Visit of Sayedna to the Parish of Saint Botolph, London
Report by Fr Alexander Tefft
On the Sunday of Zacchaeus, 27 January, Metropolitan Silouan visited St. Botolph’s in London in order to ordain Alexandru Radu Pop to the rank of subdeacon. A bishop’s visit to our parish, even within the same city, is challenging to a far-flung congregation of mostly young adults. Proportionally the poorest parish in our archdiocese, we struggle month by month to pay an exorbitant rent with no life savings to support us. Our limited rental hours, 9 am to 3 pm, restrict the length of certain services and place a strain on both the clergy and chanters. As always, however, His Eminence rejoiced in the bosom of a family and in turn increased our joy. His homily on how to increase our spiritual ‘stature’ through generosity touched many hearts.
Alexandru, a former officer in the Romanian armed forces, was eminently suited to the role of subdeacon and already holds a higher qualification in Orthodox doctrine. As a prominent member of the Romanian community in London, he invited his many family members and friends. These guests filled our parish hall, where every Sunday we offer a bring-and-share lunch with wine. Alexandru catered with delectable foods imported from Romania. Sayidna and I agreed that we could barely manage the portions!
As planned, Sayidna met with all members of our board of trustees that handles legal and financial matters and the appointed priest’s council with duties in parish life. Sayidna was clearly impressed at how responsible our young people are, as well as the serious, probing questions from the children under ten in our church school. The smallest children seemed emboldened to ask about everything from weekly attendance to monastic life. A number of former parishioners and friends who now attend other Orthodox parishes in London also joined the feast. Poor as we are, we always offer home-cooked food and wine or coffee to those who have attended the Divine Liturgy with us.
The ordination of Subdeacon Alexandru has increased the number of Romanians in our already vastly diverse community. They have begun to come not simply because of him but because the services are chanted clearly in English, the homily is robust and compelling, and the congregation is lively, welcoming, and grounded in the teachings of the Orthodox Church. Sayidna’s visit, like all special occasions, reminded us that this Lazarus at the rich man’s gate (Luke 16.19-21) already lives in the bosom of Abraham. We are poor in pocket but rich in faith. We serve no tribal interests, like many parishes in London. We serve only the Gospel of Christ.
Many years to the newly ordained servant of God, Subdeacon Alexandru.