46 years ago, in 1974, after six years of waiting, I was at last able to move to a town which had a Russian Orthodox church: at that time there were only two permanent Russian Orthodox churches and four chapels in the whole of England. Later I worked in Greece and studied at seminary in Paris. Exactly 39 years ago I was tonsured reader by Metropolitan Antony Bloom at the Ennismore Gardens Cathedral in Knightsbridge. In the last 35 years since being ordained deacon at St Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Paris on 27 January 1985, God has allowed me to serve His Church in many countries in Western Europe, in France, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium and Portugal, by the grace of God setting up the first ever Russian Orthodox church in Lisbon and then some the first ever churches and communities in Eastern England.
Thus, this church began in tiny temporary premises in Felixstowe, which then moved to my native town of Colchester, as soon as I had raised the funds to buy the first suitable property which appeared, here in Colchester. I then did the same in Norwich, raising the funds to buy, convert and equip premises. I have also served and serve in Bury St Edmunds and Wisbech and made missionary travels all over Eastern England, including to Kent and Yorkshire. Others have been brought back into our Church in the East of England from suspension and schism, notably a reader and two priests, and I have also obtained three new priests for our Diocese, Fr Ion here, Fr Spasimir for Norwich, Fr Yaroslav for London and, God willing, very soon a fourth for our church here. After 22 years of struggle, I was honoured when the Synod awarded me the gold cross for this tenacity in the face of every discouragement.
However, the most important thing done in these 35 years was to ask our Synod in New York to send Bishop Irenei to this Diocese. This is now united with my own Western European Diocese, where our St John was Archbishop and where I was ordained by his spiritual son, Archbishop Antony of Geneva. Our Diocese had previously had no resident bishop for 34 years and the previous bishops had been ill. Moreover, Bishop Irenei has the title which I had long wanted to see for a bishop in this country, ‘of London’. Thus, the heritage of St John, who left us nearly sixty years ago in 1962, is being restored by the grace of God. Our Diocese will survive, despite all the huge difficulties it has been through since the late 1960s, when nearly everyone thought it was going to die out. Now in 2020, the centenary year of our Church Outside Russia, I thank God for everything, as He has done all these things using us all as His instruments. Glory to God for all things!
Archpriest Andrew Phillips
The Baptism of the Lord, 19 January 2020