Category Archives: Britain and Ireland

A Diocese is Reborn

Within a few weeks, the Russian Orthodox Church has gained a new diocese. This is the Diocese of the British Isles and Ireland, which is part of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR).

For long become a tiny group of abandoned disparate parishes and orphaned, it has been reborn under His Grace Metropolitan Hilarion, whose secret is simply that he loves his flock. With many ordinations and tonsurings, we can now envisage a time when our diocese will grow enormously, with priests and parishes in Ireland north and south, in Wales, Cornwall, Scotland and in an ever increasing number of major cities and towns in England. Out with the old and in with the new.

In this way our ROCOR Diocese can further develop our identity, not just as faithful heirs to the authentic and uncompromised Russian Orthodox Tradition from pre-Revolutionary times, with our love for all the New Martyrs and Confessors, including the Imperial Martyrs, but also as faithful heirs to our local Anglo-Celtic saints and our local languages. We stand as a foundation of a future Local Church in Western Europe, for we are local, self-governing, independent, but also faithfully incarnated in the Russian Orthodox Tradition.
Thank you, Vladyko!

Some Constructive Suggestions Towards Overcoming the Chronic Pastoral Crisis in Both Dioceses of the Russian Orthodox Church in the British Isles and Ireland

Introduction: The Russian Orthodox Presence in the British Isles and Ireland

There has been a Russian Orthodox presence in England for 300 years. And yet, incredibly, both dioceses of the Russian Orthodox Church in our countries (that of the Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) and that of the Church based inside Russia (the Diocese of Sourozh)) have faced battles to get even the name of their diocese right! Although it is thirty years since the late Fr Mark (Meyrick) of the Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) painted his Icon of All the Saints Who Have Shone Forth in the British Isles and Ireland with the correct title, we recently had a battle at the Theological Commission of the Inter-Orthodox Committee of Bishops even to establish this title, since most of the foreign bishops had no concept that there was a difference between Great Britain, the United Kingdom and the British Isles and whether any of these names included Ireland!

The Present Crisis

Both Russian Orthodox dioceses here have been in crisis in recent decades, facing three problems.

The first problem faced by the small Diocese of Sourozh, directly under Moscow, has been a mixture of modernism, liturgical renovationism and a personality cult characteristic of small organizations, all problems inherited from the Paris School of modernist Orthodoxy. This battle for the integrity of the Faith against what was in reality Protestantization resulted in the 2006 Sourozh schism, when the Diocese lost over half its mainly convert clergy and 300 people, also mainly converts. Though this is all in the past, there is still a hangover from that period. The second problem faced by that Diocese is its chronic lack of properties because of its defective ecclesiology in the past. This entailed dependence on Church of England for borrowing properties and so a lack of independence and freedom to preach the Gospel in the Orthodox way. All that the Diocese possesses is a smallish Cathedral in west London and tiny chapels in Oxford, Manchester and Nottingham. The third problem is its chronic lack of (overworked) clergy, whose average age is about 65 and few of whom speak the language of the masses of the Russian-speaking people, whose average age is about 35 (excluding children)!

The first problem faced by the even smaller ROCOR Diocese of the British Isles and Ireland, has been a narrow nationalism mixed on the fringes with old-fashioned Anglo-Catholicism, which in the past created a dead end of insularity. This battle for the integrity of the Faith against such Sectarianism, mixed with personality conflicts characteristic of small organizations, resulted in the 2007 ROCOR schism, when the Diocese lost its only monastery and convent. Though this is all exactly ten years in the past, there is still a hangover from that period. The second problem faced by the Diocese is its chronic lack of properties because of its over-strict narrowness and rejection of any form of mission (there was even a missionary tax!) in the past. This entailed total exhaustion and demoralization of the clergy and so a lack of any encouragement to preach the Gospel in the Orthodox way. With one exception, the Diocese largely only exists in London (and missions dependent on London) and in East Anglia. All that the Diocese possesses is a very small Cathedral in a sidestreet in west London, the largest Russian Orthodox church in the British Isles and Ireland in Colchester (not London) and tiny chapels in a house in Essex, in a private garden in a Suffolk village, in Norwich in Norfolk and near a village in central Ireland, far from where Orthodox live. The third problem is its chronic lack of overworked clergy, whose average age is about 65 and few of whom speak the language of the masses of the Russian-speaking people, whose average age is about 35 (excluding children)!

A Future Solution?

As can be seen, the common crisis is today purely pastoral in nature. Given that two of the three problems of both dioceses, lack of church buildings and lack of clergy, who are elderly, overworked and exhausted, are identical, there should be some common solution. One shrewd commentator has said that the Diocese that will dominate will be the one that sets up proper, large churches in London to provide proper pastoral care for the tens of thousands of faithful there. Notably, churches are required in the south of London, around, Croydon, in the east, around Stratford and in the north, around St Albans. The scandal is that there is only one permanent Russian-speaking priest to cover the country to the east and south of London – one third of the whole country!

However, we should also take into account the wider Russian Orthodox world in continental Western Europe and beyond. The Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) dominates the Russian Orthodox presence in the English-speaking world, in North America and Australasia. However, the Russian Orthodox Church based inside Russia, dominates elsewhere, notably in South America and above all in Western Europe. Here, where 25 years ago ROCOR was dominant and representatives of the Church inside Russia hardly existed, today ROCOR hardly exists. Just the Diocese of the Church inside Russia in Italy is larger than all of ROCOR in Western Europe. This has only eight parishes outside its parishes in western Germany and the few in Switzerland. Surely it is the Russian Orthodox presence in continental Western Europe will one day come under representatives of the Church inside Russia, with its new Cathedral and seminary in Paris and active young bishops, large flocks and newly-built churches in Rome, Madrid and many other places?

On the other hand, perhaps at this point we should consider what can be called ‘the Brexit Factor’. With the United Kingdom, at least, leaving the European Union, it is inevitably returning to closer relations with the rest of the English-speaking world, former colonies, especially in North America and Australasia. Surely, ecclesiastically, this means the Russian Orthodox presence in the British Isles and Ireland one day coming under ROCOR? Rather than the canonically absurd arrangement of two dioceses of the same Local Church on the same territory, there should surely be some rearrangement, at least in the British Isles and Ireland. It may seem premature to talk of this to some, but, after all, the two parts of the Russian Church have been united for ten years now, since 2007. The only delay on such matters can be because of pastoral considerations, in the interests of economy, that the people may not be upset.

Conclusion: Divine not Human

Of course, none of this can take place without the right leader, that is, without the right bishop, one acceptable to both sides, and this must be a bishop who speaks English and understands English people. A pastor. It is no wish of ours to hurt anyone’s feelings with the above considerations. The above is all written in the spirit of throwing a stone into a pond and seeing what ripples there may be. In other words, surely it is time at least to begin discussing such possibilities as we have outlined above in the spirit of pastoral love and unity. Let us remember: All crises are man-made and all solutions are God-made. Let us all strive to discern and do God’s Will.

Little Britain or Great England?

British Establishment Imperialists and Neo-Imperialists alike selfishly like to assert that their ideology is justified because the only alternative to a Great Britain is a Little England, an isolationist, xenophobic and inward-looking little country of ignorant and narrow-minded insular bigots. Such gerontocrats are living in the past. The age of Imperialism for the island of Britain has long since gone and it is not going to come back. Indeed, today Great Britain has dissolved into a Little Britain, an often shabby country that nostalgically but incongruously recalls the lost glorious past in an extremely inglorious and often downright vulgar, tasteless and styleless present.

We English Orthodox do not hope in either Great British or a Little British Imperialism or Neo-Imperialism, nor do we place any hope in a Little England. Our hope is in a Great England. By Great we do not have in mind some secularist, imperialist reality, but a spiritual one. When did Great England live? It lived in the seventh and eighth centuries, when our greatest national asset and our greatest export was not the cheap tin trays of the past or the financial parasitism of the present, but our saints. This greatness, laid low by paganism, was revived by the saintly King Alfred the Great (note, the Great, not the Little) in the tenth and early eleventh centuries.

However, since then, for more or less a thousand years, we have not had spiritual greatness. In that time we have for the most part exported war and trade, death and things in exchange for profit, so losing our souls. True, we have also exported ideas, but only the ideas that God is not our Creator and that there will be no Judgement for our iniquities. The path to greatness must therefore start by repentance for the past, which is just the opposite of what today’s Little Britain does. Such small-mindedness will have no part to play in the Great England of tomorrow, for only by returning from insularity to the worldwide Church can England ever become Great again.

On the Fringes of the Empire

Outside the Lands that were Orthodox Christian, that is, holy, in the second millennium and indeed, sometimes for much of the first millennium also, we in the Isles of the North Atlantic live on the fringes of the Empire. We have our examples of holiness, but they are far in the past. So what happens in the third millennium when the double-headed eagle of the Orthodox Christian Empire once more flies above us, despite a near millennium of apostasy in England?

At first sight it seems that only compromise happens. However, although there may be a need for superficial compromise, for empty platitudes, there are also those who confess the Orthodox Faith despite diplomacy, despite the failure to witness of those who are quoted as witnesses, but who in fact compromised themselves with the Norman Establishment. They may be Jerusalem, but we are Galilee and, without us, they are but stones without living voices.

Who understands us? It is not the personalities who demanded guru-worship, not the philosophers who lived in their intellectual fantasies, not the administrators with piles of gold who have little understanding of pastoral reality. It is the little people in the poor and ignored places who live the Faith of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, our saints St Elizabeth the New Martyr and St John of Shanghai the New Confessor, who give us food for our souls.

Three Hundred Years of Russian Orthodoxy in the British Isles and Ireland

The 300-year old Russian Orthodox presence in the British Isles and Ireland was for 200 years of that time limited to that of an Embassy church in London. Although occasional interest would be shown by an individual or there would be an Anglo-Russian marriage, Non-Russians, especially outside London, never knew that such a church existed. However, with the Anglo-Franco-Russian alliance of the First World War, more and more Russians came to work in London for the war effort. By 1916 Metropolitan Pitirim (Oknov) of Saint Petersburg, who was then responsible for churches outside Russia, was drawing up plans to build a Russian Orthodox church in London. Translations of some Orthodox service books had already been made into English by Orlov and, in the USA, by Hapgood. This progress was all interrupted by the 1917 Revolution, but that in turn brought some 2,000 Russian refugee-émigrés to London and the surrounding area.

This resulted in the consecration of a bishop for the Russian community in London, Bishop Nicholas (Karpov). Sadly, he fell ill when very young and after only three years he reposed in 1932. The hopes of the first Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, Metropolitan Antony (Khrapovitsky), that he would be able to present the Russian Orthodox Faith to English people were unrealized. In 1937 the former English Tutor of the Tsarevich Aleksey, the Yorkshireman Sidney Gibbes, returned to England from the Far East. By then he had not only joined the Orthodox Church but had been ordained as Fr Nicholas Gibbes (+ 1963), the first 20th century English Orthodox priest, bearing the name of the martyred Tsar. An academic by temperament, he opened an Orthodox chapel in Oxford. After 1945 several thousand Russians, mainly from pre-war Poland, what is now the western Ukraine and Belarus, came to England and many settled in the north of England. A new chapter in our history had begun.

Archbishop (later St) John (Maximovich) (+ 1966), based on the Continent, looked after most of the faithful, but by 1954 those in the North had their own Bishop Nikodim (Nagaev) of Preston, who later became Archbishop in London (+ 1976). Meanwhile, in 1957 the small Patriarchal parish in London obtained a bishop in the future Metr Antony (Bloom) (+ 2003), who was to become well-known to Anglicans and others through his talks and books and also radio and TV appearances. By the 1960s, with the old certainties gone and doubts about everything, numbers of English people, mostly Anglicans, began to show an interest in the Russian Orthodox Church. This seemed to them to have far more continuity of Tradition than more recently-appeared varieties of Protestantism (including Anglicanism) or Roman Catholicism. Many Anglicans were attracted to the personality of the English-speaking Metr Antony, who set up a tiny network of communities, called the Sourozh Diocese. Witness was greatly helped by the fact that churches were then beginning to conduct services in English. At first this was only in London and Oxford, where the only permanent churches and chapels existed, but it has since spread.

Today, fifty years on, there are Russian Orthodox churches all over the British Isles and Ireland, though only a few of them in permanent buildings that belong to Russian Orthodoxy and celebrating regular services. Moreover, a majority of Russian Orthodox clergy are natives of the British Isles. Long gone are the days when just to witness a Russian Orthodox service you had to go to one of the two London churches or to the chapel in Oxford, indeed the largest Russian Orthodox church building in the country is elsewhere. With the immigration of Russian Orthodox, mainly from the countries of the ex-Soviet Union, and the immigration of other Orthodox from Eastern Europe over the last fifteen years especially, we now need to expand rapidly. There remains a huge amount to do. In the meantime, a small but steady stream of native people from all four countries of the British Isles and Ireland, continues to come to our services and some join the Church, attracted by our faithfulness to the bimillennial Orthodox Christian Tradition.

Thus, we can see that our 300-year old history can be divided into three distinct periods. The first lasted 200 years – the period as an Embassy church in London. The second that lasted 50 years was a London-centred period of survival and consolidation and pastoral care for Russian speakers. The third which began after 250 years of presence and which has lasted 50 years so far, has been a period of openness to the surrounding world, a period of witness and expansion throughout these islands. Our future place and role in these islands is precisely to continue to expand and witness to the Orthodox Tradition and Faith, not just for our own people, whose children and descendants are English-speaking and locally educated, but for those who seek – and find – spiritual comfort in partaking of the roots and origins of Christianity in the Faith and Tradition of our worldwide, multinational and multilingual Russian Orthodox Church.

Patriarch Kyrill to Visit England

The visit of His Holiness Patriarch Kyrill of Moscow and All the Russias will be taking place this weekend and the week after, when he will have an audience with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. During the visit he will visit both Russian churches in London and will celebrate on Sunday at the Russian church in Ennismore Gardens, commemorating the 300th anniversary of the presence of the Russian Orthodox Church in these islands.

His visit comes at a time of immense international tension after the defeat by Russia of US-backed (‘moderate’) terrorists in Syria and the catastrophes for Western-backed forces in Libya and the Yemen as well as huge difficulties for the bankrupt Western puppet regimes in the Ukraine and France. The internet has been awash with the usual hysterical rumours of a looming ‘Third World War’ and imminent nuclear warfare between the USA and, simultaneously, the Russian Federation and China. Sadly, these rumours have been promoted by neocon generals and politicians in Washington, who are greatly disturbed that the Democratic/neocon candidate for the Presidential elections in the USA may be defeated, with the result that their budgets will be slashed.

It can only be hoped that the Patriarchal visit, though much attacked by the irrational and propagandist paid sections of the British corporate media (e.g. The Times of London and the BBC), will do something to defuse these absurd and unneeded tensions.

Memorial Service for King Harold Godwinesson and all his companions – 27 October 2016

We remind all that after the Patriarch’s visit to London on 16 October, on Thursday 27 October a pilgrimage to the village of Whatlington near Battle in Sussex has been organized. This will take place at 11 am to mark the 950th Anniversary of the so-called Battle of Hastings, with its thousands of victims. The venue is the Church of St Mary Magdelene, Whatlington, East Sussex, about three miles north of the battlefield. Whatlington was a Royal Manor and the place where King Harold stopped to pray on his way to the battle itself, and is therefore an eminently suitable place for the service.

Other Details

The present-day village, on Whatlington Road, is just to the west of the main Hastings road (A21) (car park at TN33 0ND). There is a rail connection to Battle and Whatlington can be reached from there by bus, it is a 2-hourly service at an inconvenient time, so if you are reliant on public transport, please let me know and we will try to arrange a lift from the railway station. All are welcome to attend.

Lunch

A lunch will then take place after the service at about midday at The Royal Oak, Whatlington.

Menus

Main course

1) Roast Lamb with Roast Potatoes, Vegetables (carrots, green beans & broccoli), Yorky & Gravy
2) Roast Chicken with Roast potatoes, Vegetables (carrots, green beans & broccoli), Yorky & Gravy
3) Chili con Carne with Rice

Desserts
1) Caramel Apple Pie
2) Sticky Toffee Pudding
3) Ice Cream Sundae (toffee)

All with tea/coffee to follow.
The cost of this will be £15 per head.

If you are attending the service and would like to take advantage of this, please reply to

Eadmund Dunstall, 28 Quested Road, Cheriton, Folkestone, Kent CT19 4BY, E-mail: daysign@dunstall.plus.com,

enclosing the appropriate payment (cheques payable to Malcolm Dunstall please) and being careful to state the number of people in your party and their choice of menu before 30th September 2016.

Talk

A short talk will follow the luncheon at approximately 1 pm in the Function Room of The Royal Oak, on the subject of the battle and its aftermath, and there will be a brief meeting of The Guild of St Eadmund at the end of the talk.

We look forward to meeting you.

Archbishop Mark To Resign

It has been announced that Archbishop Mark of Berlin is ‘shortly’ to resign as bishop in charge of the ROCOR Diocese of the British Isles and Ireland. The Diocese will temporarily become stavropegic under Metroplitan Hilarion. It is hoped that the Metropolitan will deal with the backlog of ordinations and other issues before a permanent resident English-speaking bishop is at last installed in London next year.