Derbyshire from Monday 23rd May to Wednesday 25th May 2016. This conference ‘welcomed’ me to the UK, initiated me to the Glory of Orthodoxy in Great Britain and drafted me to the (Antiochian) English Orthodox Church. Amidst its brilliant theological talks, its moving church services, and its heart-warming communion with my brothers and sisters in Christ, three pairs of eyes, three vignettes haunt my memory.

Ezekiel 1 :16—28

“The appearance of the wheels and their work was like unto the colour of a beryl: and they four had one likeness: and their appearance and their work was as it were a wheel in the middle of a wheel. When they went, they went upon their four sides: and they turned not when they went. As for their rings, they were so high that they were dreadful; and their rings were full of eyes round about them four. …. And when they went, I heard the noise of their wings, like the noise of great waters, as the voice of the Almighty … Above the vault over their heads was what looked like a throne of lapis lazuli, and high above on the throne was a figure like that of a man. … As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell upon my face, and I heard a voice of one that spake.”

 

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The Pending

1 Kings 19:11

“And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind”

His eyes were the most vibrant, fiery, scorching eyes I had ever encountered. Yet, full of Love! Our Bishop is a very young and most intense man. He took me aside and began to ask the most probing questions, piercing holes to my heart. It felt like Confession rather than conversation. I was fast reduced to tears.

‘Why are you crying?’ ‘Out of joy!’ ‘Why?’ ‘For being with you!’ How else could it be before such blazing purity?

He did not mince his words. ‘All this is a Cross to me.’ ‘Why, Sayedna?’ (It is not that I did not know that being a bishop is a cross. If a novice needs the patience of a wagon, the hegumen needs a whole train! I remember reading this in a book once.) ‘Why? What would you rather do?’ ‘I would rather be in a monastery. Any monastery. Any where. In Syria. In Greece. Any where. As long as I were in a monastery.’

(This fast became  a refrain in many conversations during the conference. So many people here would rather be in a monastery but were called by the Lord to work for Him in the world. Frustrating yes, exhausting yes- sacrificial most certainly, but could they do anything else in order to follow Jesus? No! )

‘I have come here out of love.’ ‘So many people here, Sayedna, want to go to a monastery.’ ‘Would you like that too?’ ‘Yes, but we are still young and we must work for Him’. Such prescience, such bright sorrow in his eyes!

Suddenly, out of the blue, a middle-aged Anglican kneels before him and asks for his blessing! The year he had spent during his Cambridge studies in Balamand (!), Syria, Lebanon and Turkey “was the happiest in his life!”

‘Come home!’ another ‘convert’ invites him. ‘But I am a Westerner. How can it be?’ ‘So am I.’ the other replies. ‘Why stay at the Church of England if your heart is Orthodox? Come home!’ And: ‘Why do you make further schisms rather than return back to the original faith, the source?’

He, too, is fast reduced to tears and kneels, unable to utter a word. It is not the questions themselves but the ‘authority’ and holiness of the person who is asking them. These eyes! The ‘Reluctant’, Doubting Anglican may not be ready (yet) to make the leap of faith! But a hole in his heart has been made!

The Proselyte

1 Kings 19:12

“And after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake”

She was a newly-baptised Muslim Convert. She kept telling everyone that she was only twenty days old! And indeed her eyes were the kindest, purest and brightest ones I had encountered for a very long time. ‘Please pray for us. The Holy Spirit is so near you these days!’

She is hearkening back to that “memory of the glory that I had when I was entirely with You and entirely in You, before time and temporal illusions.

When I, too, was a harmonious trinity in holy unity, just as You are from eternity to eternity.

When the soul within me was also in friendship with consciousness and life.

When my soul also was a virginal womb, and my consciousness was wisdom in virginity, and my life was spiritual power and holiness.

When I, too, was all light, and when there was no darkness within me.

When I, too, was bliss and peace, and when there were no torments of imbalance within me.

When I also knew You, even as You know me, and when I was not mingled with darkness.

When I, too, had no boundaries, no neighbors, no partitions between “me” and “you.” (St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Memories – Prayers By the Lake XXX)

Such purity and newness of Life, Light and Harmony reflected in her eyes! Indeed, “the eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light.” (Matthew 6:22)

She was so eager to learn and yet she was teaching all of us! Her parents had not been told of her baptism, and there was no way she was going back to her homeland.

‘How were you drawn to the Faith?’ ‘Christ Himself appeared in person twice to me and called me, but I was not ready to take that step then. I did not have the guts. Yet in the end, I just could not ignore His calling! I had to become an Orthodox, even if that meant that I would be irreparably separated from my family and relatives and become a stranger in my own country and an exile.’

‘How are you feeling?’ ‘I am in Heaven’. (Radiant Smile) As if it did not show …

The Prescient Priest

1 Kings 19:13

“And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire a still small voice. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. …”

He was a ‘convert’ too. His eyes were by far the most playful I had ever encountered! ‘Clean’ and fresh like an ocean breeze, magical, charming, fairylike, sprightly, with elfin grace, conjuring deep, green forests and starry nights! Who said that holiness is forbidding and austere? This priest is the most humble and welcoming I have ever received a blessing. You feel like an innocent small child in his presence. Still, he is so otherwordly, light and free! Literally floating!

At a break between talks, I whisper to a friend of mine: ‘Let us go and get his blessing! He is such a holy man, so special and close to God!’ She readily agrees. Before however a move is made or a look is exchanged, something most unexpected happens. He could not have listened! He is far away, across the hall! And yet, the moment my words are uttered, he suddenly fixes his eyes meaningfully on me, smiles mischievously with elfin delight, apparently most ‘proud’ at his practical joke, and starts to make a funny pantomime, as if he is ‘escaping’ from us!

Wait a minute! This cannot be happening! I run to his side and ask him: ‘How on earth, pappouli, did you hear? Or know what we were planning to do? You can’t have possibly heard us at such a distance!’ ‘Of course, I can’, he answers smiling even more elfishly. ‘I am so proud and conceited that I am always eavesdropping, eager to listen to other people’s praises!’

He is not telling the truth, of course. And his blessing is a small miracle that seals my participation at this conference. Ever since, I feel his prayers, and bless the Lord for allowing me to “see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face”, for catching a glimpse of Orthodoxy in Great Britain through the eyes of the prescient priest!

 

Visited by God

Jeanne Harper, Visited by God: The Story of Michael Harper’s 48 Year-long Ministry (Aquila Books, 2013), 146 pages.

Visited by God is the extraordinary spiritual journey of an extraordinary Spiritual man – Michael Harper. I think that I would not be missing the mark to say that Michael Harper was the leader of the Charismatic renewal in England and many other parts of the Globe. Beginning as an Anglican chaplain under John Stott at All Souls Church, Langham Place, London, his journey finally culminated in his introducing an authentically British Orthodoxy as Dean of a new Antiochian Orthodox Deanery with English-speaking parishes all over the country.

His journey was a long and often ‘very difficult’ and testing one. In some ways I can liken it to the journey of St. Paul in that he depended solely on the Holy Spirit to lead him and lead him the Holy Spirit did! It all began in 1962 when Michael was visited by God while studying St Paul’s two prayers in his Epistle to the Ephesians. He ‘saw’ the Church as God saw her – broken by divisions and untended wounds.

It was almost from that very moment that Michael’s God-given mission for unity in the Church began. But there were many in the Anglican Church who opposed this renewal and together with Pentecostalism the movement was dismissed as over-emotionalism and therefore unacceptable. Inevitable disputes and arguments occurred but this did not deter Michael. On the contrary his detractors spurred him on! He continued to go wherever in the world there were people hungry for the power to live what they believed.

One might come to the conclusion that Michael’s journey as leader of the Charismatic renewal movement would result in a very broad liberality but when the Church of England’s General Synod of 1975 passed the motion allowing women into the priesthood, Michael felt more than just stirrings of discontent. Jeanne Harper describes Michael’s anguish which led to a most difficult and painful decision – to leave the Church of England – whom he called his foster mother, so faithfully had she cared for him and led him to his real mother, Orthodoxy.

Jeanne describes how he was led by the Holy Spirit to the Orthodox Church and in 2000 Michael founded the English-speaking Antiochan Orthodox Parish of St. Botolph’s near Liverpool Street, London. At the same time Michael was appointed as a director of the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies Cambridge. And in 2005 he was elevated to Archpriest.

The silken thread of a spider is spun from behind him as he moves forward to spin his web. The spider cannot see his work until he looks back and then the pattern of his web with all its links is revealed. Looking back over the web of Michael Harper’s life one thing is clear – from the very beginning Michael’s journey had a pattern and this pattern was a pure reflection of God’s will in his life. Once this was achieved Michael was taken in 2010 and lives in constant joy and prayer along with the saints in glory.

Jeanne Harper shares this God given Spirit filled journey of her husband with the reader and in so doing cannot fail to make us all yearn for the presence of the Holy Spirit to touch and lead all our lives.

And let us not lose this opportunity.

Reviewed by David Suchet CBE

* Last but not least, the concluding chapter “The British Antiochian Orthodox Deanery Mission” is written by Fr. Jonathan Hemmings, one of the priests of the Deanery, whose parishes are strategically spread over England and are to be found in Ireland, north and south. The Dean who succeeded Father Michael, is Father Gregory Hallam, whose vibrant parish is in Manchester. Fr. Jonathan Hemmings ministers in Lancaster at the Orthodox Church of the Holy and Life Giving Crossworshipping at St Martin of Tours, Westgate. He writes the following chapter on the story of the Deanery and its missionary vision.