Exactly twenty years ago, on the eve of the feast day of St John of Shanghai in 1997, an Orthodox Christian mission began to England from the east coast town of Felixstowe, the town of St Felix. This was much like the original Orthodox Christian mission of 631 to exactly the same place but led by the future St Felix. Indeed, this new mission was also an Orthodox Christian mission and it came from the Russian Orthodox Archdiocese of Western Europe, centred in Geneva, precisely next to the native Burgundy of St Felix. This was therefore not a mission created around Parisian personalities with dreamy philosophies and dubious cults, nor one of sectarian and Calvinist phariseeism.
On the contrary, this mission owes itself to Archbishop Antony of Geneva (1910-1993), who was named after the theologian Metr Antony (Khrapovitsky) of Kiev, ordained by Metr Anastasy, and was a disciple of St John of Shanghai and so another authentic Russian Orthodox Archbishop of Western Europe (1). He was briefly bishop in England in 1985. It was in order to restore the heritage of his spiritual father, St John, who had left England in 1962, that we returned, for, to all intents and purposes, his heritage had been lost and forgotten in the British Isles, crucified by spiritual impurities from both the left side and the right side.
Today, as a result of this mission, we are looking not only at real parish bases in Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk, two of them our property, with four priests, but also at hopes of penetrating further inland, with missions to the north, south and west, to Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire, Kent and Sussex, and setting up a monastery. It seems, if God so wills, that the mission that could lead to a new Local Orthodox Church here, is indeed to be led from New York by the largely English-speaking ROCOR, to which Archbishop Antony belonged. Its local representative is Bishop Irenei (Steenberg), whose patron saint is the very saint whose icon was long ago painted in the Russian Orthodox church in Lyons – by Archbishop Antony.
Thus, today, whereas our Isles of the North Atlantic (IONA) appear to have a separate destiny from the Continent, it seems that God’s will for the imminent Russian Orthodox Metropolia of Continental Western Europe, the foundation of a new Local Church there, is not for it to be centred under the Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) in Geneva, as it was in the past under the ever-memorable Archbishop Antony of Geneva. It is rather for this work to be continued directly from Moscow via the new Cathedral and seminary in Paris. May God’s Will be done!
Note: (From his Biography)
1. As a priest in the 1950s Archbishop Antony had served in different churches in the Western European diocese, including in Lyons. Here he had painted the iconostasis of the Lyons church, including an icon of St Irenei of Lyons. As a hierarch, at the Third All-Diaspora Council in 1974 he spoke forcefully for Church unity and against ROCOR self-isolation. He advocated preserving the purity of Orthodoxy against atheism and new calendarist modernism, all the while using the free voice of the Church Outside Russia to understand and not condemn the enslaved, cherishing unity with the universal Church of Christ, avoiding old calendarist divisiveness, intent on seeking out and exaggerating errors.
He called all Russian Orthodox to unity through love and to help Russia. He was commended for taking this royal path by the future St Paisios the Athonite. Archbishop Anthony was also noted for his pan-Orthodox vision and welcome to converts, asking one of his Russian priests to compose a service to All the Saints of the Swiss Lands. Despite his limited linguistic abilities, he ordained clergy of many origins and established multinational missions. His episcopacy was noted for the peace and love within his diocese, which stretched from Portugal to Austria and from the Netherlands to the south of Italy, and for the brotherly feeling among the clergy.