Tag Archives: Autobiography

The Music of My Life

Now there are exactly one thousand pieces of writing here in less than six years, over three a week on average, some articles short, some long, most original, a few simply links to other articles of interest. Here is something personal, which explains something of the musical inspiration behind how I came to write these articles (and many others) over the last forty-five years.

About every four years, between the ages of 4 and 48, twelve pieces of music came to me and reflected and revealed my understanding of the world. These were:

 

The Third Man – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2oEsWi88Qv0

This is the music of the 1949 British film, set in post-War Vienna, where my father had ended his War. This music, expressing at the same time tradition and uneasiness, sums up my childhood, which was haunted by tales of the catastrophe that Hitler had brought. Later I understood that it also sums up the mystery of Europe, seen from the East, and its failure to return to the Tradition of Orthodoxy. Instead, it was diverted from the Tradition by its provincial, pseudo-intellectual Western rationalism, which had first misled the Christian Empire, and then chose to die at the hands of an American racketeer.

A Nightingale Sang – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2RRNlBGL89g

My father, like all the soldiers of the Eighth Army, loved Vera Lynn and her songs. This was a song that he sang.

Dr Zhivago – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Yd2PzoF1y8

In 1968 I was taken to see this film. It had the usual Hollywood absurdities and self-satisfied Cold War anti-Russian stereotypes of ‘Asian barbarism instead of European enlightenment’ (that same European ‘enlightenment’ which brought two World Wars, concentration camps, the genocide of Non-Western Europeans and the A-Bomb). However, it did introduce me to Pasternak, to Russian literature and music. Indeed, the composer, Jarre, officially French, actually had two Russian grandmothers, which is why the music expresses the Russian spirit so well.

Vltava – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3G4NKzmfC-Q

By the patriot Smetana, this music expresses the lost spiritual beauty and nobility of the Czech Lands, the original missionary lands of Sts Cyril and Methodius, so cruelly snatched and separated from Orthodoxy by the heretics.

Solveig’s Song – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bR3N1yBEGbw

When I was 21, I was introduced to the fresh beauty of Norway, to it mountains and fjords. This music sums up for me the beauty of the North.

Je Ne Regrette Rien – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JKPvx38D4GM

Living in France in 1980, I came to know Piaf. Of course, every Christian regrets their sins, but this is not the theme of this song. Piaf herself became Orthodox towards the end of her life.

Vocalise – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DuBexGEe1S4

By the extraordinary Rakhmaninov, whose music is so full of Orthodox values, this expresses the melancholy of Russian exile and yearning for the lost Empire.

Jerusalem – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MKRHWT6xdEU

Here is the vision of faithful Old England, summed up by William Blake, and our rejection of ‘the dark satanic mills’ of faithless modern Britain, invented in his age of Imperialist exploitation and slavery.

Fado Português – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ARS7Zi-Zpkw

Spending several months on missionary work in Portugal over several years from 1992 on, I came to know the melancholy in Portugal and the South, summed up by the fado.

Mes Jeunes Annees – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eB7HI2n0MgY

Trenet, still alive and singing at the time, expresses nostalgia for a lost childhood in the Pyrenees.

Bells – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3G4NKzmfC-Q

Bells Across the Meadows is perhaps the finest piece of music by the little-known English composer Ketelby and expresses the love of the real England.

God Save the Tsar – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yEOyvvKhb9k

The Orthodox anthem expresses the Christian Empire to which we all belong. We all have our national flags, but in the centre of each one, we place the unifying double-headed eagle and the hope of the Coming Tsar, who alone can protect us from the global evil that the Western heresy has created.

 

Since then I have heard many other beautiful songs and melodies, but none that has better reflected or revealed my understanding of the world.

Most of a Life

Foreword

I may live another twenty or thirty years, but equally my time on earth may come to an end tomorrow, next week, in a month’s time, or next year. No-one knows, but I have no illusions. Now that I am coming to an end, it is fitting to set down the three tasks of my destiny which have filled my unworthily lived days. It is my belief that others will more effectively continue these tasks after me, just as many others worked on them both before me and at the same time. And although, not always in positions of power, they worked far more efficiently and with far greater success than me, it has often felt as though I were totally abandoned in these tasks. I never chose them – they fell to my lot despite my clear manifold human weaknesses and equally clear unsuitability and unwillingness to fulfil them.

With the Saints

My first task has been the modest contribution to spreading the veneration of the Saints of Western Europe in the Church. This meant fixing them in locally-issued calendars, praying and writing their lives and compiling, collecting and celebrating their services and icons. This was a bitter battle and cost me enormously, for resistance from all sides without exception was very harsh. Isolation was my lot. There were – and are – so many who resist the saints. Altogether, above all by the reposed Monk Joseph (Lambertson) whom I much encouraged, services were compiled to nearly one hundred saints or groups of saints of Western Europe who did not yet have one. Victory came slowly and over forty years later several such saints were included in the official Russian Orthodox calendar, with more to follow.

Church Unity

My second task has been to help contribute to the restoration of the unity of the two parts of the Russian Church and to call others outside it, for example those who had fallen away in Paris, to unity with it. My part was very, very minor, of course, but it must have helped, for people told me it had. Having visited the Soviet Union twice in the 70s and seen the lamentable state of much of the Patriarchate in England and France, I could see that nothing could be done until the fall of the Soviet Union. Only that would bring the liberation of the hostage episcopate there. So it was only in 2000 that it repented for its compromises with the atheist government and so its failure to recognize the New Martyrs and Confessors earlier, as well as for its politically-motivated compromises with heterodox.

Equally, however, the Church Outside Russia would have to reject decades of the spiritual impurity of sectarian politicking with the treacherous and tragic Vlasov movement and its CIA backers, as well as its own embarrassing failure to canonize the New Martyrs until as late as 1981. Victory came only in 2007 with the Act of Canonical Communion, signed in the presence of thousands of us in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow, the Russian Patriarch and President and longsuffering clergy of both parts of the Church in attendance. That Cathedral had been built to commemorate the 19th century Orthodox victory over the French atheist Napoleon and rebuilt to commemorate the 20th century Orthodox victory over the German atheist Marx. Thus, the Cathedral became the place of a threefold victory.

A Life for the Tsar

My third task has been to help contribute to the restoration, now inevitable, of the Orthodox Empire, based in Russia under the coming Tsar, just as St Seraphim of Sarov prophesied nearly 200 years ago. This has been and is, if anything, the hardest of all. This is because it involves the Incarnation, that is, the political, economic and social ramifications of our understanding of the Incarnate Christ. Resistance here is ferocious and mocking, for our struggle is with the Devil himself. Firstly, we must defend the holiness of Tsar Nicholas, both in life and in death. Secondly, we must defend all those faithful to him, many not yet canonized. Thirdly, we must promote his shining vision, which was a century ahead of its time but tragically interrupted for a blood-soaked century by ‘treason, cowardice and deceit’, as he described.

Afterword

Some might say that then all has been completed. This is not so. The task for Rus, to spread veneration for the Western saints of the first millennium Church is to develop much further. The task for Faith, to see the full unity of the Russian Orthodox Church in Western Europe in a single Metropolia, the foundation of the future new Local Church, helping build up a little part of it in my native East of England, is nearing its conclusion, but is not complete. Finally, the task for the Tsar, to explain his holiness and defend his healing vision of justice and balance after a century of global injustice and wars, which resulted directly from his overthrow by internal traitors, so-called allies, Great Britain, the USA and France, and enemies, Germany and Austria-Hungary, and to implement that vision, so long delayed, has only just begun.

 

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!

Some Autobiographical Notes

I have been asked a number of questions about how, coming from a simple, earthy English background in rural England, I came to be a Russian Orthodox priest of the Church Outside Russia. Making use of some unexpected time this week, I have looked back through some old papers which I had forgotten and can now answer those questions with some dates.

Q: How did you come to the Russian Church?

A: After a countryside childhood strangely filled with interest in faraway Russia, I started teaching myself Russian in October 1968. I was told to do so in a particular spot in Colchester, which I could take you to now, by a voice heard coming, brought as it were by a wind from the east. So I began to read a lot of Russian literature in translation and Russian history. Two years later, in 1970, I had decided that I wanted to be part of the Russian Church and had begun reading as much as I could to find out about it (very little was available at that time). However, it was only after my sixteenth birthday that I managed to visit Russian churches.

Q: Where? In London?

A: No, my family never went to London, which we always looked on as a different planet, ‘the smoke’ as we still called it. The countryside was our home. I won a bursary and at the end of February 1973 I managed to visit a Russian church in England. This was the tiny Russian Patriarchal house chapel in Oxford, where I prayed at vespers on two successive Saturdays. Then in the same year I won another bursary to visit the then Soviet Union; in fact the first church I visited there was St Vladimir’s Cathedral in Kiev. As I entered those churches, I knew that I wanted to be part of their inner life and that this was my destiny, the whole meaning of my life, regardless of all the barriers that would be put in front of me. I felt that I had always been here, that this was in my blood. (Only in 2004 did I discover any possible though very distant explanation in a Carpatho-Russian great-grandmother – my mother’s mother’s mother). At the end of 1973 I also managed to visit the Patriarchal Cathedral in London, of which I had heard. ROCOR then had no existence outside itself, being largely unknown to the outside world, at least in England.

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

A: As soon as I was free to do so at the age of 18, in 1974, I asked to join the Russian Church. Of course, there were two parts then. Firstly, I met two representatives of the Church Outside Russia (ROCOR), who solemnly informed me that I would not be allowed to join their Church since it was in any case ‘for Russians only’. I also met other, rather fanatical and sectarian individuals from ROCOR, who completely turned me away. I therefore took the only option left to me and joined the Patriarchal Church, presuming that this was identical to the Church that I had seen in Russia and the Ukraine.

However, I very soon found out that the small Oxford Patriarchal parish was dominated by two opposing clans – on the one hand, by haughty Parisian-type modernists, and, on the other hand, by Soviet chauvinist nationalists, for whom the Communist Party could do no ill! I gave myself spiritual life by reading Russian theological books I ordered from Jordanville and elsewhere. Visiting Soviet Russia for a second time in 1976 and spending time there, I saw again how the real Russian Church was different from the Oxford cliques. In 1977 a priest I had met in Russia the year before suggested that I study at the Moscow Theological Academy. I would very much like to have done that, but at the height of the Cold War this was absolutely impossible. That was tragic.

Q: What did you do?

A: I did the next best thing and in 1978 went to live and work in Thessaloniki in Greece for one year. Here, I saw how traditional the ethos could be, quite different from the Church of Constantinople, which I had seen in England, but also, unfortunately, I saw narrow Balkan nationalism and came across the semi-Protestant Zoe and Sotir organizations – closer to Methodism than Orthodoxy! However, I also visited Mt Athos and was especially influenced by Fr Ephraim at Philotheou and the very poor and heroic monks at the Russian St Panteleimon’s Monastery. I remember especially Fr Seraphim, Fr Misail (who wanted me to join the monastery and be the librarian) and the choir director from Odessa. These were real, exemplary Orthodox. It was at this point that I decided that I should go and study at a Russian seminary.

Since I had been told (in fact lied to) that Jordanville only accepted Russians, I took the only option left and went to St Serge in Paris. (The two ‘seminary’ establishments of the OCA held no interest for me since they were both on the Catholic/Protestant calendar and deviated in other ways from the ethos and practice of the Russian Church inside Russia. I knew enough from talking to people who had been to them and from my visits to Russia to understand that they were not right for me. I wanted the real thing).

Q: What happened next?

A: I went to study at St Serge in Paris. There I experienced the battle royal between the two factions in Paris at that time. The first, led by Protopresbyter Alexis Knyazev, a wonderful teacher, was the pro-Russian one that was clear-sighted enough to see that the only future was to rejoin the Russian Church, but on some autonomous basis.

The second group, the Fraternite Orthodoxe, led basically by the Jesuit-educated Count, Fr Boris Bobrinskoy, notorious for having celebrated the liturgy in a Catholic convent with the filioque (!) – so as ‘not to offend our Catholic brethren’, was virtually composed of Uniats. Other members included the fantasist and Athos-hater Olivier Clement and a Georgian priest who spent his time extolling the Second Vatican Council. I soon gave up going to their courses. The modernist and manipulative Fraternite was populated by patronizing aristocrats and fantasist ideologues who preyed on naïve Catholics and converts. Descendants of those who had carried out the Revolution, they absolutely hated Russia and had no intention of ever returning to the sobriety and discipline of the Russian Church. Naturally, I supported the first group which alone was authentic and also realistic.

These two groups depended on the Rue Daru bishop, the weak, elderly but saintly Archbishop George (Tarasov). The Fraternite was clearly waiting for him to die and then seize power, which they only managed to do in full twenty years later. Members of the Fraternite, some soon to become priests, used to hiss, mock and boo Archbishop George publicly. It was awful. I believe that Archbishop George, a former WWI Russian pilot from the Western Front, was a saint. Had he been in good health and lived another fifteen years, he would have returned the group to the Russian Church with the status of an autonomous Metropolia.

Q: Where did you go after St Serge?

A: Having met my wife, who is basically of Anglo-Italian-Romanian origin, and married in Paris, we returned to England. We stayed here for three years, trying to find some sort of balanced spiritual life between the extremes of the pseudo-Patriarchal Church and the Church Outside Russia, with their cliques which were not Churchly at all, quite different from the Church inside Russia, which I had seen in 1972 and 1976, and again at St Panteleimon’s on Mt Athos.

Having discovered the scandalous truths about the extremists dominating both groups in England, we returned disillusioned to France and my wife’s jurisdiction (Rue Daru). Here the new German Archbishop had personally promised us that he was going to steer the Church away from the modernist and ecumenist Fraternite Orthodoxe and back to Russian Orthodox Tradition, but using Western languages whenever necessary. Enthused by this sensible direction and the support of Fr Alexis Knyazev, who was still alive then, I was ordained in Paris in January 1985.

Q: What happened?

A: I had fallen from the frying pan into the fire. Within four months I was asked to become a freemason, which I refused to do, thus signing a kind of spiritual death warrant for myself. Through weakness of character, the new Archbishop had by then taken a suicidal path. He was ordaining freemasons and other members of the Fraternite, while also forbidding the use of local languages, doing exactly the opposite of everything he had promised. He was guaranteeing the death of Rue Daru, whose only hope for survival was in fact to return to one or other of the parts of the Russian Church.

So I surrendered to God’s Will. And in 1987 I was granted the grace of meeting the ever-memorable Archbishop Antony of Geneva, a representative of the real ROCOR, just waiting to return to a politically free Russian Church. Coming from Kiev, where I had first been to an Orthodox service, Archbishop Antony showed me the real, multinational ROCOR, which I had read about, but totally failed to meet in London with its nationalism and sectarianism. In July 1988, Rue Daru held a service in honour of the millennium of Orthodoxy in Rus, attended by the modernist Catholic Cardinal of Paris, but from which all Russian bishops had been banned!

It was the last straw and, thanks to God, Archbishop Antony gladly received a group of 17 of us spiritual refugees into ROCOR at the end of that year. This was actually a turning-point for the Rue Daru group, as ever since then the flow of serious Orthodox leaving it has not ceased, giving up the fight to save it. We now realize of course that that fight was impossible and we had undertaken it out of misplaced idealism. The well had been poisoned from the outset. It was also a turning-point for us, from which we have never looked back.

Q: Looking back, what would you do if you had your time again?

A: A purely hypothetical question. Hindsight, as they say, is a wonderful thing. At the time I had no advice at all, except for very bad advice, and there was no internet. Today, there is no doubt in my mind at all that I should have studied in London and then, in 1977, gone and studied at Jordanville. However, if I had not done what I had done then, how could I know all this now? Only experience teaches.

If I had not done what I did do, I would never have understood the Church of Greece, I would never have met the saintly Archbishop George Tarasov, the heroic Archbishop Antony of Geneva and so many other saintly figures, like the last representatives of the real White Russian movement, Fr Silouan of Athos of the Patriarchate (the disciple of St Silouan), the wonderful Baroness Maria Rehbinder, that exquisite Parisian poetess Lyudmila Sergeevna Brizhatova, the last White officer Vladimir Ivanovich Labunsky, and so many others, the representatives of the real Holy Rus in all jurisdictions of the Russian emigration.

Neither would I ever have understood the tragic renovationist decadence and absurd Soviet nationalism within parts of the Patriarchate outside Russia at that time, the two sides of the suicidal Rue Daru jurisdiction (sadly, today there is largely only one side left) and how ROCOR was nearly enveloped by the marginal extremes of narrow Russian nationalist chauvinism and fanatical old calendarist converts, but saved by the holiness of Metropolitan Laurus and the many with him, who so exactly expressed our values in Holy Rus, Eternal Russia.

There is in even this short, forty-year experience a lifetime of joys and sorrows. I have been privileged to know it all. In that sense I do not regret anything, even though I have met many tragic individuals, seen much waste and many lost opportunities, and seen parts of the Russian Diaspora committing suicide through spiritual impurity. However, I have been even more privileged in that I have also seen the old and artificial disunity fall away and become heartfelt unity and so life in the dynamic present and future. The worst, and it was really bad, is over and the best is now and in the future. Over nearly the last twenty years Providence has allowed me to work freely for the Russian Orthodox Church in missionary work in my own homeland of the three counties of the East of England.