SUNDAY, 2 / 15 MARCH 2020, TELFORD, ENGLAND: This weekend, the first Patronal Feastday of the Diocese’s newest parish, the recently-established Mission Parish of St Chad in Telford, England, celebrated its first patronal feastday. Leading patronal celebrations was the Diocesan Bishop, His Grace Bishop Irenei of London and Western Europe, together with the Chancellor of the Diocese, the Very Reverend Archpriest Paul Elliott and the priest in charge of the Telford Parish, the Revd Priest Spiridon Bailey, who were joined by the Reverend Deacon Andrei Borisas of the Diocesan Cathedral in London.
As reported on this web site at the time, the Parish of St Chad was established in Telford by Bishop Irenei upon the petition of numerous faithful in the region for a new parish presence there. His Grace formally established the parish in May 2019, and on 13th July 2019 it celebrated its first Divine Liturgy in situ and began its worshipping life. Precisely eight months later, at the present weekend, Bishop Irenei joined the new community in prayer and the sacraments for the first time, on the second Sunday of Great Lent, which this year coincides with the feastday of St Chad of Lichfield, to whom the parish is dedicated and through whose heavenly intercessions it is guided and maintained.
In His Grace’s homily at the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy, Bishop Irenei reflected upon the examples given to the faithful by the two holy hierarchs whose memory coincided on the day: St Gregory the Archbishop of Thessaloniki and St Chad. Speaking of St Gregory Palamas, whose memory is always kept on the second Sunday of the Great Fast, Vladyka remarked, ‘St Gregory is given such prominence in our lenten life because his chief theological work was to defend the singular truth that it is possible for man to see God. Logic may question this, rationality may be befuddled by it, skepticism may doubt it; but the pre-eternal God is visible to His creature, directly and immediately. Our eyes, weak as they are, can gaze upon God Himself. Our hearts, feeble a they are, can receive Him. He Who came close to us, really has deemed us able and worthy to come close to Him. This is not an impossibility, it is not a myth. It is the truth.’
‘We grow weak in this feeble world,’ His Grace continued, ‘we become consumed with our worldly cares and distractions, and soon we forget the mysteries into which God has called us. We see only the baseness of this world, and before long we think baseness is all there is to see. We commit sin after sin, and before long we come to believe that sin is all we are able to commit — that we are capable of nothing else. It is to precisely this grave spiritual temptation that St Gregory speaks. You are called not to a base life, but to holiness. You have been created not to be a shadow of life, but to be fully alive — glorified, sanctified. You may sin, but you are more than the summary of your sins. You may feel yourself weak and incapable, but there is within you One Whose strength is unlimited and whose love is unhindered. Your eyes may be dark and downcast, but these same eyes are capable of seeing God Himself.’
His Grace noted how this same conviction is contained in the witness of St Chad, ‘who reminds us that there is nowhere that lies beyond the reach of this God’s love. God’s love is relentless: it does not sleep or slumber, in the lives of the saints, until it has born fruit in the hearts of those requiring it. St Chad walked the extent of these lands, ensuring that no soul in need of God’s mercy should be without it; that the sacraments would be brought, that the truth would be preached, that the life of Truth would be shown. And here we are, so many centuries later, children bearing his name and fed by his prayer, sanctified by God’s presence in a land made spiritually fertile by this great pastor.’
Following the Divine Liturgy, a cross-procession was held around the temple in honour of the patronal saint. A meal was served in the hall, affording the faithful of the mission parish to speak with their archpastor in the joy of the feast.