Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Saint Felix of Dunwich, Apostle of East Anglia

SAINT FELIX (meaning happy or joyful) came to East Anglia from Burgundian territory (probably from one of the monastic houses founded by the Irish missionary, St. Columnbanus) in the company of Sigbert (Sigeberht) the Learned, whom he had converted to Christianity (while Felix was still in seminary). Sigbert would later become an East Anglian King. (In the eighth century a number of the English, most famously Boniface and Willibrord, would return to the continent to convert the heathen on the mainland.) Felix is renowned as a great missionary and became the first Bishop of the East Angles. He is said to have founded a monastery at Soham about A.D. 630. Felix, having been consecrated about 631 A.D. by St. Honorius, held the first bishopric of the East Angles at Dommoc (Dunwich) for seventeen years.
St. Honorius (c.630-653), was the fourth archbishop of Canterbury in line from St Augustine who had brought Christianity from Rome to King Aethelberht of Kent in 597 AD. Honorius sent Felix on to East Anglia, which had switched between Christianity and paganism several times since the East Anglian king Raedwald became a Christian at the Kentish court in the first decade or so of the seventh century. (Bede tells the story that when Raedwald got home, his wife convinced him not to abandon his old gods so easily, so Raedwald had shrines to his heathen gods and the Christian god in the same temple.) Raedwald's son Eorpwald succeeded sometime after 616 AD, initially as a pagan but he was converted by the Northumbrian king Edwin sometime around 630 AD. Shortly after Eorpwald became Christian, he was killed, and the country turned pagan again.

It was after Eorpwald's reign that Eorpwald's brother Sigeberht came to the throne. Sigeberht had grown up in exile in Gaul, and became a Christian there, and returned determined to turn East Anglia into a thoroughly Christian kingdom. According to legend, Felix landed at what is now Felixstowe before going on to establish a Cathedral and school at Dommoc, or Dummoc-ceastre, generally accepted as Dunwich, a seaport on the coast of Suffolk. Dummoc had been a Roman station and, besides the advantage of its port, its walls may still have been strong enough to afford some protection for the new Bishop. It was, moreover, connected with the interior by ancient roads, which led in one direction toward Bury St. Edmunds and in another toward Norwich.
At Dummoc, King Sigebert built a palace for himself and a church for Felix. Elsewhere, says Bede, "desiring to imitate those things which he had seen well arranged in Gaul, he founded a school in which boys might be taught letters, with the aid of Felix, the bishop....who furnished them with pedagogues and masters, after the Kentish fashion." Bede gives no locality for this school; yet the passage, without the slightest reason, has been looked upon as recording the foundation of the University of Cambridge, a place which, at that period, was not even within the borders of East Anglia.
Four years after the establishment of the see, the King resigned his crown in favour of his cousin, Egric, and retired to a monastery which he had founded with the Irish monk, Fursey, at Burgh Castle. Felix founded a third monastery at Soham and it was here that he died, on 8th March AD 647, and was buried. His relics were later translated to Ramsey Abbey (Hunts).
From Dommoc (Dunwich) Felix set about missionary throughout East Anglia, establishing churches and founding the monastery at Bury St Edmunds. In 630 AD he founded another monastery, this time at Soham.
Bede records the success of Felix's work in East Anglia, known for his great piety and hard work, as both a missionary and educator, Felix, in Bede's words "delivered" East Anglia from long-standing unrighteousness and unhappiness. As a pious cultivator of the spirited field, he found abundant faith in a believing people. In no part of England was Christianity more favourably introduced".
According to the chronicler of the times the episcopate of Felix was full of happiness for the cause of Christianity and the admirable historian, Bede, described his work with an allusion to the good omen of his name. Bede wrote that St. Felix "delivered all the province of East Anglia from long-standing unrighteousness and unhappiness. As a pious cultivator of the spirited field, he found abundant faith in a believing people. In no part of England was Christianity more favourably introduced".
Bede continues: "He (St. Felix) did not fail in his purpose and like a good farmer reaped a rich harvest of believers. He delivered the entire province from its age-old wickedness and infelicity and brought it to the Christian faith and works of righteousness, and in full accord with the significance of his own name, guided it towards eternal felicity".
By his presence at Soham all those decades ago the town can take pride in its former importance as a renowned Christian centre. The great evangelist and educator died on March 8th, 647 A.D. and he was buried in his own city of Dunwich. He is commemorated in the seaside town of Felix-stowe and also in a Yorkshire village, Felis-kirk (the church of Felix).
The mortal remains of St. Felix were later exhumed from Dunwich and brought to Soham monastery which he had founded. This was a precautionary measure for fear that heathen flames would take possession of them. In King Canute's time, about 1031 A.D. the relic was removed a second time for the same reason by a monk named Etheric to Ramsey in Huntingdonshire, and there solemnly enshrined by Abbot Ethelstan.[1]

Friday, February 17, 2017

Easter in Greece 10-17 April 2017

Ainos Cultural Society, Athens Bureau of the FSASS, the University of Winchester, the Orthodox Theological Research Forum, the Fellowship of St Alban and St Sergius, and the House of Sts Gregory and Macrina are organising the ‘guided Easter in Greece’ experience – Christian Approaches to Suffering, Death, and Eternal Life, from the 10th until the 17th April 2017.

2017 is one of the rare years when the Eastern and Western Easter are celebrated on the same date. We seize this opportunity to explore and illuminate the spiritual traditions of Eastern and Western Christianity. Athens embraces these traditions and experiences the ritual of Holy Week in a way that reflects its ancient and Byzantine roots.
The Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, celebrated in the context of the rebirth of nature in the Mediterranean, will be a springboard for us to explore Athens through its historical memories and monuments. Representatives of various Christian traditions and denominations will expound on their understanding of suffering, death and eternal life in the context of the Passion and Resurrection of the Lord.
The theological significance of the key events celebrated each day of the Holy Week will be explored through a series of lectures within the context of the immediate experience surrounding them. Easter, since the Apostolic era, is the time of the main celebration of Christian unity. It offers us today a chance to explore similarities and differences between Christian traditions and denominations and above all, the opportunity to pray together.
For more information on the programme, contributors, costs and details please see:

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Talk: Greeks of Armenia

An illustarted lecture in English by
Dr Marina Mkhitaryan

Friday 17 February, 7.15pm
The Hellenic Centre
16-18 Paddington Street
London W1U 5AS

According to the public census of 2011, the Greek resident population of Armenia numbers 900 people. They live in different towns and villages and speak the Pontic dialect as their ancestors are of Pontic Greek descent and moved to Armenia as miners.
The lecture will present, through the projection of photographs, the history, life and accomplishments of the Pontian Greeks community.

Dr Mkhitaryan, a Greek-Armenian, born and raised in Yerevan, to an Armenian father and a Pontic Greek mother has devoted three years to extensive historical and photographic research on the Greek community in Armenia.
She started amateur photography in 2007, and has had four prior exhibitions. Her first exhibition was held in 2009, dedicated to Greeks of Armenia, in loving memory of her Greek mother, at the Hellenic Embassy in Armenia. This exhibition has become permanent in the Hellenic Embassy in Yerevan. Her second exhibition was again dedicated to Greeks of Armenia and held at the Greek Consulate of New York, USA   in    2011.

Free entry; booking essential: 020 7563 9835 or

Friday, January 20, 2017

Theophania Concert in London

St Kyrel Trust present a Musical Concert entitled: 'Theophania - Music from the Oldest Christian Civilizations.' This interesting event will include ecclesiastical music from a number of choirs, including the Armenian, Coptic, Greek, Maronite, Moldovan, Russian and Syriac.

The event will take place at St Yeghiche Armenian Church (13 B Cranley Gardens, Kensington, London SW7 3BB) on 29th January 2017 at 5.00 pm. All the profits of this event will go to the  reconstruction of Syrian Churches. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Book Review: Petals of Vision

This collection of poetry, written by my good friend Christopher Villiers, who is an award-winning British Catholic theologian and poet, tackles, expands and interacts with many themes. This is Christopher’s second book, following his successful collection of poems, entitled Sonnets from the Spirit. However, this second publication is different to the first. Petals of Vision allows the reader to become a traveller into mythology, theology, philosophy, politics and daily life, which all coexist and intertwine, presenting us all with the psychological and spiritual synthesis and thoughts of the poet.

These poems and sonnets are a pilgrimage through life! The poet’s reflections are a challenge for the reader, but also an opportunity to reminisce personal experiences, thoughts, ideas and dreams. One theme is prevalent in this anthology, and that is the idea, the reality and the significance of love. Through this notion, we identify a marriage between the Christian virtue of love together with a more secular and casual reality of this concept.
Poetry is understood very subjectively by any reader, as any form of art. A poem which impressed me is Attempting Poetry. It is rear to see the methodology of poetry within a poem. How the creator of the written word in front of us felt or what he thought, when he was endeavouring to achieve this collection.  Poetry is a journey; and this is evident through this poem.
Of course, Christianity and an ecclesial understanding of the world is evident in this new collection. In Earth and Easter, for example, we identify a poetic insight of Holy Week, of the burial and Resurrection of Christ. Earth and the environment collaborate together with the spiritual mystery of salvation, of God’s plan, or as the poet explains: ‘God’s story.’

The poet wishes to promote and explain old ideas in new ways, allowing for a renewed understanding of life, love, God, affection, friendship, the environment and feelings. We can only be enriched by these ideas, allowing us to contemplate about the deeper mysteries of life.  

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Committee Elections and Annual Cutting of the Vasilopita 2017 – Peloponnesian Association of GB

The Committee of the Peloponnesian Association of Great Britain invites you to the Committee Elections and the annual cutting of the Vasilopita, which will take place on Sunday 22nd January 2017 at the crypt of St Sophia (Moscow Rd, Bayswater, London W2 4LQ). The elections will take place at 4.00 p.m. and the Vasilopita at 6.00 p.m.

All members of the Association are invited to attend the elections in order to vote for the new Committee. Those who wish to declare their candidacy for these elections must do so by Thursday 12th January 2017, sending their Statement of Candidacy by email at: or by post to: Peloponnesian Association of Great Britain, c/o Fotios Stikas, 57 Northcott Avenue, Wood Green, London N22 7AP. Please also see the Facebook page of the Association for more information in Greek.