With the blessing of the Diocesan Bishop, on Saturday 11th / 24th June 2023 the Parish of the Icon of the Mother of God ‘Joy of All Who Sorrow” in Mettingham, England, resumed its annual pilgrimage to St Botolph’s church in Iken for the first time since the pandemic.
Located in a beautiful part of the Heritage Coast in rural south Suffolk, the Parish Church of St Botolph at Iken is the location of St Botolph’s minster (monastery), which is identified in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in its entry for AD 654. St Botolph was one of the most important Anglo-saxon missionaries and monastic founders in the 7th century, and is a luminary amongst the Orthodox saints of the British Isles. Through the division of his relics in the 11th century, devotion to St Botolph grew in later periods. The old city of London was blessed by the saint’s relics being carried in procession around the city, upon which the churches at its gates were rededicated to his memory. The saint also had medieval dedications as far away as Norway and Sweden.
A moleben with akathist hymn to the saint was concelebrated at the sacred site, concelebrated by Fr Mark Tattum-Smith of the Mettingham Parish, together with Priest Evgeny Selensky (Diocese of Sourozh), Priest Mark Shillaker (Antiochian Archdiocese), and Deacon Andrew Bond, also of Mettingham. Before the Divine Service, Priest Mark gave a brief summary of the saint’s early life, and after singing the akathist the faithful were able to venerate the parish’s beautiful icon of St Botolph as well as a reliquary of different saints which had been kindly gifted earlier in the day by the iconographer George Ioannou, who was also present at the service.
At the end of the Divine Service, Father Mark commented on how fitting it was that the day before the celebration of the Sunday of All Saints of the British Isles, the parish was able to come together and pray to one of its most important local saints. ‘People were drawn to St Botolph, not because he was especially clever, or “nice” or funny. They came to him because they saw something in him that the world could not give them. They encountered the grace and likeness of God. They encountered holiness and the light of Christ. It was this light that shone within his heart, which converted the pagan souls around Iken to Christ, and changed this once fearsome, dark, demon-infested place into a small piece of paradise.’
After the pilgrims had had the chance to venerate the icon, relics as well as the ancient Anglo-saxon cross shaft at the back of the church, they were invited to the home of the churchwarden Louise Cooke who provided a generous buffet lunch. This gave the weary pilgrims time to talk to each other amongst beautiful grounds with stunning views across the River Alde.