Vassulaâ€™s visit to Brighton, UK, October 2003
2003, Lausanne, Switzerland, and the opportunity to ask Vassula to return to witness in England, namely in Brighton, a city on the South coast washed by the waters of 'la manche'. Vassula's look of timeless concentration flashed across her face, and then came the response: "Yes, in Autumn".
This was not a spur of the moment request, for the idea was born on the day Vassula spoke in our Anglican 'Christ Church', Lausanne, on 27th April 2002. Now, in God's time, we could set to work throughout the United Kingdom to ensure that once again the great gift of the TLIG messages would be brought to the attention of those hitherto unaware, especially in the Anglican Community.
Venue Criteria: The Hall needed to be anonymous, thereby acceptable to non-believers as well as believers of all denominations and faiths, but distinctive so as to invite dignitaries such as the Queen and the Archbishop of Canterbury; seating capacity of 1,500 upwards; close to good parking facilities and the railway station.
Research revealed that all suitable halls were booked throughout the Autumn weeks, but the Brighton Centre would consider us for two Saturdays in October where reservations were not finalised. By accepting the 25th the working weeks were maximised.
Then it was May, and as 'unknowns' to the UK True Life in God family we were very happy to receive Fr John Abberton and Fr Tony into our home in Hove for a short stay. Their input, advice and holy wisdom stood us in good stead during the ensuing weeks, and we were pleased to receive the 'go ahead' for our preliminary agenda and plans. Their visit ended with a trip to the shrine of 'Our Lady of Consolation' at West Grinstead where , invited into the adjoining house, we saw the priest's hole, fortunately redundant, but necessary during the terror provoked by Oliver Cromwell and others.
Now came the moment to cross the starting line and 'run the good race ....' The 'Stop Press' of the magazine/Spring issue advertised the Conference, and from then on our telephone did not stop ringing. All callers were promised leaflets with full information, and were encouraged to do their utmost, both in their locality and beyond, to spread the invitation to hear Vassula speak in Brighton, with attention given to Anglicans and other Faiths.
Many, of course, were seasoned hands at this work, and the exchanges and input were very useful. Above all we felt more than a community spirit: we felt friendship and kinship flowing along the telephone lines. Some who felt unable to help in a practical way 'phoned several times to reassure us of their prayers , and some simply to talk of God. What a sharing.
With material approved and at the printers, (25,000 leaflets and 3,000 posters) it was the moment to meet with active (super active) TLIG family members within driving distance of Mairi Lathbury's home near Reading, to talk 'Brighton business' and share various responsibilities then apparent. The group met twice more in this way before the great day dawned: "pray that My sayings will clearly ring in the ears of everyone; I have entrusted you with the noblest of My Works in your times;" (Our Lord to Vassula Nb 92 p.37).
We then sent out a motivating letter with leaflets to the 1,383 persons on the only UK mailing list available. For Europe and Ireland we mailed 277. As a result workers repeatedly called us for more leaflets and posters. The Liverpudliands had ringing ears, for a member there distributed 2,000 leaflets. In the diocese of Chichester (Brighton and surrounding towns) 500 personalised invitations were mailed - some with books, and others with printed conference transcripts, etc.: 323 Anglican Parish Priests; over 100 Catholic clergy; 40 to other denominations and Faiths, and 10 Headmasters/mistress.
Several members hired coaches and set about filling them, intending to divide the costs between the passengers - a faithful initiative. One member will recognise herself as the lady with whom nobody wanted to travel. No one needed a seat to Brighton. After talking with her Dad/Abba, and swallowing hard, she offered free seats to the conference. She then had so many requests she had to resist hiring a larger vehicle.
All workers and organisers have experienced the difficulties and obstacles to be overcome in the run-up to a deadline. This time, as was to be expected, the shadow of the notification prevented many faithful from attending the conference. On the day we heard that motorway congestion would prevent many ticket holders from arriving on time, and then a fire alert in the enormous parking building behind the Brighton Centre caused traffic chaos and many could not park their cars at all.
Only four persons responded to the suggestion to meet in Brighton for prayer. We attended an Anglican High Mass at St. Paul's, where Vassula was to worship on the morning following the meeting. The Priest included the intention of Unity for us and what joy, the Mass was in celebration of the anniversary of the transfer of Edward the Confessor's bones to Westminster Abbey, London. As we know, Edward consecrated England to the Holy Mother, and it is said that when England returns to Mary, she will return to England.
One friend arrived from London with 100 blessed miraculous medals, and a large container of exorcized salt. With prayerful concentration medals were pushed into nooks and crannies of walls and pavements all around the Centre and on up to the Railway Station via the Shopping Centre, taking the pavements where as night falls many homeless find shelter in doorways. For ladies with eye problems we did rather well. I was the 'lookout' ensuring we attracted no attention. Inwardly praying the Rosary, we left a feintly visible trace of our passage from the slowly trickling salt. Later we saw the humour of the situation, for twice we were told "Careful dear, you're spilling something". At the time we had a job to do .... we, us.
On Thursday, 23rd October, Vassula arrived at Gatwick Airport accompanied by Cecilia. A joyful occasion, knowing that she had been invited by Anglicans and would be meeting and speaking to many Anglican clergy and laity: "and when I would be sending you abroad to different nations you will spread your fragrance on them and it will be received like a blessing ...." (Nb 91 p. 1)
The media was invited to attend a press conference at the Belgrave Hotel the following morning, but sadly no journalists responded. At 1.30 pm we were expected by The Community of the Servants of the Will of God (CSWG) at The Monastery of Christ the Saviour. This is an Anglican community based on the Rule of St. Benedict. When reading the Monastery's information leaflet one is struck by the sameness of language and aims as God's call through the TLIG messages. We quote: CSWG wishes to promote an understanding of the 'One Great Tradition' of theology and spirituality belonging to the undivided Church. The Brothers had immediately recognised the Divine Provenance of the TLIG messages, and clergy from several denominations were present to meet Vassula with them, including the local Coptic Priest, Fr John Habib. It was a happy event and overran by a good hour, finishing with a teaparty and a hefty parking fine. In spite of being a closed order, the community members attended the conference the following day and are now reading "My Angel Daniel". Their library was embellished, thanks to Adrian's (Sacred Heart Distribution) efficient dispatch of two complete sets of books. All praise and thanks to God for His guidance to their door, and we look forward to a continuing relationship.
Saturday, the long-awaited day commenced. To ensure an early start, many helpers had slept in Brighton overnight, and the Brighton Centre was a hive of activity by 10.00 am. Over a ton of books were unloaded and put on display, as were magazines, videos, CDs, etc.. TLIG Assistance badges were distributed and some helpers received distinctive slipovers (like Swissair hostesses in the sixties) signed TLIG on the back and front. The reception desk was set up, and the list is long... Everyone gave a helping hand in the true TLIG family spirit, and volunteers outnumbered the tasks.
The high note was in hearing the choir rehearsing. The members came together for just that occasion, but the beauty of their voices will be remembered. From July onwards we had invited choirs, one after the other, to attend the meeting. All requests were met with 'perhaps'; days of silence ensued, and finally a refusal. Prior engagements, school holidays, the reasons were there. Then it dawned on us: we were enacting the parable of the wedding feast, so we must look elsewhere. Providentially Mary Harrison sprang into action 'found the voices' and arranged not only for a concert pianist to accompany the voices, but for a soloist to sing a beautiful Ave Maria. Mary is clearly "Choirmistress of the Year".
The Mayor of Brighton was to have opened the meeting, but was suddenly hospitalized. At 2.00 pm, Councillor Francis Tongs, a former Mayor, kindly opened the meeting in her stead. From his warm words of welcome to Brighton we recognised a fellow Christian, named after the Saint of Assisi. 200 years ago, he said, visitors had come to drink and swim in the sea water for their health, and Brighton had been a fashionable place. Now the City, like so many other places, had drink and drug problems and many homeless on the streets. He said that interfaith groups met regularly with Jews, Muslims and Christians working together. He expressed the hope that in some way, Brighton stood for the Peace, Reconciliation and Unity, for which Vassula is calling, as there had never been such an urgent need.
The Rev. Canon Samir Habiby from Christ Church, Lausanne, Switzerland then spoke, welcoming all to the wonderful, ecumenical opportunity the conference presented. He showed the press photograph of the Concord flying into Heathrow airport for the last time. In fact three Concords were depicted, which he said brought to mind the Triune God. Therein was a message. Reading from the newspaper, he quoted 'Concord, as graceful as any creature that ever took flight, landed at Heathrow for the last time, and with it went every idea that the improbable was possible - the belief that man's scientific achievement could defy nature.'
Fr. Habiby went on to say that whether we have Concords or not, the message of God continues, and the message today (Vassula's) is to help us see that. Clearly we live in a world where the spiritual ingredient of our lives is critically important. In the light of that, he felt it his distinct privilege to introduce the speaker of the day, Vassula Ryden.
Fr. Habiby then mentioned that messages had been received from: Her Majesty the Queen; the Archbishop of Canterbury; the Archbishop of York; the Bishop of Chichester; the Dean and Chapter of Canterbury Cathedral. He added that in a sense, we had the prayers of a wonderful group of people to accompany us that day as we walked a journey of faith.
He spoke of Vassula's life before God called her, of her initial difficulty in understanding what was happening to her when God first approached her, and at length on the wondrous and special occasions on which she has been invited to give her testimony, e.g. to the Buddhist monks of Hiroshima; an ecumenical event in Bethlehem, co-ordinated by Jews and Palestinians working together, and so on. The list is long. He mentioned his delight in learning, when he first met Vassula, in Lausanne, that they came from the same background, and had even attended the same school - The English Mission College in Cairo.
Vassula opened her address by saying how happy she was to be invited by the Anglican Church. This was the second time. The first occasion had been in Johannesburg, South Africa. She thanked the organisers and those who came from afar. She said she would speak on several subjects of True Life in God; unity of the Church, and the basic message of Jesus for the Church which is to become one in the heart - a spiritual unity. She quoted from the paper she had delivered at an official symposium at Farla, Italy, in November 2001, saying "are we maybe looking upon unity according to our own mind, and this is why perhaps we are still separated, or are we weeking it as the Spirit of God wants it, but we do not agree to it?" She underlined that the Church needs to be consolidated and unity is the only hope of consolidating the Church.
She spoke of the "Great Aposty" of today, explaining that people are not living in the love of God, and that there are many "mini ant-Christs" teaching that the resurrection was only a symbolic thing". As a Father, God will stand up, take off His crown and rush to us, His children, to remind us of His word. So TLIG is a respell of His Word, and a call to reconciliation, unity and peace. When God speaks He brings hope to the soul. When He reprimands us it shows that He cares, and He does it without agressivity - differently from people.
Vassula stressed that many have intellectualised God until He no longer seems like a Father; we have complicatied God, and that is why people do not know Him. It is so important to get to know God in an intimate way, and have a special relationship with Him. To love the Father we must make of God a loving, divine being. A transcript of Vassula's talk can be read HERE.
All too soon the meeting came to an end, but not before we had sung 'Thoxa Thoxa Thoxa', guided by Vassula, and she had prayed over the meeting for Divine Healing, both spiritual and physical. For the next hour, at a small reception in the Centre, the many clergy, community leaders and TLIG members not busy elsewhere, met for informal exchanges with Vassula and each other.
Of paramount importance now is the follow-up to the meeting. A prayer group will be started in January, and here in the Brighton area, all priests who attended will receive videos of the occasion and the transcript of Vassula's testimony will be reproduced in a booklet for those unable to attend. You are all, of course, invited to request copies of all material produced. 'To make a follow-up visit in your area, or to approach new people with the messages, what better than the printed word. As a TLIG witness remarked to me "God sees fit to give His Word in writing, likewise, so can we."
A heartfelt 'Thank You' from the organisers to all those throughout the UK, Europe and the world who did their bit. Together we did our best with upwards of l,200 present. Vassula, fearing there might be some disappointment because of empty seats said "God will give the 5,000, because everyone present will tell five others". We thank God.