As of 1 January 2016 we are still waiting for legal documents to be exchanged for the premises we are buying in Norwich. After a three and a half month wait to receive planning permission from Norwich City Council, we have now had to wait an additional three and a half months for exactly the same organization to send our solicitor the lease. This means that the entire process has been delayed by over three months. Once we have signed for the premises and bought them, we can finally start building work to transform them into an Orthodox church. At last a permanent home for Russian Orthodoxy in Norwich after over thirty years of struggles. Thank you!
In the East of England there is at present only one multinational and multilingual church faithful to Russian Orthodoxy with its own urban premises. This is St John’s Church in Colchester. God willing and with your support, we have now been able to buy a second one, in Norwich, exactly 60 miles, 100 kilometres, to the north of Colchester.
Why Norwich? For the last four years I have been visiting Norwich and some of the 200 Russian Orthodox there, mainly recent immigrants from the Baltic States, especially from Estonia. I have baptized several in their homes, married couples in Colchester, buried, blessed houses, listened to confessions, visiting every few weeks, sometimes twice a month and am Orthodox chaplain at Norwich Prison.
We thought of dedicating our community to St Alexander Nevsky. We attempted to begin liturgies using the Greek Orthodox church building in Norwich, but were impeded. How are our people and English people and others interested in the witness of the Russian Orthodox Church, to be cared for pastorally? Only from a church building. And such life is required not only by Russian speakers, but also by Romanian, Bulgarian and English Orthodox. Most of our regular parishioners, only one of whom has a car, live within easy walking distance of this building.
On Friday 8 May, Fr Andrew saw a leasehold property for sale on the rightmove website for £50,000 at 134, Oak Street, Norwich. It measures 88 square metres externally and is at present used as offices and rooms for a cultural centre. It has electricity, heating and water and is in very good condition. It is so cheap because it is leasehold, in other words, you have to pay £100 rent per month for the ground it is built on. This amount is fixed until 2032. The lease itself is even longer – it lasts until 2047.
On Wednesday 13 May we organized a visit to these premises, attended by 9 local Russian Orthodox.
By Friday 15 May, Orthodox in Norwich had generously promised to donate £5,250.
On Monday 18 May Fr Andrew received Archbishop Mark’s blessing to buy the building if possible, meaning we could start obtaining pledges to donate.
On Thursday 21 May we heard from the surveyor that it would cost £3,000-£5,000 to knock down the internal walls and make good the floor and ceiling, so we could use this building as a church. This was lower than Fr Andrew had estimated.
On Wednesday 27 May we heard that our offer of £42,500 had been accepted. However, since conversion and furnishing costs will come to £12,500, this meant that we would need £55,000 in all.
On Friday 29 May we submitted the planning application for change of use from offices to a place of worship. This, we were told then, would take at least 6-8 weeks but should result in a positive answer.
On Wednesday 3 June we launched an internet appeal for £55,000 in order to set up our own church in Norwich.
By Wednesday 29 July, eight weeks after the appeal launch, total gifts and pledges had reached £55,000.
On Tuesday 29 September, after over three and a half months!, we finally received planning permission to convert the building into an Orthodox church.