Tag Archives: Mission

Towards a Network of Twelve Multinational Orthodox Churches in the East of England

The Past

Non-Orthodox Western Europe is divided into 79 (NUTS-1) regions. Each has a population of between 3 and 7 million. Of these, nine are in England and our own region is the East of England, with a population of 6.2 million and consisting of six counties. In the east there are the large counties of Essex (1,417 square miles and 1.83 million people), Suffolk (1,466 square miles, but only 758,000 people) and Norfolk (2,074 square miles, but only 904,000 people), and in the west; the small counties of Hertfordshire (only 634 square miles, but 1.18 million people) and Bedfordshire (only 477 square miles and 670,000 people), followed by the large county of Cambridgeshire (1,309 square miles, but only 852,000 people).

A number of basically mononational, new calendar Orthodox missions exist in the East of England, some have existed for over five decades. These have largely catered for now mainly older Greeks or else, in much smaller numbers, for mainly older ex-Anglicans. Among them are for example Greek parishes in Great Yarmouth, Cambridge, Norwich and Southend and missions for ex-Anglicans in Norfolk, Essex and Cambridgeshire. There are also two new calendar Romanian missions in the region now and two old calendar Serbian missions have existed for several decades in Bedford and Letchworth.

A number of small and sometimes temporary Russian Orthodox missions have also existed. Notably, there was one which opened in the village of Walsingham in Norfolk in the 1960s and lasted for over 30 years (thanks to the pioneering work of a former Anglican, Fr David (Meyrick)). Much more recently, in order of date, there have been, or still are, small missions in Bury St Edmunds (2000-02 and 2017-18), in the village of Mettingham (founded in 2009 and with very regular services), a chapel outside Clacton (occasional services since 2010), and services in Ipswich (occasional services since 2015) and Wisbech (occasional services since 2016).

The Present

Apart from the above, from 1997 on permanent, multinational, old calendar and public-access Orthodox churches have also opened. These are, together with their dedications:

1997 – Felixstowe, Suffolk – St Felix

2002 – Kings Lynn, Norfolk – The Nativity of the Mother of God (and holding in special memory the Tsar-Martyr Nicholas who visited the town in 1894).

2008 – Colchester, Essex – St John of Shanghai (also with a winter church dedicated to All the Saints of the Isles).

2015 – Norwich, Norfolk – St Alexander Nevsky.

2015 – Peterborough, Cambridgeshire – St Olga.

2021- Cambridge-Little Abington, Cambridgeshire – St Edmund (and holding in special memory the other local saint, St Audrey of Ely).

All the above are in Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire and three of these churches, Colchester, Norwich and Cambridge-Little Abington, have their own churches. Although the three other churches are yet to obtain their own premises for the moment, it is still time to think of working elsewhere also.

The Future

We can think of founding and dedicating churches as a priority, in:

Bedford. This could be dedicated to Sts Peter and Paul, following the dedication of its first ever church to St Paul, founded in the eighth century, situated centrally on the banks of the River Ouse. This church would look after all Orthodox in the small county of Bedfordshire.

St Albans. The dedication must be to St Alban the Protomartyr and a large church here would look after all Orthodox in the small but densely-populated county of Hertfordshire.

Romford (formerly Essex, now Essex in east London). In a working-class area of great and multinational immigration, we suggest that a large church here be dedicated to St John of Kronstadt.

Lowestoft, Suffolk. The dedication in this former fishing port could be to St Nicholas. It would look after all Orthodox on the Suffolk and east Norfolk coast.

Southend. In the largest town in Essex, with a densely-populated catchment area, and as a former fishing port, we suggest a dedication to the fisherman St Andrew.

Thetford, Norfolk. Here in the centre of this whole network of churches, we suggest a dedication to the Resurrection.

Such a list of churches, open, about to open and possibly to open, does not exclude the existence of old and new chapels and churches, both present and future, in places in addition to these centres. Obvious choices would be in the large town of Harlow in Essex, a town on the north Norfolk coast such as Wells-next-the-Sea and, albeit outside the East of England, Boston in Lincolnshire. Similarly, there should be both a monastery and a convent in the East of England, perhaps one near the Suffolk coast and one in the west on the opposite side of the region.

However, this network, with three churches in the most populous county of Essex (if we include Romford as still in Essex), three in the largest county of Norfolk, two each in the very similar counties of Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, and one each in the small counties of Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, would meet the needs of most Orthodox. It would bring all within a maximum 25-mile or 25-minute range of a church, the expression of our pastoral responsibility. Now we await the hand of Providence, the blessing of a bishop and the work of the people.

On Orthodox Missionary Work

Now that the Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) has officially taken up the task of missionary work in the renewed Diocese of the British Isles and Ireland after several decades of disruption, it would be well to consider the nature of the missionary work that we need to do.

First of all, we must understand that there is only one sort of authentic missionary and pastoral work. This serves the people as a community, it is not an ideological plan on a map with pins in it, it is not top-down, but down-top, from the grassroots. Now, wherever there is a demand, ROCOR will do its best to meet that demand, setting up parishes where there is a need, now with official support. Where there are thirsty Orthodox people (at least one of whom can sing and read) and where there are premises, we will provide a priest. We can think of many cases in history of such missionary work, for example the mission of St Augustine in England in 597 or that of Sts Cyril and Methodius to St Rostislav, always in answer to a request. We can build nothing where there is not a spiritual need and a willingness to make sacrifices.

But what of areas where there is no actual demand, but just unconverted souls, potential Orthodox? Here we can take the examples of St Herman in Alaska and St Nicholas in Japan. They lived simply in a place for many, many years, praying, learning and understanding the people among whom they lived, before missionary work began. They waited for people to come to them, they did not serve themselves by imposing themselves on others. Self-serving (usually in the name of some personal problem and unfulfilled ambition) is pseudo-missionary work. It tries to impose itself, being characterized by gurus, vagantes and clericalists who like fancy titles, dressing up and having their photographs taken. They who do not look after the people, do not travel to meet people, even despising them for their simplicity.

We should be wary of the sort of ‘missionary’ work that despises the people, their languages and their customs and tries to force them into a strange mould that is not theirs. That is the false missionary work of those who use their personalities, not heartfelt faith in God, to convert others.

More Orthodox Churches for Thailand

Before the Russian Revolution Siam (now Thailand) was one of the few still uncolonized, sovereign countries of the world. Therefore, as with Tibet and Ethiopia, links between it and the Orthodox Empire were strong. Today, as if to make up for the historical injustice of the overthrow of the Empire in 1917 and the interruption of close relations between the two countries, Orthodoxy is spreading there, with the Russian Orthodox mission now entering its sixteenth year.

On Sunday, the feast of the New Martyrs and Confessors, the sixth Orthodox church to be built in Thailand, dedicated to the Royal Martyrs, was solemnly consecrated in Hua Hin by Archbishop Theophylact. It is situated 120 miles from Bangkok near the summer palace of the Thai Royal Family, which was built between 1911 and 1915 by the heir to the Thai throne, the Minister of Defence, Prince Chakrapong. He had spent his childhood and youth in Russia, received his education at the Military Academy and was considered to be a ward of Tsar Nicholas II, who was a friend of his father King Chulalongkorn.

This week Orthodox life in Thailand will be marked by events surrounding two more churches. On Tuesday Archbishop Theophylact will lay the foundations of St Vladimir’s church in Chiangmay and on Thursday he will consecrate the church of St Sergius on the island of Chang. All the churches in Thailand have been built on the donations of parishioners.

The Russian Church to Recruit Missionaries for the Philippines

Bangkok: The Dependency of the Russian Orthodox Church in Taiwan is to recruit young people who wish to bring the news of Christ to the Philippines. The Dependency Press Service stated that:

‘The Lord has now brought about extremely favourable conditions for such a witness in the Philippines, where thousands of people wish to join the Orthodox Church’. ‘Young people of both sexes who wish to do missionary work in the Philippines must be prepared to serve the Church with zeal and self-sacrifice, must have a profound faith and be loyal to the traditions of the Russian Orthodox Church and possess high moral qualities’. ‘The missionary must be ready to spend two months or more there. Knowledge of English and experience of missionary work are welcome but are not essential. It is vital to have the recommendation of your confessor, parish priest or diocesan bishop’.

The Mission of Orthodox Civilisation

Following the 1917 Western-organised coup d’etat, before which the Russian Empire had stood on the brink of victory in the Great War and of freeing Constantinople, and after the imperial martyrdoms of 1918 and the lost Civil War, by 1920 it seemed to many White Russians that all was over. The old Russia appeared to be finished, as the new Soviet Russia set out on the path of the atheist materialist ideology which had been imported into it by ‘sealed’ train. The ideals of Holy Rus, preserved in their integrity in the Church Outside Russia, seemed to have no future in the Russian Lands themselves. And so began many a lonely decade of exile, bitter repentance and isolation in the Church Outside Russia, while we hoped and prayed that the Church Inside Russia might not only survive persecution and captivity but also revive, and then we could join together with it.

True, from 1941 there began something of a revival, though it was beneath yet another colossal and tragic onslaught from the hordes of Western Europe. But by 1945 it could be seen that though in many respects the worst was over, there was still far to go. The next two generations were to be years of frustrating stagnation. Then in 1991 there came another tragedy. Through the utter incompetence of the last atheist leaders what remained of the Russian Empire (most of it) was divided. Under the new Communist/Capitalist opportunists, it appeared that the Russian Lands were to face the final phase of Westernisation, wholly losing their identity under the tide of American consumerism. It seemed as though this might be the end even for the remaining Orthodox cultural values, a heritage which had ironically been preserved by the cultural emptiness of Communism.

Thus, the West could impose the ‘restructuring’ (‘perestroika’) in Russia that it wanted. This would involve the destruction of the Russian Orthodox Church, which geopoliticians like Brzezhinski knew is the source of resistance to the West, of the ideal of Sovereign Holy Rus. The end, it appeared, was near. Then, in August 2000, with the Jubilee Council of the once captive Church and the canonisation of the Imperial Martyrs, the New Martyrs and New Confessors, there came hope. Just as Orthodox Russia had defeated Napoleon and Hitler, so it could defeat apostasy again. Outside Russia the processes of apostasy in the USA and its Western European colonial satellites (NATO), set on the New World Order which destroys national, family and personal identity, go forward. And although Russia since 2000 has not yet reversed those processes of apostasy, it has stopped them.

The fifth column of the anti-Russian oligarch-thieves, most of them not Russian and living abroad, who stole the people’s assets through ‘privatisation’, criminals protected by the West with its myth of democracy ( = aggressively atheist, elected dictatorship), has been defeated inside Russia. Inspiration came from the spiritual treasury of both parts of the Russian Church, from figures like the ever-memorable Archbishops Seraphim (Sobolev) and Averky of Jordanville and Metropolitan John (Snychev). They all knew that Russian Orthodox Civilisation is founded on the ideal of the Church of All Rus, on Holy Rus, the spiritual foundation for the rebirth of the Orthodox Empire. This is the only remaining bulwark of the unadulterated Christian Faith anywhere, which alone can fight against the evil of apostasy that now walks abroad. Such figures explained that Holy Rus is:

Spiritual integrity – the uncompromised Orthodox Faith lived out in daily life; the primacy of the spiritual and therefore of the moral over the material; the incarnation of this Faith in State life, that is, in social, political and economic life; the Sovereign, Imperial ideal of the people’s monarchy; the kingdom of heaven incarnate on earth in a multinational and multilingual Orthodox Empire. Here, as all the authentic representatives of Holy Rus have explained, we are not talking of Russian nationalism, but of the united patriotism of the many different peoples of Holy Rus. All who identify themselves as Russian Orthodox, regardless of nationality, belong to this world, the Orthosphere, and to the uncompromised service of the spirit and aims of the Church. The rebirth of Holy Rus as a Spiritual Empire is our ideal, the ideal of all Russian Orthodox Civilisation.

In this we are quite different from Western civilisation. Its ideal is progress, defined as material development based on science and technology. Its purpose is to increase human physical comfort and material wealth. On the other hand, Russian Orthodox Civilisation has as its ideal the transfiguration of the human will and soul and mind, which is only possible through spiritual and moral progress. Material progress denotes only that the human-being becomes a thing, part of matter, part of the material and biological world. Hence Darwinism, in which man is promoted as an animal, a mere biological and physiological entity, without an immortal soul, and whose only aim is the acquisition of things, or consumerism, as it is now called. This is the opposite of the spiritual and moral values of the New Testament and therefore of Russian Orthodox Civilisation.

It is thus clear that progress, in the Western material sense, is a movement to apostasy, to the end of the world, to the Last Judgement. This is the opposite of the spiritual and so moral transfiguration of humanity, which is the ideal of the Gospel and of Holy Rus. In the words of the great ecclesiologist and New Hieromartyr St Hilarion (Troitsky): ‘The ideal of Orthodoxy is not progress, but transfiguration…The New Testament does not know of progress in the European sense of this word, in the sense of moving forwards in the same dimension. The New Testament speaks of the transfiguration of nature and consequently moving not forwards, but upwards, heavenwards, Godwards’. This must also be the ideal of the Orthodox State, which is to restrain evil and apostasy by taking on the values of the Church. This is the alternative to the way of the world proposed by globalised capitalism.

The aim of Orthodox Christian economic life consists not of making a profit, as in crude monetarism, but of better ordering our spiritual and so moral life. Instead of Western economics, based on the race for profit through stripping finite natural resources and egoistic consumerism, Russian Orthodox Civilisation proposes sufficiency, but no more, for all. Economic development is to be regulated not by money-lending banksters and speculators on stock exchanges, but by the Lord’s Anointed. Private enterprise is not for individual profit, but for public well-being. Instead of futile and parasitic consumerism, based on the exhaustion of natural resources and the sullying of God’s Creation, we would then have a just distribution of natural wealth and social contentment. For this to happen, we need a State founded on the values of Orthodox Civilisation.

Our Mission

It was under the Carolingian regime at the end of the eighth century that Western Europe first began the long process of abandoning the Incarnation, that is, of abandoning Sacral Orthodox Christian Civilisation. In its place it would put the disincarnate dualism of iconoclastic clericalism on the one hand and the secularised State and society on the other hand. For by clericalising the Church, making it into less than the Church under the illusion of making it into more than the Church, a Super-Church, the State and the rest of society were gradually desacralised. The illusion of spiritualising the Church by imposing celibacy on the clergy meant disincarnating the Church from society, thus creating secularism.

As we have said, the first movement to desacralisation can be seen under the Carolingians. This took place through their rejection of the Holy Spirit’s incarnational role in sacralising the material world, that is, through the Carolingian Trinitarian filioque heresy and its resulting iconoclasm. Fortunately the Carolingian Empire collapsed and the part of Western Europe subject to it remained in communion with the Church for another quarter of a millennium. Unfortunately, the Carolingian project was revived by Carolingian-descended, Germanic popes in the middle of the eleventh century and its next stage appeared as papism. And since then the desacralising apostasy has continued inexorably.

As a result, after a thousand years of the degenerative process have gone by, Western Europe has today become, on the one hand, a fascinating complex of tourist-filled, medieval cathedrals and menacing castles, of museums and monuments, where life is observed, but not lived, and, on the other hand, a disfiguring complex of consumerist, financial depravity and amoral technology, of Sodom and Gomorrah. It has been our duty and calling to encourage the reintegration of the last surviving fragments and vestiges of Orthodox Christianity in Western culture back into Orthodox Civilisation, as it has itself managed to survive in its homelands outside apostatic Western Europe.

This has above all involved the then crucified and now risen Centre of the Orthodox Church and Civilisation, Russia, where the Centre is slowly awakening and being restored, as it strives to throw off the old cultural reflexes of the Soviet period. In piercing the veil of Western history and explaining it, in scattering the confusing, in looking beyond and so looking forward to Orthodoxy, which means being radical, we have been hampered. We have been hampered by the political compromises of that part of the Church that was under Soviet Communism. And we have been hampered by the political compromises of that part of the Church that was and increasingly is under US/EU colonial administration.

We have also been hampered by individuals who have compromised themselves with extremisms and deviations of the left side and of the right side, which they have adopted from weakness, in preference to the purity of Holy Orthodoxy. The Church is above left and right, above margins and fringes, above both personal and nationalistic compromises. The Church is the Tradition of the Holy Spirit, transcendent yet immanent, beyond history, yet in history, beyond weak humanity, yet incarnate in weak humanity. As the world globalises and moves ever closer to its self-created Armageddon with ever new developments, the Church responds to them and gives the world here and now the choice and chance of Her eternal perspective.