Daily Archives: January 14, 2014

Some Missionary Notes: How to Draw Orthodox and Non-Orthodox to Normal Orthodox Parish Life


At the present time, in Western Europe at least, Orthodox Church life of all dioceses tends to be dominated by two sorts of church – two extremes. Fortunately, they are not always as extreme as I describe below, because there I describe stereotypes. However, just because they are stereotypes, this does not mean that the tendencies are not there.

Firstly, there can be impersonal cathedrals or other large churches in capitals and large cities. Here hundreds, even thousands, of Orthodox or curious Non-Orthodox call in on a Sunday, light candles, often mill around, do not know each other and cannot know each other, being unable to meet, and all too often do not stay and drift away. The churches which they visit give them little sense of belonging, little sense of community; this is the very opposite of what they need, given that they are homesick and uprooted from their Orthodox homes, whether from contemporary Eastern Europe or from ancient Western Europe.

Secondly, there can be introverted ghettos with narrow ideologies which it is sought to impose, sometimes located in inaccessible places or private houses. They sometimes consist of only half a dozen neophytes and one can even have the impression of ego-trips. Some of the practices in such groups, liturgical and otherwise, are unknown to the rest of the Orthodox Church and seem to have a basis in psychology, not in theology. Ordinary Orthodox naturally feel excluded from them.

Three Basic Needs

What then is required to bring scattered Orthodox and interested Non-Orthodox together? We would recommend three things. The following recommendations do not come from personal opinion, but from nearly forty years of experience and observation:

1. Premises suitable for Orthodox worship. These should be premises easily accessible to the general public and with adequate facilities (parking, children’s facilities, toilets etc), where Orthodox can feel at home, which are warm and prayerful, where there are icons and Orthodox are not distracted. This is why we always avoid using premises used and owned by heterodox, but, if we do not have money to build our own Orthodox premises, convert premises and make them our own, that is, homely for Orthodox. This is all about creating a prayerful atmosphere.

2. A choir whose members can sing and read reasonably well. This should not be in just one language, which would be exclusive and is often the sign of Anglican rigidity and false piety. A choir means that solo singing is not really acceptable to the mass of Orthodox. This in turn means that whoever is responsible for the choir needs to encourage and teach others to sing – no mean task, but a necessary one.

3. A priest who is trained, not necessarily in terms of seminary or university but, above all – and this is far more important – in terms of parish experience. He should neither be a liberal, nor a reactionary. This means that he should be strict in terms of Church teaching, but still be open in terms of understanding human weaknesses and family life. He should not be an intellectual with merely a bookish and modernistic understanding of Orthodoxy. That, as we saw in the Sourozh schism, means that he does not understand real Orthodox, but only other converts like himself. Rather he must be able to provide the liturgical cycle of every Saturday, Sunday and feast day and provide all the sacraments.


To people in exile – and in the 21st century we are all in exile – our duty is to provide a home. And that is what our churches should be – homes, places to which Orthodox belong and feel that they belong.

New Information about St Nicholas (Johnson) received from his great-great nephew

The future martyr Nicholas (Johnson) was born in Russia in 1878, the brother of two elder sisters, Elisabeth and Anna. He was the son of Captain Nicholas A. Johnson, an English guard at the Imperial Court, and Loiuse (von) Kreisler Johnson, who was German and a music and singing teacher at Court. Widowed, she later married a Russian doctor, moved to England and is buried in Weybridge in Surrey, where she died in 1924.

Nicholas was given the name Brian at birth, but took his father’s name Nicholas when he was baptised in the Russian Orthodox Church on 28 September, probably in 1878. A shared love of music with the Anglophile Grand Duke Michael, the younger brother of Tsar Nicholas, who like Nicholas was also a graduate of the Mikhailovsky Artillery School, led to a deep friendship with him. Nicholas is recorded as having kept his British nationality and he was given the nickname ‘Johnny’. However, he spoke English with a Russian accent and made grammatical mistakes, unlike the Grand Duke, whose English was perfect, as was that of Tsar Nicholas himself.

Nicholas is described as being ‘round faced, not very tall, and speaking three languages’; indeed, he was much shorter than the tall, thin Grand Duke. He was sociable, smiling, an accomplished pianist and would accompany the very musical Grand Duke, who played several instruments, notably the guitar. In late 1912 the Grand Duke Michael chose Nicholas as his private secretary and there are several good photographs of him in the possession of his great-great nephew. He devoted himself to serving his master and even in the face of certain death his loyalty never wavered. Thus, after the Revolution, Grand Duke Michael pleaded with his faithful servant to flee to Britain, but Nicholas refused to leave his side.

Arrested at Gatchina outside St Petersburg on 7 March 1918, both were soon exiled to the city of Perm. On Ascension Day, 31 May/13 June 1918, they were shot by a bloodthirsty rabble, probably by order of Lenin. As Nicholas lay dying, the wounded Michael went to his aid, begging the execution squad: ‘Let me say goodbye to my friend’. Moments later, he too was dead, killed at point blank range in the head. Their remains have never been found. St Nicholas was canonised with the rest of the New Martyrs and Confessors in 1981 and is mentioned in the stichira at lauds in the service to the Royal Martyrs on 4/17 July

Now a new icon is to be painted of him. This is based on a newly-revealed (2014) photograph taken soon before 1917, which gives a new and more accurate likeness of the New Martyr Nicholas, notably without a moustache.

The Future of Orthodoxy in Western Europe

Russian Orthodox in Western Europe often suffer from the lack of infrastructure and disorganisation of their Church. For example, many parishes suffer because they have no local bishop who speaks the local language, visits his parishes and understands local difficulties, including financial ones. One part of this problem goes back to a time when the KGB (which then controlled Patriarchal churches outside Russia) used Western Europe (and the USA) as a place of exile. In order to counter isolation which results from the lack of local episcopal pastoral care (inter-parish meetings, pastoral conferences etc), parishes have themselves to build up contacts with other parishes. Isolation, parochialism and provincialism are dealt with by being pro-active in this matter.

On account of the lack of understanding local structures and a slow and bureaucratic centralism that can take its place, a lot of patience is needed. Sometimes central authority only reacts if it thinks that it might be losing its parishes. For example the Patriarchate in Moscow was warned for several years about the situation in the Sourozh Diocese in London, but did not react in time or adequately. As a result there was schism. On the other hand, it is disturbing that some believe the Western media’s anti-Russian propaganda that portrays the Patriarchate as compromised with or even feudally controlled by the anti-oligarch Russian State, which is ironically portrayed as mafia-bound, oligarch-ridden and thoroughly corrupt. Why are such absurd things believed?

They are believed because of Western European pride, the idea that in Western Europe Orthodoxy can be done differently, ‘better’, without reference to the Church and the Tradition. This is ‘Schmemannism’, ‘Orthodoxy Lite’, ‘Euro-Orthodoxy’, ‘Halfodoxy’, as in parts of Finland, the Paris Jurisdiction, other parishes of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, and also of Antioch (and in parts of the OCA). This is in fact a form of Uniatism, a simplified, homogenised and neutered rite without Orthodox content. It means abbreviated services, no confession before communion, Protestant-style clergy, no iconostases, intercommunion etc. This is the ‘legacy’ of the emigres of the Paris School and their disciples who follow their path. It is the path to schism and apostasy.

This School is the path of illusion, the tediously dry and Spiritless rationalism that does not feed the soul, but only the unspiritual mind, the imagination and sometimes the emotions. This ideology (and it is an ideology) is extremely Russophobic. This is because the Russian Church, which has above all others kept the Tradition intact and uncompromised, is the only thing that stands in the way of ‘Orthodoxy Lite’. Thus, Russophobia exists as self-justification for apostasy. The Paris School, liberal, ecumenical, academic, proud, loves itself and its personality cults, imagining that it loves Christ and His Church. There is enormous spiritual danger in this delusion. Real Orthodox mission in Western Europe is the way of integrity and faithfulness to Orthodoxy, but in the local language.