Category Archives: East of England

With the Mother of God in Eastern England

Between 2 and 9 April 2019, for the first time ever, all of a long-neglected region, that of Eastern England, was visited by the Wonderworking Kursk Root Icon of the Mother of God. The faithful gathered in Kent, Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, bordering on Lincolnshire to the north and Bedfordshire to the south. 1500 miles were covered in eight days, 38 molebens were served in our five churches in the region and in the homes of the scattered faithful and £2,210 was raised for the Synod of Bishops of the Church Outside Russia. If we had had longer we would have visited even more faithful in this forgotten backwater outside the Capital. (For photos see the ROCOR Diocesan website).

The Icon gave off Her very strong myrrh-like fragrance, wafting in waves, in churches, homes, hospitals and cars, even filling streets while being taken in Her carrying case just the few yards to the doors of houses and flats. This was the fragrance of the Mercy of Mother Mary, for then the long-abandoned felt valued, consoled by this scent from Paradise. The highlights were perhaps the evening moleben and akathist in St Matrona’s chapel of the Lithuanian Orthodox community in Wisbech, the Capital of the Fens, at the Sunday Liturgy of the Annunciation in Colchester, and especially in one home, where two faithful, long-suffering and isolated converted Orthodox were able to pray before Her, showing that they had embraced Orthodoxy with their hearts and not with their heads.

In the first case we felt how, although the people may have had little knowledge, their spirit was great and the Mother of God descended on account of their humility, for they are absolutely devoid of any pretensions. In the second case, we felt how the hundreds of people came from far away with many small children, with all their huge pain at all the past injustices, and cried out to the Most Holy One and She heard them and consoled them, giving them courage. We three priests could barely cope with all the confessions and over 200 communions. In the third case we saw the greatest sincerity, piety, humility, unseen anywhere else here, and intense suffering, and how the Mother of God came and comforted. We have all become Josephs, guardians of the priceless treasure of the Most Pure One.

After a hospital visit to a young married Romanian man who did electrical work in the altar of the church some years ago, but who is now dying of cancer, we saw him comforted by a wafting of fragrance, which all in the hospital ward felt. We saw an elderly Russian parishioner kissing the Icon and her two Romanian carers, who happened to be present, kneeling and joining her. After one akathist, two pious Greek priests who had attended apologized for the behaviour of their Patriarch. Will the autocephaly of Constantinople be revoked by a Council of the thirteen canonical Local Orthodox Churches? Then the Greek Diaspora can be taken under the care of the Greek Orthodox Church in Athens and return to Orthodoxy. Then all in the Church can once again be confirmed as truly One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic, that is, in one word, Orthodox.

Our Mother in heaven sees everyone, righteous and sinners alike, our parishioners, Bulgarian and English, Moldovan and Lithuanian, Ukrainian and Russian, Greek and Turkish, French and Italian, Indian and Romanian, Australian and Kazakh, Polish and Latvian. She acts as a magnet to all, Her presence so strongly felt by all. For the unbeliever the Icon is haunted; we know better. Her fragrance is Her Mercy. In the absence of any others, the Mother of God is truly our champion leader. She is in this Her Icon of the Sign, Who Shows the Way. In the Eastern provinces the rejected are being accepted, the persecuted are being comforted, the despised are being recalled, the long-forgotten are being remembered and the long-neglected are being visited.

We have little money or importance in the eyes of the world, our churches have no gold or precious stones, no ancient icons or precious artefacts, we have no great theologians or brains, but we do have faith and hope. The region is waking, as the very long and very dark night ends in the glimmer and hope of the long-prayed for dawn, which we long to see before we die. We feel that in heaven our prayers have been heard and our decades of tears have been noted. Can it be much longer now? Her fragrance still fills our clothes, homes and cars even days after She left us. We live by faith in Christ and by hope for the better.

 

The Mother of God Comes to the Faithful of Eastern England

For the first time in history the Wonderworking Kursk Root Icon of the Mother of God is being allowed to visit the homes of the faithful at all points of the compass in Eastern England. Previously, She had only been taken to London and spent only a few brief hours in some churches in the East.

God willing,

On Tuesday 2 April She will be brought from London to our parishioners to the north-east of Colchester, in Holbrook, Felixstowe, Kesgrave and Ipswich.

On Wednesday 3 April She will visit our parishioners to the west, in St Neots, Cambridge, to the community of St Edmund in Bury St Edmunds, and to the north-west, to the community of St Matrona in Wisbech.

On Thursday 4 April She will visit our parishioners to the south-west, in Chelmsford, Basildon Brentwood, Romford, Ilford, Hatfield Peverel, Witham and Silver End.

On Friday 5 April She will visit our parishioners in Colchester and to the south-east, in Wivenhoe and Great Bromley.

On Saturday 6 April She will visit our parishioners to the south, to the community of the Royal Martyrs in Ashford and then in Bellingham before returning to Colchester.

On Sunday 7 April She will be in the centre in St John’s church in Colchesterfrom 8.00 am until 2.30 pm.

On Monday 8 April She will visit our parishioners to the east, in Colchester, Clacton and Frinton.

On Tuesday 9 April She will visit our parishioners to the north, in Sudbury, Mendlesham and Thetford, before being taken to St Alexander Nevsky church in Norwich.

 

 

The Orthodox Parish in Norwich

The ‘Matchbox Church’

There are no churches with patron saints names like ‘The She-Goat’ or ‘Of One Wood’ or ‘Of One Day’ etc, yet they have taken on these nicknames, which have been suggested either by the founder, or by the material which they have been built with, or by the length of time their construction has taken etc.

In Romania, as well as in other Orthodox Christian countries in Eastern Europe, old churches have been refurbished, new ones are erected, new parishes have been formed to the despondency of Christ’s enemies and of His Church’s enemies. They cannot sleep while claiming to take care of schools, hospitals, and poor people etc. That is the Judas syndrome…

Everything is done with difficulty, with the old lady’s pennies, which are placed out of her poverty in the alms box, with money and/or materials from Christians who are in fortunate positions etc. And not infrequently, until the foundations of the church have been laid, the church life of the new parishes takes place in improvised spaces: abandoned commercial areas, offices, military tents etc.

In the West and the North of Europe, countries, which in former times were mainly Catholic and Protestant, the trend is the opposite. Society has reached the level of progress and civilization in which God is considered to be unnecessary. Houses of worship, some of them having an honourable great age, are rented for some other (secular) activities or are for sale. The buyers convert them into offices, clubs, hotels, luxury bedrooms etc. (https://homes.trovit.co.uk/converted-church-gothic )

This loss of faith is somehow compensated for by the Orthodox-Christian leaven, which has been spread by the fist of globalization, from the former Socialist Orthodox Christian countries. Scattered throughout the world, at those places where they have found propitious conditions, the dough spills have fermented a network of parishes, with houses of worship fitted up in spaces placed at their disposal by Catholic or Protestant churches, either in purchased churches and converted into Orthodox Christian churches, or in new churches, built from scratch.

But Eastern European Orthodox Christian immigrants, with the love of God, who have come either to work or to study etc, do not always have at their disposal a house of worship (a church, a chapel etc) for religious services, when they are only a few in number and are a long way from big urban centres. Then, from hand to hand, they offer love, effort, savings, perseverance, and thus arrange houses of worship where one does not even dare to imagine.

Such a house of worship is the Russian church having as its patron saint Alexander Nevsky (1221-1263) in Norwich, England, organized in a former club, on the edge of a road. On the left side of iconostasis, St Alexander Nevsky is accompanied by St Xenia of Saint Petersburg (18th century). The story of how this church was organized may be found here:

http://www.norwichorthodoxchurch.org.uk/?page_id=136

http://www.norwichorthodoxchurch.org.uk/

Out of a space not much bigger than an apartment in a block of flats, it has come out as a decent little church, as big as a dining room (plus the kitchen). A ‘Matchbox’ church!

A Bulgarian priest and a Russian helper serve with zeal for a handful of parishioners, 20-30 people (it would be impossible to find enough room for a higher number): Russians, Bulgarians, Romanians, English, Africans, Asians… The atmosphere is warm, hospitable. It would be inconceivable to be otherwise inside such a space and with such a diversity of parishioners.

A distinguished lady, who conducts the choir (a group of 3-4 women) was telling me, as if she wanted to apologize for such a small church: ‘This is our church. Hopefully God will listen and answer our prayers from this house of worship’.

It seems to me as if we were in the first Christian century in Rome, when the pagans, who by then had become Christians by risking their lives, were placing their houses at the disposal of a church nucleus: ‘Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Jesus Christ, who risked their own necks for my life, to whom not only I give my thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. Likewise greet the church that is in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia to Christ’ (Romans, 16: 3-5).

Everywhere, Christ gathers the rocks of faith and gives them power to speak: ‘And do not think to say to yourselves, ’We have Abraham as our father. For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones” (Matthew, 3: 9). ‘And some of the Pharisees called to Him from the crowd, ‘Teacher, rebuke thy disciples.’ But He answered and said to them, ‘I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out’ (Luke, 19: 39-40).

Well, these stones are those Christians who have not reached a state of petrified indifference.

Nicuşor Gliga, Bucharest, Romania 17 October 2018

 

The Possible Future of Multinational Russian Orthodoxy in ROCOR in Eastern England

Introduction: Missionary/Pastoral Experience since the 1970s

My experience has been in England (Cambridge and the Fens for 3 years), France (14 years) and Portugal (6 months). I have also served in Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, USA and Australia, lived for a year in Greece, and spent several months since the 1970s in Russia and the Ukraine.  I have been in England again for 21 years since 1997. Here I now cover 25,000 miles a year doing pastoral work all over the East, in four prisons and in ten counties – Sussex, Kent, Essex, Hertfordshire, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire, Norfolk and Lincolnshire.

Two Problems in the Diaspora Everywhere

  1. The first is the ideology of what may be called mononationalism: forbidding other languages. We saw how ROCOR nearly died out in this country in the 80s and 90s because of this and how now others are dying out because of this. We also see the same Anglican-style mononationalism/racism/phyletism among those who impose English only, obligatory communion, no confession, the new calendar, chairs etc in the ’Anglican Orthodoxy’ of the past.
  2. The second is our lack of infrastructure, lack of our own premises, priests, singers and finance.

The Need for New Missions

Every few months I am contacted by someone to open a ROCOR mission, this month in Wiltshire, three months ago it was Newcastle on Tyne. Two or three times a year we also have visits from people at church, asking for a new mission. We must also recall that we can and need start only on virgin territory, where there is no similar Russian Orthodox presence already, as there is for example in Oxford, Brighton, Portsmouth, Southampton, Nottingham and Derby. Also we recall that all missions must be in centres of population, where Orthodox already live and so provide a base and not be a project in the middle of nowhere.

Public Missions in the East to Date (apart from house chapels)

  1. Colchester (Essex). St John of Shanghai. Our property, bought with £180,000 raised in an internet appeal through the orthodoxengland site.
  2. Norwich (Norfolk). St Alexander Nevsky. Our property, bought with £65,000 raised in an internet appeal through the orthodoxengland site.
  3. Bury St Edmunds/Newmarket. (West Suffolk/South Cambridgeshire). All Saints. I already served in Bury from 2000 to 2002 and have now been there again for nearly two years. We need something here or in this area in West Suffolk, perhaps in Newmarket. The area includes St Felix’s 7th century monastery in Soham, St Audrey’s birthplace is in Exning and St Edmund’s former monastery in Bury. Hence the possible future dedication to All Saints, if we can obtain our own building in this area.
  4. Wisbech (North Cambridgeshire/West Norfolk/South Lincolnshire). St Matrona. This is a new mission, blessed by our bishop, in an ideally-located route centre – all around live thousands of Eastern European fen workers. I have already visited Orthodox in Spalding and March. We could with funds build a beautiful wooden Russian church here, as land is cheap.

Twelve Other Possible Public Missions in Eastern England, God Willing, Remembering that We Orthodox Have no Plans, only Hopes, and We Depend on the Needs of the Grassroots, not on Theories and Pins in Maps

  1. Kettering (Northamptonshire/Bedfordshire). Icon of the Mother of God. There is a huge Eastern European population all over the East Midlands, as it is near Luton Airport, where Easyjet flies to Vilnius, Riga and elsewhere. I have many local contacts and know the area well from missionary visits to Orthodox.
  2. Canterbury (Kent). Christ the Saviour. The historic centre of English Christianity.
  3. St Albans (Hertfordshire/Eastern Buckinghamshire). St Alban. A historic centre near London.
  4. Lincoln (Lincolnshire). The Dormition. A great many Russian-speakers live in this agricultural county.
  5. Crawley (Sussex/Surrey). St Michael and all the Heavenly Hosts. A centrally located position, not far from south London, next to Gatwick and close to Brighton.
  6. Winchester (Hampshire). The Resurrection. A centrally-located historic royal centre and the pre-Norman capital of England. Hence the dedication.
  7. York (Yorkshire). St Constantine and St Helen. In the centre of Yorkshire, St Constantine was present here when proclaimed Emperor in 306.
  8. Sheffield (Yorkshire). The Transfiguration. A presence in heavily-populated South Yorkshire, in a town where metal was once transformed (hence the dedication).
  9. Sunderland (Northumbria). St Nicholas. A presence in a former ship-building town (hence the dedication) in the North-East.
  10. East Cowes (Isle of Wight). (The Royal Martyrs). Commemorating the Imperial Family’s presence here.
  11. Rochester (Kent). (St Andrew the First-Called). A historic location for the large Medway population.
  12. Berwick on Tweed (Northumbria). (St Cuthbert). A pastoral centre between Sunderland and Edinburgh, near the historic Holy Island.

Conclusion: Sixteen Missions

With these sixteen missions we could cover Eastern England, providing access to Orthodoxy for 90% + of the 28 million population of the East within a 25 mile radius of each centre. If we achieved only half of this total, that would be a miracle. Give me the tools and I will finish the job, as I wrote 20 years ago.

Archpriest Andrew Phillips

Felixstowe, 1 February 2018

 

 

4 July 1997- 4 July 2017: Twenty Years of Mission: On Restoring the Heritage of St John of Shanghai in the British Isles and Ireland

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.

The Lost Empire and the Future of Europe

A few miles from where I write these words, there is a small town called Rendlesham. Over 1500 years ago it was named after a man called Rendle, which in the Anglian language meant ‘small shield’, indicating a military man. Thus, although there is no proof, Rendle could have been an Anglian soldier of the Roman Army who settled here in about AD 390. When the Romans left in 410, he settled down in an abandoned Roman administrative settlement by the river and gave it his name – Rendle’s home. Towards the end of the sixth century this became the palace of the East Anglian royal house and an important centre for some 150 years, its kings being buried at nearby Sutton Hoo. Recently archaeologists working there have found a bowl and coins from ‘Constantinople’. For Eastern England was once part of the Christian Empire.

Indeed, when St Bede the Venerable completed his work ‘On the History of the English Church and People’ in 731, he dated his entries by the reign of the Roman Emperor, who lived far away in what was until recently called ‘Constantinople’. Even distant Iona in the north-west was in spirit part of that same Sacral Empire, just as India in the south-east, Georgia in the north-east and what is now Portugal in the south-west were part of the same Empire. What happened to this lost unity of this lost Empire, forgotten and even hidden from Western eyes, its coins and artefacts now being uncovered? The answer is in the misdeeds of an individual and a superiority complex mentality that has since become collective like an epidemic. This individual is nowadays called Charlemagne in English, but in his own time he was called Karl the Tall.

He was a semi-literate, provincial Frankish king, made a Roman patrician by the Imperial Court in Christian Rome, set between the two continents of Europe and Asia, in recognition of the relative order that he had created in his barbarian chaos of a corner of Western Europe, which was called ‘the First Reich’. It was indeed only a corner because it did not include Scandinavia or the British Isles and Ireland, only a minute part of the Iberian Peninsula and only part of the Italian Peninsula, and of course not Central and Eastern Europe. (Even today in that part of Europe, the ‘Vysegrad Four’, Poland, Hungary, the Czech Lands and Slovakia, are all resistant to the successor of Karl’s First Reich, the EU Fourth Reich. Why? Because they were all Orthodox Christian before their conquest by the anti-Christian adepts of Charlemagne).

Charlemagne wanted to rival, overthrow and usurp the authority of the Christian Emperor in Christian Rome. So he claimed the authority of the emperors of pagan Rome instead, and, in order to make himself Emperor, he then accused the real Emperor of his own Trinitarian heresy, appointing his right-hand man in Rome as the source of the Holy Spirit. He was of course derided for his incredible narcissism and megalomania in the Imperial Capital in New Rome, but four centuries later his spiritual descendants had become so important and powerful that they sacked and looted the Imperial Capital, thus leading to a part-Muslim Eastern Europe. Likewise, ten centuries later, Napoleon crowned himself and accused any dissidents (in his case, England and Russia) of heresy and attempted to slaughter them for preferring freedom.

A century later another successor, the dictator of the ‘Third Reich’ (the ‘Second Reich’ had been founded by Bismarck in 1871), Hitler, also crowned himself, not with a literal crown, but with a Fascist ideology, murdering all ‘heretics’, especially those who had a universal, messianic philosophy (notably 27 million East Slavs and 5 million Jews) to rival his own. And today’s neocon Anglo-Zionists do the same, crowning themselves with being ‘Western’. Any lack of ‘Western values’, that is, any sign of different, that is, non-secularist, cultural values, is for them a heresy and those who confess them must be bombed into oblivion. This is the same old arrogant self-justification once again. Thus, the infamous Italian, neo-Carolingian Berlusconi infamously declared that the unprovoked Western aggression on oil-rich Iraq in 2003 was a ‘crusade’.

That invasion was indeed a crusade, but not by the Carolingian usurpers, Roman Catholics, against real Christians as in the Middle Ages, but one against anyone who stopped the greedy West from getting its hands on the mineral riches of Iraq. However, in reality, this was little different from the jealous Western looting of the Imperial Capital, wealthy New Rome, almost exactly 800 years earlier in 1204. So the ‘Charlemagne syndrome’ has repeated itself through Western history. And yet the Sacral Christian Empire, though for the moment without its Emperor and much endangered, is still here, stretching from Montenegro to Vladivostok and Murmansk to Jerusalem, but with outposts all around the world, from Japan to Chile and Alaska to New Zealand. If Europe has any future – outside darkest Islamism – the Christian Empire is it.

From Fragments to Wholeness

Introduction

Three experiences and the great wonderment and many questions that they raised, all hinting at the existence of a much greater reality beyond the veil, have shaped and inspired my life. These experiences have all been of fragments and vestiges of the great Imperial Christian Civilization which was rejected over a period of between 1,000 and 100 years ago and has since been largely forgotten and lost. Although wholly rejected, derided and even unknown to most, this Civilization may yet, by Divine Providence and human repentance, be restored. That is our hope in our tiny corner of Eastern England.

My life has been spent in the task of fitting together these three experiences or pieces into a great whole, the big picture, where all these pieces belong. Only together as part of a whole do they have their full meaning. Alone they are just separate facts, tantalizing gleams and hints of some greater reality, keys to the great gates of a Kingdom that remains locked until you have all three of them and the daring to unlock them. With time, patience and prayer, by consulting many and reading the books of those whom I could not consult in life, with great effort, I have been able to put all the pieces together and found the big picture.

The Cottage of the People

The first experience came to me in childhood. In 1963, in a spot that I can take you to today, I sat with two nineteenth-century great-uncles, their caps respectfully removed, in the Abbey Gardens in Bury St Edmunds. A host of silent questions arose in my mind. Why did they, such humble representatives of the people show such respect here? Who was this St Edmund, that this town had been named after 1,000 years before? What was a saint? How did you become a saint? Why were there only ruins here now? And why were there no longer any saints? So many questions, so few answers and none able to answer them.

By the age of twelve St Edmund had led me to discover other local saints in my native Essex and Suffolk, Sts Botolph, Cedd, Albright, Audrey, Osyth and Felix. Places and churches were named after them, but no-one could tell me very much about them. Their names had become an empty ritual of sounds, without any meaning, divorced from spiritual reality. I became aware that further away there were other mysterious saints, but they were all only fragments. Thus, as a child, I was thwarted, unable and unequipped to put any of these little pieces together, into the great, but mysterious and mystifying whole.

The Altar of the Faith

From August 1968 on I began to discover that these saints, however important they had once been locally, belonged to a far greater whole, to a universal background and culture, a whole Civilization, the Civilization of the Saints. I discovered that, once in their context, they would stop being names and stories in dry and dusty books and that they would come alive again and I could speak to them as my companions. This was all part of the greater discovery that what had been presented to me as Christianity was not that at all, but a system of tedious, State-organized ethics devised to control the masses.

Then came the realization that through its inevitable degeneration this false Christianity had been responsible for the opposite of authentic Christianity, Secularism. Whether in its Protestant or its Roman Catholic form, it lay outside the real Christian Church, the Orthodox Church. Finally, in 1972 when I visited the Soviet Union, I realized that the essential and largest part of the Orthodox Church was there, so cruelly persecuted and its integrity damaged, bringing people at worst to superstitious ritualism, Sovietized fragmentization. Outside that, there were other smaller Churches, but even more nationalized and compromised.

The Throne of the Sovereign

Having by my thirty-third year pieced together the saintly Cottage of the People and the holy Altar of the Faith that I served in the so troubled and sadly divided emigration, I began to understand that both Cottage and Altar had to be completed by the sacred Throne, the Throne of the Sacral Christian Empire, which depended on the Cottage and the Altar, but which also protected them both. In the Kingdom of Heaven there was no need for it, but on earth this was the glue that kept everything together. The Throne had been overthrown on earth many decades before. But what was the hope that the Throne could be restored?

At that time there seemed to be virtually none, for the Throne lay in ruins. The Imperial reality had been reduced to fragments, each tiny part claiming to be the Empire! It had been reduced to freemasonry and corruption, to fallen compromises and flag-waving provincialism, to sterile intellectualism and private personality cults. It had been betrayed by disincarnate modernists who could not see the greater picture, as they lived in the bubble of their own egos; they could not see the great forest as a result of looking for too long at their own little saplings. Could it, by the grace of God and human repentance, be restored?

Conclusion

Thus through the saintly Cottage of the People I discovered the Kingdom of the Spirit, through the holy Altar of Faith the Kingdom of the Son, and through the sacred Throne of the Sovereign the Kingdom of the Father. I had discovered in the saints the spiritual essence of the People, in the Faith Orthodoxy and in the Throne Sovereignty. I had discovered Christian Civilization, the opposite of the anti-Civilization that I had been born into, with its world wars, death camps, atomic bombs, cult of mammon and ruthless exploitation and genocide of Non-Europeans. I had seen the big picture, discovering the unique Christian Civilization.

Elitism despised and mocked the Cottage of the People; the Establishment falsified and compromised the Altar of the Faith; Secularism betrayed and scorned the Throne of the Sovereign. But I had seen the big picture, discovering the unique Christian Civilization. It could be called Roma Nova, the Third Rome or Holy Rus, though to some those terms have nationalistic undertones, but it is simply the Sacral Christian Empire. That Empire began in York on 25 July 306 and ended in Ekaterinburg on 17 July 1918. However, has it ended? Or has it merely been interrupted by ‘treachery, cowardice and deceit’?

Christ the Invincible Power

Answers to Questions from Recent Conversations and Correspondence

Q: When did you first become conscious of the Russian Orthodox Church?

A: My introduction to the Orthodox Church was through the local saints of England in my native north Essex, notably St Edmund, but also St Albright (Ethelbert), St Cedd, St Botolph and St Osyth. However, as regards the Russian Orthodox Church as such, my first encounter was almost fifty years ago, just after my 12th birthday, in August 1968. As a result of that revelation, I began teaching myself Russian in October of that year in Colchester because I already knew that the Russian Orthodox Church is my spiritual home. However, I had to wait nearly another seven years until I could take part in Russian Orthodox life, as in those days (it is not much better now) there were so few Russian churches anywhere. I only managed to visit any Russian churches in 1973.

Q: Which part of the Russian Church did you join?

A: Having been told by two of its members that the Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) would not allow me to join it because I was English (I had no idea at that time that my great-grandmother was Russian, I only discovered that distant link much later), I had no alternative but to join the Moscow Patriarchate. They may have been many things in those distant days, but at least they were not racists.

Q: What was your path to the priesthood after that?

A: A very hard one. First of all, since I could not live and work in Russia on account of the Cold War at that time, for my first job I went to live and work in Greece. I thought that was the next best alternative. After a year there and visiting the then Yugoslavia and Bulgaria, I understood that the Balkan Churches were no solution to the need for a Local Orthodox Church in the West. They were all inward-looking, culturally very narrow and hopelessly nationalistic. Later, contacts with Romanians and Georgians told me the same about them and in the Romanian case there is the huge problem of simony. So, with Russia closed off, in 1979 with the blessing of Metr Antony (Bloom) I went to study at the St Sergius Theological Institute in Paris, which I had in my ignorance imagined to be a Russian Orthodox seminary.

Q: What was it in fact?

A: It was the remains of a Russian Orthodox seminary mingled with an institute of philosophy and, frankly, of heresy. It openly preached modernism or Renovationism, which is Protestant-based, and is therefore not even remotely interesting to someone coming from a country like England with a Protestant culture, so alien to me. One English priest, rather harshly, called St Serge a Methodist Sunday School. Very harsh, but there was some truth in it.

Q: Why did you not think of going to Jordanville in the USA?

A: For the same reason as before. I was repeatedly told by members of ROCOR that they only took Russians. Remember in those days there was no internet, no advice, you had to make your own way, you went by what local representatives told you, even if it was incorrect.

Q: What happened next?

A: In 1982 I was offered the priesthood by the Moscow Patriarchate on terms which I can only describe as scandalous. I walked out, never to return, and enquired again at the Church Outside Russia. I got the same answer as in 1974, though I noted that this time there were actually a few ex-Anglicans in a separate branch of ROCOR in England. However, these rather eccentric conservative Anglicans seemed to have no interest in the Russian Orthodox Church, but only in being anti-Anglican and they had a huge interest in fanatical Greek Orthodox sects. Never having been Anglican and having lived in Greece, I had no interest in either. This was all the more frustrating since ROCOR had just canonized the New Martyrs and Confessors and naturally I had their icons and venerated them. Nevertheless, in 1983, I decided to emigrate to France and join my wife’s jurisdiction, the Paris Jurisdiction.

Q: Wasn’t that foolhardy? I mean you already knew about the problem of modernism there?

A: What you have to understand is that in Paris in 1981 they had elected a new Archbishop. Under the very elderly and saintly old one, renovationists had come to the fore, taking advantage of his old age, but the new Archbishop promised us personally that he would sweep them away and return his jurisdiction to Orthodoxy and canonical Russian practice. So this was a time of great promise and even excitement. Patriarch Dimitrios of Constantinople even said at the time that the Paris Jurisdiction would be returned to the Russian Church as soon as it was free. So, with hope in a promising future, in January 1985 I was ordained deacon there.

Q: What happened next?

A: in May 1985 I was offered the priesthood providing that I would become a freemason. I refused, scandalized. Then we became witnesses to the complete takeover of the jurisdiction by renovationists. The new Archbishop ordained them one by one, completely breaking his promise – not because he was a liar, but because he was weak. It was the same problem as Metr Evlogy, the first Paris Jurisdiction ruling bishop; he had never wanted to leave the Russian Church, but he was a weak man surrounded by powerful laymen, mainly freemasons and those who had betrayed the Tsar and organized the February Revolution. It was the end of the possibility that that jurisdiction would ever return to the freed, restored and reunited Russian Church. But I only understood that the meaning of that bitter disappointment afterwards.

Q: Why did you not leave such a masonic group?

A: Not all by far were freemasons and I felt that I had to labour on until God’s will for me should be revealed.

Q: When was that?

A: Without doubt it was in summer 1988 when the Paris Jurisdiction celebrated the millennium of the Baptism of Rus. Instead of inviting the Russian bishops in Western Europe to the Cathedral on Rue Daru in Paris and returning to the Russian Church in unity, they railed against the Russian Church and invited the Roman Catholic Cardinal of Paris. I was not only scandalized but spiritually distraught. I was an eyewitness to treason and apostasy. It was the last straw. They preferred heresy to Orthodoxy.

Soon after, I met Archbishop Antony of Geneva of ROCOR, who told me that he would be happy to receive me and that I had no need whatsoever to labour on in such anti-canonical conditions. I jumped at the opportunity. 17 people left with me, including a priest. So we all joined the Church Outside Russia in January 1989. That was a transforming moment because previously I had only known the Church Outside Russia in England. On the other hand, Vladyka Antony, heir to Vladyka John of Shanghai, though traditional, was not racist or fanatical, but missionary-minded. He lived in a different world from the fanatics in England and we freely concelebrated with other Orthodox.

I remember him telling me about the extremists who were trying to take control of ROCOR in New York. He said: ‘But there’s nowhere else to go’. I have not the slightest doubt that he would have returned to Russia, if he had had the chance. I also remember conversations with him about Metr Antony of Kiev (Archbp Antony came from Kiev), whom he had known well in Belgrade and whose name he had taken. He was the real ROCOR. Real Russian Orthodox. At last. It had taken me 20 years to get to that point! 20 years of facing illusions, lies, broken promises and corruption. You would think it would have been easy, but nothing of the sort. All hell was against the Russian Orthodox Church, a sure sign of truth.

Q: What happened next?

A: Well, I was at last living as a proper Russian Orthodox. Nearly three years later, in December 1991 I was ordained priest for the new ROCOR parish in Lisbon in Portugal.

Q: What was your attitude to the Moscow Patriarchate?

A: We were all just impatiently waiting for it to become politically free and free of renovationism. That happened officially with the Jubilee Council in Moscow in 2000.

Q: So why didn’t the Church Outside Russia join up with the Patriarchate straightaway in 2000?

A: It is one thing to proclaim the truth at a Council, but another for the decisions of that Council to be implemented. For example, after that I can still remember how at the London Patriarchal Cathedral they refused to put up icons of the New Martyrs and also, incidentally, they refused to sell the books of Fr Seraphim (Rose) or anything traditional. Priests and people coming from Russia were persecuted by the renovationists because they were ‘too’ traditional. We had to wait for the Patriarchate to free itself from such Renovationism.

Also, it must be said, we had to wait until the fanatical elements that had done so much harm to ROCOR since they had started infiltrating the Church in the mid-sixties had left us. When the extremists did finally leave, almost at the same time, there was a huge sigh of relief, because then we could get on with being Orthodox. So it was we had to wait until 2007.

Q: How do you know that people are free of Renovationism?

A: Easy: The yardstick is veneration for the New Martyrs, especially the Imperial Martyrs. The renovationists hate them.

Q: How do you know that people are free of sectarian fanaticism of the sort you describe as having infiltrated ROCOR?

A: Easy: The yardstick is the willingness to concelebrate with other Orthodox Christians.

Q: What is going to happen in the future? At present there are countries like England where there are two parallel jurisdictions of the Russian Church, one dependent on Moscow, the other dependent on the Church Outside Russia?

A: According to the 2007 agreement, where there are two parallel jurisdictions, ROCOR should, in time, absorb the Patriarchal jurisdiction. This will probably take a generation, so that no-one will be under any pressure and everything will take place naturally, organically. However, in reality, already nine years have passed and we can see that in certain areas, like North America and Australasia, ROCOR will indeed clearly take over responsibility for those territories, whereas in other areas the Patriarchate will take over, as in South America, not to mention South-East Asia. The problem comes in the mixed area of Western Europe, including the British Isles and Ireland. In this area, only time will tell, clearly it is the more competent of the two that will take responsibility.

For the moment we shall lead parallel lives. There is in any case so much to do. I could start 12 parishes tomorrow, if I had the money to buy buildings and get candidates for the priesthood ordained. The state of Orthodox infrastructure and the general pastoral situation here are so appalling as to be scandalous; no wonder so many Orthodox lapse or become Roman Catholic or Protestant. All we pastors meet with is indifference. Those in authority should hang their heads in shame. Why is there not a church, our own property in every town over 100,000? This should have been done a generation ago. For example the teeming millions of London only have two small churches!

Colchester is the 50th largest town in England (and incidentally the 500th largest in Western Europe). It has a church that belongs to us. But want about the other 49 larger ones? Only five of them have their own churches: London, Manchester, Nottingham, Norwich, Birkenhead-Liverpool. That is a scandal. There is no missionary vision at all. Birmingham is the second largest city in the UK with a population of two million. And where do the faithful of the Patriarchate have ten liturgies a year on Saturdays (that’s all the priest can manage)? In the Ukrainian Uniat chapel. The next time you hear some naïve Orthodox boasting about his Church, tell him that. Orthodox should be ashamed of themselves.

Q: So is there competition between the two parts of the Russian Church locally?

A: No, not at all. It all depends on who has the priests and the buildings. A concrete example. I was asked to visit a prison in Cambridgeshire. Now, since there is no ROCOR presence in Cambridgeshire (because through incompetence it refused to set anything up there in the 1980s), I gave the prison authorities the references of the Patriarchal priest who lives in Cambridgeshire. On the other hand, when there was question of the Patriarchate setting something up in Norfolk (it had lost what it had had there a few years before, also through incompetence), but knowing that ROCOR had a presence there dating back to 1966, it was referred to me. So here is a territorial division. Now, where there is a double jurisdiction, as in London (the only case), something will have to be sorted out. But, as you can see, that will be as a result of competence. Only time can settle such matters. The more competent part, the more spiritual part of the Russian Church will prevail and form a united jurisdiction.

Q: So there is no rigid territorial division in Western Europe?

A: No, nobody wants to impose such a system. Let everything be done freely, let the people choose. Though, having said that, we can observe a tendency for ROCOR to dominate in the English-speaking world. Canada, the USA and Australasia are clear examples. For example, with Archbishop Mark of ROCOR retiring to Germany and the ROCOR Diocese of the British Isles and Ireland being taken over by Metr Hilarion of New York, we can even talk about a sort of ROCOR Brexit. Metr Hilarion will in fact be Metropolitan of New England and Old England. That is an exceptional event, historically speaking, and may be significant, a turning-point.

So it is possible that in a generation from now ROCOR will only exist in the English-speaking world, but will unite all Russian Orthodox there. ROCOR will become ROCA – the Russian Orthodox Church in the Anglosphere. That is one quite organic and natural possible scenario, a united Russian Orthodox Metropolia for the Anglosphere, the English-speaking world. The Patriarchate will look after everything else in various Metropolias, in Latin America, in Alaska, in Western Europe, in Asia etc.

Q: So Western Europe would completely go to the Patriarchate?

A: That is the way that things are developing at the moment. All the young bishops and all the dynamism in the Russian Church there is Patriarchal. ROCOR only has three ageing bishops and is not opening any new churches.

Q: Is there a difference between ROCOR churches and Patriarchal churches?

A: I think there is a small one, in general. Strangely enough, ROCOR is at one and the same time more Russian, but also more local, more integrated. We have done the translations, we print in English, we speak the local languages and know the local laws, we were born here. At the same time, however, we are utterly faithful to the best of the Tsar’s Russia, never having endured the Soviet period and Renovationism. ‘To quote the saintly Metr Laurus: ‘We are for the purity of Holy Orthodoxy’. We are Imperial priests and people.

Q: What about your own relations with the Russian Church inside Russia?

A: We are very close to all those who are Churched in Russia and they feel close to us. For example, in Moscow one of the closest friends of ROCOR has always been Bishop Tikhon (Shevkunov), whom some have even suggested will be the next Patriarch. (Bp Tikhon has been in the news recently, since he outraged the British Establishment by inviting students from Eton College to experience Christianity in Russia; not something the atheist Establishment likes). In general, those who especially venerate the New Martyrs and Confessors at once feel at home in ROCOR. I have this nearly every Sunday. People from different parts of Russia, from the Ukraine, from Moldova and elsewhere say that they feel at home, whatever the language, the atmosphere is like at home. In my native town of Colchester, that is a great thing that we have such an oasis of Orthodoxy.

Q: Who are the unChurched in Russia?

A: You find all sorts of people. There are those on the right hand side who mingle superstition with Orthodoxy, for instance, those ritualists who think that holy water is more important than holy communion, who mix in pharisaic sectarianism, puritanism and judgementalism, or, on the other hand, those on the left hand side, who mix in Soviet nationalism, love of the tyrant Stalin, or modernism. But all that is superficial, the majority make their way to the Church sooner or later. You do not waste time on the convert fringes of the Church – otherwise you might end up thinking that that is the Church! A terrible delusion!

Q: Why have you stayed faithful to the Russian Church despite all the difficulties that you have faced over nearly fifty years?

A: Because the Russian Orthodox Church is the Invincible Power. History since 1917 proves it. The gates of hell have not prevailed – and shall not prevail – despite all the enemies and traitors, both external and internal, we have faced. Judas betrayed, but the other apostles triumphed. So tragedy becomes joy. The stone that was rejected is become the headstone of the corner. Thou hast conquered, O Galilean!

A Report from Little Godmanstowe in Edmund’s Land

You will not find Little Godmanstowe on any modern map and there is no point in looking for it by satellite navigation, but it is still there, in the north of Suffolk, between Icklingham and Thetford, on the edge of the forest. True, on large scale maps you can find Godmanstowe Farm, but you will not find Little Godmanstowe itself. That is because today it consists of just one small thatched cottage hidden down a winding, overgrown cart-track, all that remains of a small hamlet that fell into ruin in the agricultural depression at the end of the nineteenth century and was taken off the maps.

Today, in the single remaining farm cottage of the lost hamlet, tucked away behind high hedgerows and surrounded by an orchard, live Sarah Dove, aged 119, and her ‘younger’ brother Moses Dove, aged 115. Recently I was able to visit them. As we sat in their living room having tea by the steady ticking of the old grandfather clock, I asked them the following questions and recorded their answers. (We have kept the spelling of some of their pronunciations, grammar and words of broad Suffolk in our transcript of their answers. The differences all go back to Old English and so are more correct than the deformed modern English).

Q: Moses, how come no-one’s ever heard of you before? You and your sister must surely be the oldest living people in England and probably in the world. You should be famous.

A: Thass an easy one, that is. You see, when we were born in this little old house where we’re still a-livin’, daddy Jesse didn’t register us. He said that weren’t none of the guvvamint’s business, so we didn’t have any of them there birth papers like other folk. He didn’t hold with guvvamint, didn’t see why we needed ‘em. Mary the wise woman, who helped ma give birth, warn’t bothered either. And there were no-one else to say anythin’. Long afore we were born, there used to be other housen round us, but they were all empty, the rain came through the mossy thatch and they all come a-tumblin’ down, so we were all on our own. You see, there weren’t enough work on the land then, the fields were all overgrown and the thistles sprang up, and folk left for Norfolk, to Thetford, a-seekin’ work in the factory. Others went to foreign parts, ‘cross the seas to ‘Stralia and Canada. As for bein’ famous, no thank you! We’re quite happy the way we are, we don’t need to be famous.

Q: If you weren’t registered, then you didn’t go to school?

A: School? We didn’t have time to go to school, we were a-helpin’ at home, in barn, in field, a-hoein’ and a-ploughin’, a-hedgin’ and a-ditchin’, a-stone pickin’ and a-gatherin’ firewood, a-rabbitin’ and a-harvestin’, a-pheasant-beatin’ and a-gleanin’, not to mention the garden and orchard, we were far too busy to go th’old school. Anyway, school were over three mile away and we didn’t allus (always) have shoes. We had better things to do than go to th’old school for all that booklore. Our aunts and uncles, God rest ‘em, larned us to read and count well enough. I can write me name, what more do I need?

Q: Nowadays you won’t meet anyone called Moses. Why did your parents give you that name?

A: In them days you allus had a name from th’old Bible. If that weren’t in the Good Book, that weren’t a name, save for two. Them two were Edmund, in honour of our King, and Audrey. She lived out Newmarket way when she were a young mawther (girl). A mort (lot) of our forebears were called Edmund and Audrey in th’olden days. They were holy ones, like the ones in the Bible.

Q: Who’s on the throne now, do you know?

A: Well, our Sovereign’s King Edmund, he’s still a-sittin’ on his throne in heaven, a’rulin’ over his East Anglian kingdom, lookin’ down on us and helpin’ us here. But if you’re talkin’ about Lon’on, that’ll be old George’s gal, but I can’t rightly remember her name. You see, we were born in the time of th’old Queen, that were all different then, none of them there tractors like now, there were only hosses in the fields and an engine for the threshin’. I saw me first motor car when I were five year old, that were a sight, that were, now they’re everywhere, noisy old things, they are.

Q: And who’s the Prime Minister now?

A: I wouldn’t know that, they come and go all the time. Here today, gone tomorrow. I know there were that there Churchill, that were half American, but after him I lost count. We had other things to do, a-ploughin’ and a-sowin’, a-reapin’ and a-harvestin’, we were too busied with seedtime and harvest.

Q: Do you go into town to do the shopping?

A: Oh no, we ha’n’t been in to Icklingham since I took me pension in 1965. That were when we had the last hosses. They died and I had me pension. I were a hossman all me life, what with general labourin’. Town is all dirt and noise. Anythin’ we need, John Bloomfield the farmer or his wife Audrey fetch and bring round. God bless ‘em both. He’s our landlord. They come round every mortal day and look after us. Mary’s a rare good cook too, bake her own bread. That do smell nice. You see, young John take what he need from our pension and so we live here without a care in the world, no rent, nothin’ to pay, no ‘lectric, no water, he do any repairs we need, he bring all the food we want and logs in the wintertime to mend the fire, lovely and cosy in here then. Ten year ago he had the roof rethatched for us, that cost a fair packet. Bloomfields been farmers here for ever, afore Henry’s time and they’ll be farmers here till kingdom come.

His daddy paid to put on the water in 1961 and had the WC put in. He put in the ‘lectric the year before. Mind you, we don’t like the ’lectric light, bad for your eyes, sooner have natural candlelight, we just use ‘lectric to cook and make the tea and for hot water. Very handy for that. Before that we had water from the well and used a privy in the garden. We still use the well water to make the dandelion and elderflower wine. That taste better like that. Anythin’ we need John get for us, just like his daddy, granddad and great-granddad did afore him. His great-granddad Cyril were a mighty fine man. He’d bring us pheasant and rabbit he’d shot, gave us a right good horkey (harvest home) and a good box at Christmas time. He looked after us right well. Lovely rabbit stews we used to have in them days, better than jugged hare.

Q: What about if you’re ill? Don’t you go to the doctor?

A: Don’t go to the doctor, we’re never ill. We grow our own veg and fruit and eat meat once a week on a Sunday, ‘cept in Lent, o’ course. If we feel poorly, we take a glass o’ Sarah’s elderflower wine and we feel better rightaway. At Easter we have lamb and at Whitsun we have gooseberries from the garden.

The air’s good here. My brother Jeremiah went up to Lon’on once. Never agen. He said the air were dirty. He come back and coughed and spluttered for a whole week. Thass why they call Lon’on the smoke. They do say now they built a road all round Lon’on so as you don’t have to go there. Thank the Lord. Thass all foreign folk there. The best place in Lon’on, said Jeremiah, is Liverpool Street Station, thass the railway station to get out o’ there and hie (hurry) home as swift as you can. Home sweet home. Thass why we’re long livers – fresh air, hard work and never go to th’old doctor. Old Cyril Bloomfield the great-granddaddy, at the end they took him orf to the horspital, thass what finished him off. Came out in a wooden box. Should a stayed at home, boy.

Q: Have you ever been to London?

A: We never been outside Suffolk, ‘cept to cross the border to Norfolk a few times. Been to Thetford twice. Been to Bury (Bury St Edmunds) many a time, at least once a year when I were young. After I took me pension, we took a trip to the seaside once, but there weren’t nothin’ to see there, just th’old water. Don’t go far afield now, there’s a lot to do in the garden and I’m rare slow now.

Q: Do you take a newspaper?

A: That’d be for gentry. What do we need that for?

Q: What about television or radio?

A: We don’t need any old tellyvision, all those pictures a-flashin’ afore you. Thass bad for you. We know what we need to know. We did have a wireless, but that broke after Hitler’s war and we never bothered to have it mended. Thass only bad news on the wireless, what them Lon’on folk get up to and what they be a’ doin’ in foreign parts. We don’t need to know that here.

Q: And the telephone?

A: We never had one o’ those.

A: (Sarah interrupts). Don’t need any o’ those. Every day, rain or shine, we walk up to the wood with our sticks and just sit there. John made us a bench with logs and a plank and we sit there and listen, a-mardlin’ (chatting), a-rememberin’ and a-musin’ on th’old times. That were a hard life afore the war in 14, but that were a good life. That seem like yesterday. The whisperin’ and murmurin’ o’ the leaves and the swayin’ o’ the wheat in the breeze tell us all we need to know. God speak to us through what He made. We talk to th’old trees and they talk to us. In the spring there are bluebells up there and in the summer the peggles (cowslips) come out.

Thass rare nice in the autumn, when the leaves do fall soft as ever leaves did fall. Leaves been a-fallin’ and trees a-growin’ since time began. I love th’old oaks. Stout as England. Our Edmund were tied to an oak by those wicked old Danes. When the Good Lord call us, we want to be buried up there, don’t we, Moses? Thass rare peaceful up there. I just want to fall asleep and not wake up agen and then they can leave old Sarah up there ‘mong the trees with Moses and Aaron, ‘neath the gentle wind on the hill and the swayin’ o’ the branches. Thass where I’ll have my peace and see ma and daddy and everyone on th’other side. On th’other side thass just like here, only far, far better, no aches and no pains, no chores and no frettin’.

Q: Who was Aaron?

A: (Moses). That were me twin brother Aaron. He died when he were only a day old, frail little old thing, he weren’t made for this world, so ma said. We buried him up there ‘mong the trees. He’s a-waitin’ for me now. Been a-waitin’ all these years. I’m a comin’, boy, I’m a comin’ soon.

Q: So there were three of you in the family?

A: (Sarah). No, no, there were seven of us. The eldest were Abraham and Esther, they died o’ the hoop (whooping cough) when they were just little mites. Then there were Abel. He were taken in the Kaiser’s War, out in France, in 1915. He were only 21. Thass his picture over the fireplace (she points to the enlarged photo of a private in First World War uniform), above the photo of ma and daddy on the mantelpiece. John’s father had it made big and framed it up for us on the fiftieth anniversary. They never did find Abel’s body, but there’s a white cross out somewhere in France for him, the poor little mite. Private Abel Dove’s a-awaitin’ for us on th’other side too. They’re all a-waiting for us there. Then there’s me and after me came Jeremiah. He were a worker, he were, never stopped and his little old heart gave out in 1959, God rest his soul. Then came Moses and Aaron, they were the youngest. Now there’s just me and Moses left in all God’s wide world. We’re the last, all alone, a-waitin’ for the Good Lord to come steppin’ ‘cross the fields, a-callin’ us, a-gatherin’ us in like ears of wheat, in His own good time. That won’t be long now. We’re ‘spectin’ Him any day.

Q: Did you never want to get married, Sarah?

A: I’d a married, but there were no min left to marry. They all got taken in the Kaiser’s War. So I stayed at home and looked after ma and daddy. They both died in 1946, after old Hitler’s war, within a week o’ each other. 82 were ma and daddy were 84.

Q: What about you, Moses? Why didn’t you marry?

A: I never were a one for marryin’. I didn’t want to be tied down. I loved to go a-wanderin’ in the woods and fields at night, a-listenin’ to the owls and the little old dormousen nestin’ up, a-watchin’ the clouds by the moonlight. Clouds is God’s angels, each one‘s got a story to tell. Only you have to watch ‘em close to know what they’re a-sayin’. In the summer I allus used to sleep out there, with just the foxes and the badgers and the leaves a’rustlin’ in the night air. In the winter, I’d go up there to walk at night, the leaves all a-rimed white with th’old frost. That were the life for me, next to God’s creatures.

Q: Sarah, what was the most terrible thing you heard of in your long life?

A: Well, I reckon that were the slayin’ o’ the Russian King in 1918, all those poor little children, they didn’t deserve that. Like lambs to the slaughter, they were. They did with them like they did with our Lord. Daddy and ma said the same thing. I was 21 then and that fair marked me. And truth to tell and the devil to shame, ever since then nothin’’s been right with the world, thass all been upside down, people rushin’ about, doin’ each other down, makin’ wars. No more peace ever since.

F’r instance, now they go under the sea and through the sky. Thass not natural. He made the fish to go under the sea. And if the dear Lord had wanted us to fly, He’d a given us wings. Thass angels that fly, thass not for folk like you and me. All those airyplanes, thass upset the weather. And then they went up over the sky where they should never a gone. That were downright presumptious, that were. They had no right goin’ up there. Nothin’ good’ll come of it, you mark my words. Pride go afore the fall. They’re tryin’ to go up like the Tower of Babel, outreachin’ themselves, makin’ tall things as ugly as sin. Well, that’ll all come tumblin’ down agen on their heads. Woe betide.

Mind you, if you go back, things started goin’ awry afore that. Our great-grandma Bathsheba, she were born in 1799 and passed over at 105, used to blame it on old Boney, the Frenchman. (Moses interrupts: Thass when they brought in th’old income tax. Wicked thing that, a-takin’ folk’s hard-earned money. Thass stealin’. Thou shalt not steal, it say, but they still steal through the tax). Well, Bathsheba reckoned Boney were the devil incarnate. Thass our Nelson stopped him, he were a Norfolk man, one of us, one of Edmund’s men. A brave heart he had, he died a’fightin’ for Edmund’s land, our dear land.

Only, after we won and we’d locked old Boney away, that all went to the heads of the Lon’on folk and they started a-takin’ other folk’s lands, just like Boney done afore ‘em, only they did it ‘cross the seas among them poor old black and brown men, a-stealin’ their land and their housen. So they ended up no better than Boney, just as wicked. Thass all wickedness. Black-hearted wickedness. And thass all written down in the big white book in heaven ready for Judgement Day, every deed and every word, nothin’’s forgot. God see it all with His all-seein’ eye. There’ll be a tremblin’ and a shakin’ in those days when He come agen, but there’ll be justice. They’ll say, that weren’t me, but that were they. The Judgement’ll be just, ‘cos the Judge is Just. Just you mark my words. The truth will out. Nothing’s hid that won’t be found out.

But then agen me granddad’s granddad, old Edmund Dove, told him and he told me how the ills began when they went and changed our calendar. Now we’re days and days out and Easter fall weeks afore it should, a few year ago that snew (snowed) at the new Easter! And Christmas come far too early. That don’t seem like Christmas at all. All the seasons are out o’ kilter. Thass against nature. That were them Lon’on folk that went and changed it. Went to their heads, you see. Then they upset our folk out in the colonies in ‘Merica and the colonials took against the German king that them old merchants and bankmen had brought over. They’d got rid of the proper king, you see, all for filthy lucre. That weren’t right either. We didn’t want a German king, we wanted our own king, like Edmund. Edmund were king of the folk in the north and king of the folk in the south, we were all one then, all Christian folk, all proper. Norwich were much bigger than Lon’on in them days, Lon’on weren’t much more than a village. Thass how it should a stayed.

A: (Moses interrupting). That were when all the wrong started, after Edmund’s time. In Edmund’s time there weren’t no Lon’on to speak of. O’ course, that old Henry made it all worse, but it were his great-great-granddad William that came over from France who started it, ‘cos Henry were just a-followin’ in his footsteps. Henry were William, you see, one and the same, ‘cos they had the same devil in ‘em and neither o’ them could keep the faith. Both foreign imps with foreign names, them names aren’t in the Bible. No Henry or William in the Bible. Henry were a Welshman and that William, he were another heathen Dane, but from France. They didn’t love England, our Edmund’s land.

Q: What do you think, Sarah?

A: Oh yes, that were them heathen Danes that arrowed our Edmund to the oak and made him a holy one that started it all, ‘cos they didn’t know the Ten Commandments. They were pirates, you see, thieves. That were the start of it all. Thou shalt not steal, but they stole. We still talk about our Edmund in these parts and when I were a young mawther, they shew me where it all came to pass, over in Hoxne. I went there afore the War, the Kaiser’s War, that is, and I saw it all, a cross in the wheatfields. I remember it like it were yesterday. After the White King have come, Edmund’ll come back, a-marchin’ through the wheatfields with all his host of men behind him, all Edmund’s men and England’ll be England agen, and there’ll be peace for a time. Then that’ll be the end and the Good Lord’ll come back, just like He said He would.

Q: What should we do about bad kings like the German king and William and Henry? Should we rise up against them?

A: No, no, let the Lord judge ‘em. The Lord give and the Lord take away. Here today, gone tomorrow. If we’re worthy, we’ll get good kings. If we‘re not worthy, we’ll get what we deserve. He’ll take ‘em away in His own good time. You don’t want to do like that old Oliver who were sore vexed and chopped off the poor old king’s head. He were a wrong’un, that Oliver, he finished up bad. They cut off his head, just like he’d done to that poor old king. As ye sow, so shall ye reap. All the rum’uns (bad ones) that follow Oliver finish up bad.

Q: What do you think of Brexit, Moses? I mean leaving the European Union?

A: Europe Union? Never heard o’ that. That must be some Lon’on thing. We don’t have that hereabouts. We’re in our own land, Edmund’s land. Everyone should live in their own land, thass where God put us. Thass sovereign land. Thass natural. We live in the house where we were born. We’re Edmund’s folk, we are, allus will be.

Q: What do you think of all the things happening today, Sarah? I mean the terrorists and all these bombs?

A: Thass all the same thing, these Mohameddans with their wicked old bombs. Young John Bloomfield told us about what they’re a-doin’. You see, the Mohammeddans, they ha’n’t got the Ten Commandments. Thou shalt not kill. Thass all written in the Good Book. They haven’t got the Good Book. Just like them old heathen Danes who slew Edmund – they didn’t have the Good Book either. Hellfire, thass how they’ll end up. Sulphur and brimstone, that stink somethin’ awful. Mind you, thass the same thing for them there soldiers they sent out to kill the Mohammedans, they’re not Christian folk either, they haven’t got the Ten Commandments. Thou shalt not kill. Thass crystal clear. Keep the faith, keep the commandments and you can’t go wrong.

Q: So what’s the future of the world, Sarah? It all looks so bleak. Bad is on all sides.

A: Don’t you go a-frettin’ yourself (worrying) about that. The White King is a-comin’ back in Russia to put it all right. You’ll see. They started a-spreadin’ the evil all round, they got William to bring it here from France, they took it overseas, and then, with the passing o’ time, they thought they could take it to Russia as well, but that wouldn’t take in Russia. Thass where the evil were held in check. Before long the White King’ll come back there and sweep all the wicked there clean away, and then he’ll come here and do the same, in the twinklin’ of an eye, that’ll be.

My great-uncle Isaiah, who were married to my ma’s aunt Martha, told me that before Hitler’s war after we’d been allies with Russia. He were a preacher down at the green tin tabernacle, that ain’t there no more now. He walked miles and miles every Sunday to preach to local folk, a rare righteous man, he were, one of the Peculiar People, allus dressed in black, with a long white beard. He knew the Four Gospels by heart and a lot o’ the psalms. He preached a rare good sermon and baptised a rare many folk in the river near Bury, a rare clean soul he were and the Good Lord told him many a secret thing.

You see, at the end o’ time, when Our Lord come back, there’ll be a judgement and the good ones’ll go to heaven and the wicked ones’ll go to hell. Folk nowadays don’t know that and thass why there’s so much wickedness about. All those wicked min who take money and lie and start wars and murder, they’ll all burn in hell. If they knew that, they wouldn’t do it. Too late for ‘em now. Thass a terrible thing, to die without a-sayin’ sorry.

Q: Thank you, Moses and Sarah. I’ve learned a lot.

A: (Moses). You need to live and do, boy! Thass th’only way you can larn. Live with God’s gentle things and you’ll know all you’ll ever need to know.

Note: Many readers have written to me concerning the above, not having noticed the tag ‘Faction’. However, I can reassure them that 99% of the above is true, being based on conversations with various friends and relatives, notably Victoria Saunders, Doris Phillips, Sydney and Louisa Clarke and the Dove family, whom I knew between 1961 and 1979 and who died in the 1980s. The only things that are not true is that the Doves are still alive and live in the fictional and symbolically-named Little Godmanstowe.

Fr Andrew

Eastern England: The Land of Twelve Saints

Introduction: Roman Origins

Eastern England is made up of two of the seven ancient kingdoms of England, East Anglia and Essex, peopled by the East Angles and their cousins the East Saxons. This was once a self-contained area, bordered to the east and north by the North Sea, to the south by the broad River Thames, and to the west by the eastern Midlands, ancient Mercia. In times past that was an impassable area of river and marsh called the fens. In modern terms East Anglia and Essex mean the two counties of Norfolk and Suffolk with the area around the Isle of Ely (now in neighbouring eastern Cambridgeshire), and the county of Essex. However, Orthodox Christianity arrived here before England even existed, in the first centuries after Christ. Indeed, within a few years of Christ’s Resurrection Colchester in Essex briefly became the capital of Roman Britain until London had been founded, and it may have been there that the first Christian community appeared.

In any case it is recorded that there may have been a bishop from Colchester who attended a council in Gaul in 314. Certainly, archaeologists have confirmed the existence of a church in Colchester, one of the most important Roman settlements in the country, in the late fourth century. This lasted into the first half of the fifth century and its foundations can be visited. Other bishops from Britain are recorded attending councils abroad in 347 and 359. Baptismal fonts have been found from a villa at Icklingham in Suffolk from the same period and on the Norfolk coast there is an early place name ‘Eccles’, from the Greek word for church, ‘ecclesia’ (like the word ‘church’ itself, from the Greek ‘kyriakon’, ‘the Lord’s house’. However, such urban or villa Roman Orthodoxy had all but died out by the mid-fifth century, as the Roman elite had left these shores, leaving the people unconverted. Only archaeology can confirm even the existence of the little that they left behind.

Holiness: Twelve Saints (643-1016)

After the Roman period and the settlement of the English, there opened in the seventh century a new and deeper Orthodox Christian age, a golden age of saints, both missionaries from across the seas and native. Although nine of these twelve saints lived in the seventh century, three others lived later, continuing the tradition of holiness even into the early eleventh century. The two Irish saints, St Fursey and St Deicola, were ‘wandering saints’ and only stayed here for a short time. Nine of them are venerated only locally, like the two Irish saints above, St Sigebert, St Jurmin, St Osyth and St Withburgh, or regionally like St Felix, St Cedd and St Walstan, but St Botolph, St Audrey and St Edmund were and are venerated nationally and even internationally. Places of pilgrimage to their relics are Ely and Bury St Edmunds, places of pilgrimage to where they lived are Bawburgh, Bradwell-on-Sea, Burgh Castle, Hoxne and Iken. These twelve saints are:

St Sigebert (+ c. 643), King of East Anglia, had lived in exile in France and become a Christian. He was the son or stepson of King Raedwald, the first baptized King of East Anglia, whose burial-hoard became famous when discovered at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk in 1939. In 630 King Sigebert invited the future St Felix to come from Burgundy and evangelize his kingdom. Sigebert later founded a monastery in what became Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk and, having abdicated, became a monk there, but was later killed by pagan Mercians.

After seventeen years of activity St Felix (+ 647) came to be known as the ‘Apostle of East Anglia’. He established his centre at the old Roman port of Dunwich in Suffolk (though some say in the now vanished Roman shore fort in Felixstowe, which was in any case later named after him), and then penetrating inland along river estuaries. Thus, he founded the first church in East Anglia in Babingley in west Norfolk and in nearby Shernborne, and also in Loddon and Reedham on the Broads river system in east Norfolk. He also built churches dedicated to St Gregory the Great in Rendlesham and Sudbury, both in Suffolk, and founded a monastery in Soham, in eastern Cambridgeshire next to Suffolk and near Ely.

The Irish St Fursey (+ c. 650) came with his disciples in 633. He established a monastery in a still extant Roman shore fort in Norfolk, now called Burgh (pronounced Borough) Castle, and several churches before leaving for France in c. 644.

St Jurmin (+ 654) was a prince of the East Anglian royal family, a brother or step-brother of St Audrey and St Withburgh, killed in battle by pagans, and his relics were long venerated in Blythburgh and later in Bury St Edmunds, both in Suffolk.

The Irish-trained and bilingual St Cedd (+ 664) came in c. 653. In his brief period as Bishop of Essex, with his see in London, he became known as the ‘Apostle of Essex’. He established a coastal monastery in Tilbury and churches in Prittlewell, Great Burstead, West Mersea and above all in the old Roman shore fort at Bradwell-on-Sea, all in Essex, where there seem to have been some thirty monks. In the latter case this seventh-century ‘Cathedral on the marshes’ still largely and miraculously survives.

St Audrey (Etheldreda) (+ 679) was a royal princess born in Exning in west Suffolk just after 630 and was baptised by St Felix. She founded the monastery in Ely and was the first East Anglian saint to be venerated nationwide. Her hand relic can still be venerated in the Roman Catholic church in Ely.

St Botolph (Botulf) (+ 680) founded a monastery at Iken near the Suffolk coast and was widely venerated throughout Eastern England and well beyond, especially as a patron saint of travellers.

The Irish St Deicola (Dicul) (+ c. 685) gave his name to the small Norfolk town of Dickleburgh, where he founded a monastery in about 660, before leaving for the south of England.

St Osyth (c.700) was a Mercian princess who married the King of Essex, then founded and entered a convent in the coastal village of Chich in Essex and was martyred there. The village of Chich was named after her, being called to this day St Osyth.

St Withburgh (+ 743), a sister of St Audrey, lived as a hermitess at Holkham in Norfolk and then founded a convent in (East) Dereham in the same county.

St Edmund the Martyr (+ 869), KIng of East Anglia, was associated with Attleborough and Hunstanton in Norfolk and with Bures in Suffolk. He was martyred by the pagan Danes at Hoxne on the Norfolk-Suffolk border and was venerated nationwide, becoming the patron-saint of all England. His relics were moved nearby to the town that came to be called Bury St Edmunds and one of the most important pilgrimage centres in the whole country. Some of his relics can still be venerated in the Roman Catholic church there. Today his flag is flown throughout Norfolk and Suffolk and he is considered to be the patron-saint of East Anglia.

Finally, there is St Walstan (+ 1016), who became a simple and humble farmworker, and whose millennium it is this year. He probably came from Bawburgh in Norfolk and was associated with nearby Costessey (pronounced Cossey) and Taverham just outside Norwich. He closes this period of Eastern English holiness.

Disruption: Spiritual Decline

After St Walstan, Eastern England, like all England and the whole of Western Europe, clearly entered the period of spiritual decline common to Western Europe in the second millennium. This was symbolized by the appearance of foreign Viking rulers and their new ways. This decline was especially obvious during the rule from 1042 of the half-Norman King Edward, called ‘the Confessor’, who summoned the bloody invasion of the last Vikings, the Northmen (Normans) in 1066. These brought with them the new institutional religion that came to be called Roman Catholicism and substituted it for the original Orthodox Christianity. They destroyed the old churches and mocked the saints, as they had already done in southern Italy and would later do in the ‘crusades’ in the Holy Land.

Within less than half a millennium, this new, despiritualized institutional religion, centred in Rome, had itself been nationalized and robbed by the rapacious Tudor State. The new State religion that had been invented in turn began splitting into various moralizing Protestant sects, resulting in bloody civil wars. These sects were even more dissimilar to Orthodox Christianity than Roman Catholicism. In their turn, again within less than half a millennium, these sects unravelled and were rejected and the population dissolved and disintegrated into unbelief and paganism, its spiritual roots lost, forgotten or, incredibly, even flatly denied. At this, millennial ‘Western civilization’ entered into terminal decline, the new paganism, thus leaving the missionary field open to the Church, as in the first millennium. The situation has turned full circle.

Continuity: Renewal (1966-2016)

Although various immigrant groups did give some witness to Orthodoxy in Eastern England after 1945, their mononational or ethnic witness was very limited. Mononational communities and private ideologies, seemingly more attached to a culture than the Church, always age and die out. However, it was in 1966, exactly fifty years ago, that an English priest of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia renewed the native English links with the Orthodox Tradition in Eastern England. This was the ever-memorable Fr Mark (later David) (Meyrick) who lived and served for nearly thirty years in a village in Norfolk. Soon after his repose the Church Outside Russia renewed that uncompromised multinational mission with a small church in Felixstowe on the Suffolk coast. After eleven years of patience, this mission penetrated inland, slightly like that of St Felix of old, and founded public-access churches.

These include a large permanent multinational church in the former Roman capital of Colchester in north-east Essex and a permanent multinational church in Norwich, the historic centre of Norfolk and also once the second largest city in England. There is now hope that a church might eventually be founded in Bury St Edmunds, the historic centre of Suffolk. This would create one church in each of the historic centres of the three counties of Eastern England. Beyond this, however, there are other major centres of population which need church buildings, like Stratford in south-west Essex on the fringes of London or Kings Lynn in north-west Norfolk, but also in historic spiritual centres around which Orthodox people live, like Ely (now in the Cambridgeshire fenlands). However, nothing can be planned top-down, from above, nothing can start without the impetus of local people, as we have seen in Colchester, Norwich and also Bury St Edmunds.