24 SEPTEMBER / 7 OCTOBER 2023: On the days prior to the feast day of St Sergius, His Grace Bishop Irenei of London and Western Europe made an archpastoral visit to the Parish of St John the Wonderworker in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
On Friday evening, following the prayerful celebration of the evening services, Vladyka met with the parishioners and together the clergy and faithful spoke about the spiritual life and the life of the expanding parish. The Bishop expressed his happiness at the community’s remarkable growth, which indeed outgrew its former temporary setting and is now using a new and much larger rented space — and offered his prayers for the continued labours to find a new and permanent building for the church. He offered counsel on the continuing development of parish life, and the faithful then took advantage of the possibility to ask questions of their archpastor about many dimensions of the spiritual struggle.
On Saturday morning, Vladyka Irenei was greeted at the doors of the church with bread and salt, and warm words were offered by a parishioner on behalf of the whole community. ‘While we do not have external beauty and wealth,’ she said, ‘we know that the Lord doesn’t look at externals, but at the hearts of people. … Our small community consists of hearts of the Orthodox faith burning with the love of Christ, and joyfully awaits joint prayer with you and the communion in the Holy Liturgy.’
The Liturgy was then celebrated with solemnity, sung beautifully by the expanding choir that, having received instruction at the Pan-European music conferences and other venues, has greatly improved its pious conveyance of the musical inheritance of the Church Abroad. The Bishop was co-served by Priest Spiridon Bailey, who is responsible for the Belfast Parish. More than fifty faithful prayed at the Liturgy, the majority of whom received the Holy Mysteries of Christ.
It was a special consolation to all the gathered faithful that the Liturgy was celebrated in the presence of a great many relics of the Irish saints, which were brought to the church for the occasion.
At the end of the Divine Service, His Grace Bishop Irenei offered a homily on the legacy of spiritual fortitude and simple adherence to the commandments of Christ embodied in the illumined archpastor to whom the parish is dedicated, and whose relics were discovered thirty years ago this year. A sumptuous meal was then served and the Bishop had yet another opportunity to visit at length with the Belfast faithful.