On Sunday 30th September / 13th October 2019, His Grace Bishop Irenei of London and Western Europe headed the Divine Services for the autumnal feastday of St John the Wonderworker of Shanghai and San Francisco, dedicated to the opening of the saint’s incorrupt relics, at the parish bearing his name in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Co-serving His Grace were Archpriest Paul Elliott, Chancellor of the Diocese and cleric serving the parish, together with Priest Sergei Mironenko, rector of the Parish of St Colman in Stradbally, Republic of Ireland.
Welcoming the Diocese’s archpastor to the community in Belfast, the parish warden, Mrs Joanna McBride, greeted Bishop Irenei at the airport on Saturday evening, after which he was taken to the parish for the evening Divine Services before spending time in spiritual discussion with several parishioners, recounting, amongst other things, his reminiscences of the re-vesting of St John’s relics which took place in San Francisco in October 2011.
On Sunday morning His Grace was greeted at the doors of the church with the traditional bread and salt, and the Divine Liturgy in honour of the uncovering of the precious relics of St John was served in the small chapel, accompanied by the pious singing of the parishioners. At the conclusion of the Liturgy, Bishop Irenei delivered a sermon on the Gospel appointed for the day, in which the command to love your enemies (Luke 6.35) serves as a ‘touchstone for the whole of the life in Christ’, as His Grace noted that ‘to love the one who hates us, whom we know will continue to hate us and shower resentment and bitterness upon us in return for our goodwill or good deeds — to love this person, in these terms, is to love like Christ.’
Following the Divine Liturgy, a reception was held in the small meeting area outside the chapel. Archpriest Paul Elliott, who, in addition to his roles as Chancellor of the Diocese and Rector of St Elisabeth Parish in Wallasey, also serves as one of the clerics serving the Belfast community, spoke movingly about the history of the parish and its spiritual fortitude.
The Parish of St John in Belfast is one of two parishes in the Diocese dedicated to the great wonderworker of our modern times — the other being in Colchester, England. The Belfast community is small but deeply committed to the Orthodox life and the veneration of their patron, and is currently seeking larger and permanent grounds for worship to replace the present chapel, which they have outgrown.