The reborn Diocese of the British Isles and Ireland of the Church Outside Russia has received its third episcopal visit in four months, this time one made by Bishop Irenei of Sacramento, accompanied by the Myrrh-Giving Hawaiian Iveron Icon. The backlog of outstanding pastoral problems dating back many years has been further shortened and two more priests ordained, as requested fifteen months ago. However, the list of candidates for ordination is lengthening, with six more in the Colchester parish alone. With us local Orthodox having been visited by a bishop twice in the previous twenty years for a few short hours only, we have now been visited by a bishop twice in four months and for days each time.
Each recent visit to the Diocese has been much, much longer than any in the previous thirty years. Thus, on Saturday 13 May there took place the first ever Diocesan pilgrimage to St Albans. This was attended by about 200 faithful, a great many of whom took communion in front of the very fragrant Icon. There followed a service of intercession to St Alban in front of his holy relics. Then Vladyka was taken to Colchester where he was shown the main church, dedicated to our former Archbishop St John of Shanghai (+ 1966), which is the largest Russian Orthodox church in the British Isles and Ireland. He also visited the second (winter) church, dedicated to All the Saints of these Isles. There followed the Vigil Service in the main church.
On the Sunday of the Samaritan Woman, at the Divine Liturgy took place a long-awaited tonsure and priestly ordination, the first ever to take place in the Colchester parish. Communion was, as usual, out of two chalices, all four priests in this multinational parish, English, New Zealand, Romanian and Bulgarian, three of whom have come in the last year, two of whom have been ordained in the last two months, concelebrating with Vladyka. The Icon streamed myrrh and an accompanying monk commented that he had never seen so much myrrh given out by the Icon, literally dripping with it, which is a great consolation after so many years. After this, all ate in the Church Hall and then we visited a retired and ill priest who lives to the east of Colchester.
On Monday 15 May Vladyka visited the site of St Botolph’s seventh-century monastery in picturesque and remote Iken, whose thatched church particularly impressed him. Having read the canon to the saint, we then went on to Dunwich and its museum, where we ate. Then we headed for Burgh Castle, behind whose high Roman walls once probably stood St Fursey’s monastery. Vladyka then made his way to St Alexander Nevsky parish church in Norwich for a service of intercession to the Mother of God at 5.00 with all of the flock who were able to get away from work. Then there was tea in the parish kitchen, after which Vladyka went on to the private chapel at Mettingham in the north of Suffolk for another service.
During his ten-day visit Vladyka was able to visit other parishes, in London, Birkenhead, Cheltenham and Oxford, as well as the parish in Cardiff in Wales. It is our great hope that he will return in August to visit others, especially the parishes in Ireland, perhaps accompanied again by the extraordinary and previously little-known miraculous Iviron Icon from Hawaii. As we desperately need a monastery in our diocese, we hope that he could help found one for our English monks. However, our greatest and long-held hope is that he will come and live here permanently, uniting Russian Orthodox of all nationalities in these islands.