1. Bournemouth 2. Chatham 3. Doncaster
4. King’s Lynn 5. London 6. Portsmouth
7. Southampton 9. Glastonbury
1.Birmingham 2. London 3. Manchester
The British Orthodox community in the seaside town of Bournemouth, on England’s south coast, was founded in 1934 but it was not until 1951 that it purchased a freehold property in Osborne Road, Winton. Appropriately the 19th century building was originally a stable and later served as a carpenter’s workshop. It now serves as the Church of Christ the Saviour. In 1992 the local Institute of Higher Education became Bournemouth University, which has led to a number of Orthodox Christians studying in the town. When the now quite sizeable Indian Orthodox congregation was first established in Bournemouth in 2003 it worshipped in the British Orthodox Church, which it soon outgrew. In addition to the local congregation the Bournemouth Church has supported and continues to support various missions including Portsmouth and Southampton and also scattered individuals further away, for example, in Bristol where it is hoped to found another new mission soon.
The historic town of Chatham, once the Royal Dockyard, is one of several small towns along the North Kent Coast, by the estuary of the River Medway, some 35 miles south-east of London. The British Orthodox community here began in 1994 with clergy from London serving occasional liturgies at a local Retreat Centre and later in a disused cemetery chapel in Maidstone. In 2002 a small freehold property, which had already been converted for use as a church, was purchased by the British Orthodox Church and became the Church of St. Alban and St. Athanasius. In recognition of its presence the local council named the alleyway “St. Alban’s Walk” and later provided gated access to ensure its security.
The attractive village of Cusworth was originally an estate property entirely belonging to a distinguished landed family, the Battie-Wrightons, and housing only tenants and staff connected with their mansion, Cusworth Hall. When the property was inherited by the last of the family, she was concerned that there was no church for the village, so opened the handsome chapel in the Hall to the public. When the Hall was sold to the local authority to serve as a Museum she transferred land in the village into a charitable trust and converted an 18th century pinfold (a building for stray animals) into a church and the cart-shed into a church hall. For a number of years it was run as an independent Christian Church but in 1988 she invited Abba Seraphim to assume the pastoral oversight and it was consecrated as an Orthodox Church. It is still the only church in Cusworth and stands at the heart of the village. The pews in the church are the original 18th century oak pews from the Cusworth Hall Chapel.
Each year the British Orthodox clergy and people, especially in the south of England, visit the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey, which are owned by the Anglican Church. The Divine Liturgy is celebrated either in the Undercroft of the Lady Chapel (the site of the original church) or St. Patrick’s Chapel, depending on the weather. Most years Abbas Seraphim or British Orthodox clergy join the annual Glastonbury Pilgrimage, which processes through the town as an act of Christian witness. On that morning an Orthodox Liturgy is celebrated in the Undercroft, alternating each year between the Eastern Orthodox and the Oriental Orthodox. For many years Abba Seraphim has been the Oriental Orthodox celebrant.
The British Orthodox Church in King’s Lynn in the County of Norfolk, was established in 1995 when a former Anglican priest was received into the Church. At first the congregation met in temporary accommodation in the village of Terrington St. Clements (7 miles west of King’s Lynn) but in 1999 used a chapel in the fine church of All Saints, the oldest church in King’s Lynn. Needing a more permanent home, Her Majesty The Queen came to our rescue in 2000, by graciously offering the British Orthodox Church the use of the disused Church at Babingley, on her Sandringham estate, some 5½ miles north-east of King’s Lynn. Babingley is one of Norfolk’s ‘lost’ villages and now only a hamlet, but stands on the eponymous river, where in 615 the Burgundian bishop, St. Felix, came to evangelise the pagan Saxons. The ancient church, the ruins of which still stand nearby, fell into disrepair and in 1880 a small corrugated-iron mission church, standing in its own graveyard, was built by the Prince of Wales (later, King Edward VII) to replace it, but embellished with a traditional thatched roof. The congregation feels a particular poignancy when praying for H.M. The Queen during its services, because they have the use of the church solely through her kindness and generosity.
The British Orthodox Church has had a long presence in London but does not possess its own church building. We have used the Anglican Church of St. Thomas at Charlton, in south-east London, within a few minutes’ walk of the Church Secretariat, since 1989. Although small the parish maintained a weekly liturgy until ill health and death deprived it of both a local priest and deacon and in 1991 the celebration of the liturgy became monthly, with support from a variety of clergy in maintaining services. The Church Secretariat at Charlton has been in frequent use for prayer meetings, instruction and study evenings. In 2010 we added bi-monthly liturgies held in the Chapel at Morden College, Blackheath. It was felt that a more central venue would attract more support, so in 2012 the London Mission was started in addition to the other venues, at the historic church of St. George in the East at Shadwell, on the eastern side of the City of London. At the moment the London Mission offers a monthly Saturday morning liturgy and a monthly study evening on a Thursday. There has been slow, but gradual growth and as numbers increase, the number of services will be increased. Abba Seraphim is responsible for all the ministry in London and is assisted at Shadwell by Fr. Peter Farrington.
Portsmouth is situated on Portsea Island being separated from the mainland by a very narrow strip of tidal water. The inhabitants of Portsmouth have a reputation for not leaving Portsea Island. Following an earlier (late 1990s) attempt at a Portsmouth Mission, based in an outlying district of Portsmouth on the mainland which failed to grow, the decision was taken that this time the mission must be based on Portsea Island itself, in the heart of Portsmouth. The new mission began in early 2010 with Twelfth Hour Prayers prayed in the home of one of our deacons. By the summer of 2010 a regular monthly Liturgy began to be celebrated using Saint Faith’s (Anglican) Church in the centre of Portsmouth. New British Orthodox Church members who have joined the Portsmouth mission have included older lapsed former Roman Catholics and also young men in their early twenties with no previous Church background. The Portsmouth Church also has an active catechumenate.
The Southampton Mission of Saint Polycarp was founded in December 2011. The small but dedicated congregation provides an important witness to a large housing estate in the city of Southampton, making the ancient Orthodox Christian Faith available to the many who had never heard of it and whose only knowledge of Christianity previously had been modern charismatic services. One of the Southampton congregation is entering into the life of an urban hermit. From her eighth floor flat she looks out across the city, praying for the many people whose needs have been made known to her. Even as the desert hermits in Egypt pray unseen by those for whom they pray, so this hermit prays unseen in the spiritual desert of the modern city.
The Orthodox Midlands Mission of St Chad based in in Stoke-on-Trent, will witness the baptism of its first members at Pentecost 2014. Father Peter Farrington has been in contact with a growing group of enquirers in the Stoke area since 2013, and has been visiting Stoke to support their understanding of the Orthodox Faith. At the first Liturgy held in Stoke in March 2014, five local people were received as catechumens. Father Peter will be visiting Stoke on a weekly basis to support the development of an Orthodox community and to provide further teaching and to celebrate the Liturgy. The community is using the Church of St Paul, an Anglican church, in the middle of a large housing estate in Stoke.
The Orthodox Mission of St Andrew in Windsor was established in October 2012. Father Peter Farrington had been visiting Windsor to instruct a catechumen, and together they decided that their regular prayers could take place in a public setting as the basis for an Orthodox mission. The mission began by praying the Orthodox Evening Prayers together once a month in the ancient Church of St Andrew, a place of Christian worship for over 1000 years. In March 2013 the liturgy was celebrated for the first time in the mission together with a baptism, and the numbers of those participating in the life of the mission continued to grow. The regularity of both prayer and liturgy has increased over the year and now there is a monthly Liturgy on a Saturday morning and a service on a mid-week evening. It is planned to increase the regularity of Liturgies to two a month during 2014. The first ordination as Reader of one of the members of this community will take place in the summer of 2014.
Financing the Ministry of the Church
Each parish and mission has its own local treasurer and bank account, which it uses to support the work of the local church. All income is derived from the tithes and offerings of the local congregation. They are not required to contribute anything to the Central Fund, but when able to do so, make occasional contributions to it. The Central Fund is derived principally from bequests to the church in past years. This is used to pay for maintaining the work of the Church Secretariat and clergy travel, as well as making occasional grants for repairs and refurbishment of local churches and paying insurance and rental for the London congregation. The Central Fund met the full purchase price of the Church in Chatham and has bought cars for priests.
Other Current Mission Activity
As Director of Missions for the British Orthodox Church, Father Peter Farrington coordinates all new missionary activity under the direction of Abba Seraphim.
FARNHAM in Surrey – Father Peter Farrington is beginning to work in this town. In July 2014 he will lead “The Orthodox Way of Prayer”, a study day exploring Orthodox spirituality, using an Anglican church in the town. Later in 2014 the Liturgy will be celebrated here.
OXFORD – Father Peter Farrington is developing plans to celebrate the Liturgy in Oxford on a regular basis in 2014. A group of enquirers and catechumens are already being supported and will become the basis for a community in this town. The first Liturgy will be celebrated in July 2014.
Our hope for the future is that God will grant the flourishing of at least one new mission each year, and eventually to see such a mission established in every county of England and even of Great Brit-ain so that an English language and culture Orthodox missionary community is close at hand for every soul that begins to explore the Orthodox Faith. There is also need for financial support to fund the development and production of printed, audio and video materials; increasingly long journeys to engage in mission and for financial support to allow a concentration on these missionary projects. The clergy of the British Orthodox Church receive no funding from the Coptic Orthodox Church, and the missionary nature of our growing network of communities does not allow them to provide the level of support which would allow for full-time missionary ministry. Thanks to the kind and generous support of faithful friends around the world there is some regular partial funding for these ministries, but more is required to allow for a full-time commitment and to fund the production of the various missionary materials which are required.