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
- 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.
- 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)
- Colchester (Essex). St John of Shanghai. Our property, bought with £180,000 raised in an internet appeal through the orthodoxengland site.
- Norwich (Norfolk). St Alexander Nevsky. Our property, bought with £65,000 raised in an internet appeal through the orthodoxengland site.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- Canterbury (Kent). Christ the Saviour. The historic centre of English Christianity.
- St Albans (Hertfordshire/Eastern Buckinghamshire). St Alban. A historic centre near London.
- Lincoln (Lincolnshire). The Dormition. A great many Russian-speakers live in this agricultural county.
- 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.
- Winchester (Hampshire). The Resurrection. A centrally-located historic royal centre and the pre-Norman capital of England. Hence the dedication.
- York (Yorkshire). St Constantine and St Helen. In the centre of Yorkshire, St Constantine was present here when proclaimed Emperor in 306.
- Sheffield (Yorkshire). The Transfiguration. A presence in heavily-populated South Yorkshire, in a town where metal was once transformed (hence the dedication).
- Sunderland (Northumbria). St Nicholas. A presence in a former ship-building town (hence the dedication) in the North-East.
- East Cowes (Isle of Wight). (The Royal Martyrs). Commemorating the Imperial Family’s presence here.
- Rochester (Kent). (St Andrew the First-Called). A historic location for the large Medway population.
- 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