A Parish Priest's Letter to his Parishioners
On the occasion of a new development in the history of the Parish
My beloved Brethren in our Lord Jesus Christ,
Let us begin this letter giving thanks to God for the impulse, or inspiration, given to the Greek pioneers in Weston-super-Mare, to form, to maintain and develop this Community of St. Andrew the Apostle. Not only were they inspired to begin but also they inspired their children and grand-children to continue this great work of God. It is “work of God” because it assists the eternal salvation of those pioneers and, when they have rested in the Lord, will assist also towards the eternal salvation of their children and grand children.
When I contemplate the property that this Community has today in Weston-super-Mare, I see it as an icon –a graphic image- of its meaning as spiritual reality of that impulse and inspiration given to those Greek pioneers. The acquisition for it was a process of many years. First of all, to have a facility to come together as community; then, to have facilities for bringing together the children to learn Greek and feel the traditions of their fore-fathers; by now it awoke in them the desire to have near home a House of God, in place of renting a place or travelling to Bristol. At last, Kyrios Avxentis, of blessed memory, seventeen years ago, approached me asking for help to have services in Saint Andrew’s church in a regular basis; so, since then, the Community and I have grown together in the sight of God. Today, I feel, the Greek Community of Weston-super-Mare is entering its adulthood with the revision of its Constitution and the acquisition of the house and property next to the church building. You now have plans for the future and this Newsletter is part of them. What looks material and earthly is in fact the physical appearance of a spiritual process in the souls of all the members of the Community. The church building now is the pinnacle of the Community, its head and heart from where runs the spiritual life and existence of itself. This is the reason for me to see the whole property of this Community as its ICONO. Looking at it we see its rich spiritual reality.
Therefore let us give thanks to God who in His mercy inspired those pioneers. Let us give thanks to God, also, who in His mercy, might grant us, you and me, to be part and beneficiaries of this holy inspiration.
With the publication of this NEWSLETTER the Community Church of Saint Andrew the Apostle begins a new existence. So, because it is new, we do not know how its existence is going to be. It is as when a new baby has been born: the future is very mysterious, we can see something of how its development could be, looking at his parents and family. So it is also for this Community: the dream, centre and unity of its existence, since its beginning, has been orientated towards the Church building. In it the grand events of the families, joyful or sad, have been a reality and remain as a memory for each and all of us. However, the Church is not only a building, it is the concrete reality of a way of life, in Weston and in our life, that unites us to all our fathers –or ancestors- in Cyprus and in the World who have received Christ, and confess Him as the Son of God and as our King and our God. This is what we hear, and confess, every time we celebrate a baptism or a funeral in our Church building and, every Sunday, at the celebration of the Divine Liturgy. The Church, the Arc –or ship- of Eternal Salvation, with its architectural shape, reminds us of these. This is also what the Greek pioneers of Weston-super-Mare, from their place in the presence of God, remind us too. They laboured to establish a sense of community to help each one of its members to persevere in the new style of living that is Christian. An authentically Christian life is what we are taught by the Orthodox Church, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.
At this moment we can see that a community is only a name if there are not members that give reality to that community. The members of our Greek Community Church of Saint Andrew have to live as did Saint Andrew: following the teaching of our Lord and King, Jesus Christ, who has risen from the dead! Where are we going to learn this blessed teaching? The answer to this question is very simple: with our regular and frequent attendance to the religious services in the Church, and in particular with our participation in the celebration of the Divine Liturgy on Sundays. Within there we hear the readings from the New Testament, its explanation in the homily, we confess our Faith –in the Creed (Pistevo)- and we practice the action of prayer. Then we go to our homes and private life. However, these have to reflect what we have learned and practiced in Church. We live as Christians, men and women that fulfil the commandments of God and men and women that, as children of God, are in the presence of God in prayer. This is to live in relationship with the Holy Trinity of the Father, our Father, and of the Son, our Brother, Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, our comforter and our guide, our giver of life and the treasurer of Divine Gifts. This is a fact because Christ has risen from the dead!
I feel, in some way, to be part of the group of those pioneers, since, in the mercy of God, I was chosen to be the first priest to be fully in charge of the Church of Saint Andrew in Weston-super-Mare. Now I have been here for seventeen years. Now I am nearer to passing away –my Pascha- and as my testament to you come this plea: take seriously your Christian life, taking part actively in the life of your Church; read the New and Old Testament as instructed by the Church every day.
Christ is risen! He demands of you, a Christian, to be full of faith. Yes, the victorious risen Christ demands of you a life of faith. He gave you this power of faith on the day of your Baptism. By Chrismation, you were branded with the seal of the Holy Spirit, as the Apostles were. Through Holy Communion, you are nourished and energized, as the Apostles were. Through Holy Confession of your sins, you are restored and protected, as the Apostles were. By Holy Marriage, the self preservation of your temporal life is elevated to the harmony of the economy of the Trinity of God, as some of the Apostles were. The Power and Judgement of God is deposited in the hand of Man thanks to and through the Priesthood, because the Apostles received it from the risen Christ. By the Holy Unction, you are healed and revitalized for your last steps towards the Eternal Life, as the Apostles taught. All these Mysteries, or Sacraments, are the pledge for the promise that, at your temporal life’s death, you will pass-over (Pascha) to the Eternal Life, the Kingdom of the One God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. What a great mercy! What an everlasting life is granted to us for Christ is risen!
March 2007 © Protopresbyter Kyrillos Leret-Aldir
Saint Andrew the Apostle Church
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