Resurrection In Ammochostos

We got a flat tyre. The Cypriot car repairer had a budgerigar outside his garage. ‘His name is Lazarus’ he told the Ammochostos chaplain ‘Why did you name him Lazarus?’ the chaplain asked. ‘Because he was asleep for ten years and suddenly came to life’ his proud owner replied! Humans, too, have Lazarus experiences here.

Ammochostos parish has three churches. I had already preached at Ayia Napa and Famagusta. Now I got to know St. John’s in the build-up to Easter. It can be thought of as a church plant. Numbers grew too big for the shop unit they used. Then the benefactor of the cemetery Orthodox church offered it to St. John’s to use free of charge, and the local council offered them an office and small hall for refreshments and meetings. They reciprocate by welcoming visitors to graves who come in during their services to venerate ikons, some of whom stay to listen to the singing, and by maintaining and cleaning the council properties. ‘Breaking down the walls’ – that is one of the signs of resurrection.

On Thursday of Holy Week I joined members for a Passover Meal in the ikoned church. Afterwards we went to the graves with our lit candles. But another sign of resurrection is ‘Do not stay here’ – Jesus’ words to his disciples in the graveyard. On Friday we had hours by the Cross. On Saturday Harry, a chaplain at Famagusta University, drove me to the St. Andrew Monastery on the extreme tip of Northern Cyprus, which is being reconstructed by a joint partnership scheme. On the way I prayed for every member of The Community of Aidan and Hilda at the tomb of Barnabas the Encourager to be encouraged and to encourage others.

Easter Day began for St. John's with a beach sunrise service and breakfast, continued with a morning Easter Service during which Orthodox people venerated ikons and I preached, and ended with baptisms in the sea north of the border. The Bishop, I learned, worshipped with the congregation in Baghdad. We all ate Easter eggs and simnel cake and said Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

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Posted at 02:32am on 27th March 2016
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