THE BRITISH ORTHODOX FELLOWSHIP
The British Orthodox Church has a mission to bring the people of this country to Orthodoxy – with a British ethos. So how do you do that then, one might ask?
It is a question much in my mind at the moment. For some months, thanks to the kindness of Mark Wright, who, with his wife Faith has restored St. Andrew’s Church at Mickfield in Suffolk, and with the permission of Abba Seraphim, we have been holding fortnightly Orthodox evening prayer services at the Church; now we had decided to go one further – and have a Liturgy.
Oddly enough it was the most difficult thing to arrange which came easiest; we needed a priest and deacons. The nearest BOC Church, St. Felix at Babingley, has a well-established congregation and a wonderful priest in Fr. Anthony Clements; but on East Anglia’s roads it is a two hour journey each way to get to Mickfield, and Fr. Anthony is retiring to Scotland. Then Peter Farrington and Fr. Michael Robson from Chatham volunteered to come up to Suffolk to conduct a Liturgy. So, we had a priest and at least one subdeacon; we also had a Church; what we did not have was a congregation.
I asked Peter Farrington for the list of enquirers in ‘the area’, and that had about 20 names on it, some of whom we knew well, since they were part of the congregation at St. Felix; the geographical spread went from Cambridge to Essex. In late April I sent letters out to all those on the list, and Mark Wright and I advertised locally.
The Feast of Pentecost seemed an appropriate time to choose, and so Saturday 26 May dawned, with the usual weather that accompanies a British Bank Holiday week-end. I arrived at Mickfield just before 1 o’clock. As those of you who have read Mark’s uplifting account of the resurrection of this medieval Church will know, its story is an inspiring one, and as Mark and I talked, it occurred to me that this was to be the first Orthodox Liturgy ever held in the long history of this Church.
The arrival of Fr. Michael with Peter provided an opportunity to catch up on what we had all been doing. There is something about his presence that just breathes sanctity, and even being in his presence is to experience a quiet joy; I have no idea whether he realises the calming effect he has on others, but it was needful; Peter, as ever, radiates a confidence that if it is the work of the Lord, it will be done – even as he offers too much of himself to be the instrument of that work. As we prepared the Church for the service, which was due to start of 2.30, I was struck by its beauty – Alan, the music director at Mickfield, and his wife Muriel had done a splendid job with the flowers. The arrival, just after we had started the Raising of Incense, of Jackie-Sarah and subdeacon Chris Barnes from Babingley swelled our congregation and provided a companion for Peter when we came to the Liturgy. Watching Chris and Peter together, one might have thought they had acted together forever – it was, they assured us all, their first time; you’d never have known.
It was an uplifting experience to see the incense and to feel the presence of the angels with us as we worshipped according to the ancient liturgy of St. James. Fr. Michael gave a thoughtful sermon on Pentecost and its meaning for us all, and, all too soon, we reached the distribution of the antidoran; it was with a sense of surprise that we realised that it was nearly 5.00. As we sat and talked over coffee and biscuits afterwards, there was a sense of fellowship, and that we had done something important. Now, of course, we have to build on it. But Peter is right, if it is His will, it will happen – as long as we allow ourselves the chance to be His instrument.