The UK government has stated this week that 395,000 Bulgarians and Romanians (a good minority of the Romanians actually Moldovans – Romanian passports cost them $10) now live in the UK. This means that with some 160,000 Cypriots, about 100,000 Russians (only a few from Russia – a majority of them are economic and political refugees from the Baltic States and the Ukraine) and other Orthodox minorities (mainly Serbs), there are now some 700,000 Orthodox in the UK. This means that at least 1% of the population is Orthodox: a total transformation from ten years ago, since when at least 400,000 Orthodox have arrived here, let alone 20 years ago, when the Orthodox population was tiny.
However, the fact is that we are not at all settled evenly. Outside the London area Orthodox are still a tiny minority and the further from London, the fewer we are. Possibly 500,000 live in London and the south-eastern corner of England, with very few in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Moreover, the fact is that any parish can only count on a practice rate of 5%-10%. Even so, if there are between 35,000 and 70,000 practising Orthodox in the UK, we are faced with a challenge: to organize appropriate infrastructure, in order to keep our children in the Church.
It must be said that the past gives us no examples. Both parts of the Russian Church lost their flocks to ethnic exclusivity and the acid bath of modern Western culture. The Greek (Cypriot) immigration has done no better. And dreams of middle-class ex-Anglicans of an English Orthodox or even, absurdly, a ‘British Orthodox’, Church, made up of intellectual converts from the tiny minority of Anglicans have to be abandoned. the utter failure on the part of all Orthodox administrations to provide adequate infrastructure is scandalous. We no longer need words – we need actions. On the other hand, never has the use of English in the services been so important. What is to be done?