A Westerner Looks East for the Truth

barnabas

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.”

barnabas2
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

 

Advertisements

The Bottomless Pool

Falling, falling. Gusts of wind whistling down the shaft, past your ears. A shooting sound, so shrill that it shakes the earlobes. Falling … fast. You cannot see the crack in the limestone wall, where groundwater seeps into joints and faults of the rock. You cannot hear the drip in the pool below, that incessant plop, plop from the porticoes above. You cannot see the spongy fungus, clinging to the greenish ledge, where at best a shaft of sunlight shimmers on the rising water levels. All that you see is black upon black: ebony layer on sable dark deepening into the shaft. Your finger dislodges a pebble. It falls. No sound. Why should it not bounce off the slick walls? Ricochet, stone to stone, then drop distantly into the water below? But no, no sounds at all. You are falling into a depth without a bottom. Reach out and scrape the sides of the shaft. Nothing! As if the shaft were opening wider, wider, into an immeasurable, inconceivable space. ‘It makes no sense!’ your lips call out into … The space cannot hear. Wring your hands, cool and slick as a salamander’s back. Open your eyes. A Light shines upward from the bottomless depth. A pure, silvery-white, such as no sun that ever shone on earth. You yearn to close your eyes. Crouch low like a cricket, as pale as a salamander in a cave, a blind bat clinging to its portico ledge above. You yearn for legs immobile, unable to send you plunging into the abyss.

A familiar dream. Consulting your handbook over a fried egg on toast, you read: ‘You will undergo a great struggle, then rise to honour and health’. But this time, it is no dream.

For thirty-eight years, this nightmare has haunted you. Falling, always falling off a familiar precipice bove the unfamiliar pool. Wet stones line the waters below, slick with greenish white fungus from the little sunlight that ever enters. Paralysed, you lie on a kind of porch with a roof overhead. You long for the water that could make limbs bend, joints untwist in the light. But should you actually enter, fall into the pool, nothing shall be the same again. Why did you dream it again last night? Saturday night used to be so simple. A pint or two in the pub. A round of darts, a pack of Walkers crisps. A whinge about that old Romanian hag in the headscarf, selling The Big Issue in front of Tesco. What is this country coming to? Used to be: fry-up on a Sunday, then the eleven o’clock sing-along. A practical talk by Canon Smythe-Sudbury about the effects of acid rain on late spring hydrangeas. Gone is my gloomy Sabbath, you muse. No organs, no pews, no plaque of Thou shalt not’s – only wailing Byzantine chant, swishing of silks, and a lot of obscure words about an ‘ineffable, inconceivable, incomprehensible’ God. What on earth possessed you to plunge into this particular pool? Give me back my little green hymnal, you moan. My four-part harmonies, wafting on soft rains. Puritan-pale faces, awaiting to-do lists of do’s and don’ts.

A Gospel as practical as the portico at the shallow end, far, far away from the depths.

For years, perhaps decades, you long to join the ancient, apostolic Church. To sense the incense wafting over, to receive the fiery coal of God’s own Body on your tongue. To kiss a tattered volume of Saint John Chrysostom and call him your kin. Guard well your limbs. Paralysed by Protestant prattle and Latin lies – for three, thirty, thirty-eight years – muscles atrophy. Eyes grow faint, in unfamiliar sunlight. Safer to stay on the porticoes by the pool. Once you plunge deep … nothing, nothing at all will ever be the same. An Anglican craft, set adrift on an Orthodox ocean, shatters on rocks that it cannot see. A blind salamander, its eyes hurt by acid rays, withdraws into the sweet, soft shadows of the cave. Paralysed legs need never strain, if they choose never to walk.

The Physician never forces you to rise. Instead, he asks: ‘Do you want to be healed?’

For thirty-eight years, this dream has haunted you. Gently, always gently lowered into the pool when the water is troubled. Wet stones line the dark shaft that they call Beth hesdá,  house of mercy, slick with a greenish-white fungus from the little sunlight that ever enters. Paralysed, you lie on a kind of porch with a roof overhead. A stench of urine, dried faeces clings to your pallet. You long for the healing water that could unbend your limbs, untwist your joints. Forcing your elbows, you inch closer to the edge. You dip your hand in, when from nowhere, a blind man staggers in front of you. Should they not call it Beth zathá, the house of shame? ‘Let me not be put to shame, O my God’, you pray. In the pale shafts of afternoon light, you see his Image. His voice asks: ‘Do you want to be healed?‘No one’, you bark bitterly, ‘no one helps. No one cares’. Breathe in a sweetly bitter sweat, that old familiar stench of living death on the porticoes. Your paralysis is yours. Who takes it from you? But the Physician reads your heart better than you. ‘Rise’, he commands you. ‘Rise and walk’. With every agonising step, every twist of an unused muscle, you leave behind everything that you once were. You fall into a depth without a bottom.

In the light rising, you see the Son. ‘Sin no more’, he says. That is, ‘never look back’.

Beloved in Christ: you are free to stay paralysed, as long as you like. Skim the surface of the pool, from the quiet comfort of a familiar stench. No one thrusts you into the waters of Bethzatha, troubled from … below. Once you plunge deep, however, nothing is the same. Puritan-pale faces, enamored of a gloomy Sabbath, offer you a ‘practical’ gospel: do this, don’t do that. Salvation simply guaranteed. Only Christianity is not faith in do’s and don’ts. It is faith in Christ – and Christ is a depth without bottom.

It is not the five porticoes of the Law. It is the bottomless pool of Mercy.

Shout out ‘Christ is risen!’ with all your soul, you fall into the abyss. You leave behind the soft crumbly limestone walls; the half-hearted, man-made faith of the practical; the sullen, sanctimonious naysayers who protest that a corpse bound to a pallet rises on a Sabbath. You leave behind ‘religion’: that pale, pitiful mockery. Groundless and unstable, as a gust of wind. If Christ is risen, no faith is real but falling, falling – into the hands of the living God.

A fall that does not kill you … but brings you to Life.

THE BOTTOMLESS POOL (John 5.1b-15)

By Father Alexander Tefft

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.