Our ROCOR Wessex Mission

Dear brothers and sisters,

As most of you are aware, we have a growing number of Cardiff parishioners who live at a considerable distance from our parish-base in Canton, but who, nevertheless, travel across the River Severn week-by-week to be part of the life of our community.

Just after the mass closedown of most of the Orthodox parishes of Britain after the covid lockdown, when virtually every jurisdiction apart from ROCOR and the Serbian Patriarchate totally ‘shut up shop’ and left the faithful without the Holy Mysteries, our ‘commuting’ brothers and sisters from Wessex began to arrive, with the numbers continuing over the months and indeed the following years.

We now regularly have the support of brothers and sisters from Wiltshire, Somerset and Dorset – with Poole being the furthest point on our map of parish homes – and their place in parish life is active: singing in the choir, serving in the altar, accommodating and picking up non-drivers (and the rector), taking turns on the flower rota, and in so many other ways.

We also have friends who are unable to get to us so regularly, but whom we see when they are able to make the journey to Cardiff, knowing that Church means giving up virtually a whole day of the week. The Church will now be going to them!

Just after lockdown, His Grace, Bishop Irenei, was receptive to the idea of providing a traditionalist Orthodox presence in Wessex, and more recently gave his blessing to a peripatetic mission, which we wish to dedicate to Saints Birinus and Aldhelm.

On the last Monday evenings of January and February we have gathered aboard Porphyrios’s narrow-boat for a service and supper, blessing it shortly after Theophany, and celebrating Small Compline earlier this week.

This Monday, after a lovely day enjoying the Wiltshire countryside and visiting rural churches with parishioners, a beautiful moonlit evening under a clear starry sky saw us make our way dodging puddles along the tow-path of the Kennet and Avon canal to where Porphyrios’s boat was moored, windows aglow with lamplight and woodsmoke rising form the chimney.

Its long, lamplit interior, with its wood-burning stove already heating a great pan of soup was our destination, and even after only two gatherings has become a cherished part of mission life.

For the moment, whilst numbers for the Monday gatherings are not too great this will be the venue of our service and supper, but perhaps we shall outgrow it soon. Already, if everyone local turned up it might be an impossible squeeze. Time will tell!

Our first local Liturgy will be celebrated in the Chapel of St Lawrence, in the centre of Warminster, on Saturday 9thMarch, and will be on the second Saturday of each month.

We are extremely grateful to the feoffees of the chapel, who hold it in trust for the people of Warminster, and who are supportive in offering this historic non-parochial chapel for our use.

With its disabled friendly, level interior, little kitchen (stocked with china especially for our use) this High Street setting is a great blessing. Thanks to Hierodeacon Avraamy’s skills, we have posters in English, Ukrainian and Russian for local advertising, and one of the trustees is being very active in making our presence known.

Parishioners and I visited on Sunday evening after our drive from Cardiff, receiving a warm welcome, hearing a little of the chapel’s history, climbing the tower, ringing the 17th century curfew bell and inspecting the 18th century clock.

We eagerly look forward to celebrating the Divine Liturgy and it would be lovely to welcome parishioners from Cardiff to support the Wessex parishioners whenever they can, and for them to contribute to Wessex mission life in small ways.

In the summer months, we look forward to local pilgrimages, as there are so many sacred places in which to honour the saints of the Orthodox West, with Glastonbury as the jewel in the crown.

Sincere thanks to all in Wessex (including hospitable, patient and generous spouses), where great dedication and enthusiasm are building a wonderful, warm and loving local community.

May the Holy Hierarchs, Birinus and Aldhelm, and the Holy and Right-Believing King Alfred, pray to God for us, and our Wessex mission!

In Christ – Hieromonk Mark

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Parish News – week of the pharisee and the tax-collector


Monday 14/27 February

Dear brothers and sisters,

What a busy few days across our parish, with today starting with a visit to several of the historic parish churches of the Wylye Valley in Wiltshire with Wessex parishioners, starting at the Church of St Mary the Virgin in Boyton, with its wonderful collection of remnants of medieval, renaissance and Georgian stained glass, carved stone monuments and liturgical features, and embroideries – including a monumental icon of the Hospitality of Abraham.

It was also lovely to revisit the little church of St Cosmas and Damian, in Sherrington, where some of our Wiltshire ladies prayed in the ample porch each Sunday during the misery of lockdown – prior to their migrating to Cardiff from their erstwhile parish, where the Holy Mysteries were completely abandoned. This quintessentially English village church is a remnant of the rural Anglicanism of past centuries, with its texts painted in cartouches on the walls, and its candlelit pulpit and lectern: the only real adornment being an embroidered Madonna and Child by the same embroiderer whose work we had seen in Boyton Church – Margaret Cuddiford.

The evening saw our ‘last-Monday-gathering’ on Porphyrios’s narrow-boat on the Kennet and Avon canal, where we chanted compline with the canons to the Mother of God and the Guardian Angel before supper and discussions about our forthcoming first Wessex Liturgy at 10:30 on Saturday 9th March. This followed a very positive meeting with one of the feoffees (trustees) of the chapel of St Lawrence in Warminster, with a tour of the church, including climbing the tower to see the 17th century curfew-bell and the 18th century clock.

Many thanks to our parishioners from Wiltshire for their characteristically warm hospitality and generosity. We are extremely grateful to Porphyrios for welcoming us aboard his home, where we look forward to praying before the icon-corner in the lamp and candlelight light, warmed by the wood-burning stove, and tonight, with wonderful homemade soup (not soap, as per the typo in the emailed  newsletter!)

We also enter this week after a weekend blessed not only by the celebration of the Divine Liturgy, but also by Saturday’s pilgrimage, whose locality in no way undermined the significance of the occasion as we gathered in the Oratory Church to honour the holy protomartyr of Britain, St Alban, with a moleben offered before his shrine.

Our young brothers took turns chanting the canon and parts of the service of supplication, and we look forward to those soon to be baptised taking their turns in the prayers of our pilgrimages in the coming months. We are most grateful to the Oratorians for their usual warm hospitality, including the use of the hall, where we shared lunch and chatted, with Aldhelm tinkling the ivories in the background. I was the very happy to be able to perform a house-blessing after the pilgrimage.

We now look forward to our next pilgrimage on the first Saturday of the Great Fast, 23 March, the Saturday of St Theodore. The Divine Liturgy will be celebrated in Margam Abbey, with devotions to the Mother of God and the commemoration of St Theodore, with the blessing of kolyva. Details will follow.

I will not be arranging an April Pilgrimage, as I hope it’s place may be taken by our April Liturgy in Warminster on Saturday 13th and the Holy Unction (soborovanie) service in our London cathedral the following Saturday, 20thApril, at 14:00, for which I hope as many people as possible will make the journey and join in this important celebration.

This Sunday’s Liturgy, in St John’s, was blessed by a well supported kliros, and some of our boys were very enthusiastic in chanting the Litany responses with a generous fortissimo! Again, we had a congregation of around fifty, an encouraging number of students and young people, and a large number of confessions and communicants. I spent the hour before proskomedia hearing confessions, as well as hearing our children’s confessions during the preparation of the Holy Gifts. I had intended to not hear confessions at this point, but given the number of children to be confessed, it was necessary.

I would appreciate confession requests for this Thursday’s Nazareth House confessions by 18:00 on Wednesday, please, and also notice from those requiring Sunday confessions would be appreciated. It may be necessary to hear the Sunday confessions of regular communicants every other week, given the sheer volume of confessions, which are a challenge to fit in.

At the end of Thursday’s confessions, Compline will be chanted at 19:00, with the hope that this will be repeated each week.

Please start thinking about the Great Fast, particularly in terms of reading materials, and ensure that you have spiritual food for the Lenten season.

In Christ – Hieromonk Mark

Zacchaeus Sunday – Parish News

Greetings to you all as we continue to celebrate the after-feast of the Meeting of the Lord. S prazdnikom!

As the feast fell on a Thursday, when St John’s is unavailable, the Divine Liturgy was celebrated in Llanelli, and I was pleased to be able to assist Father Luke by singing on the kliros. Unfortunately, the afternoon journey to Cardiff was severely disrupted by problems with the railway line beyond Llanelli, so a number of confessions had to be cancelled, though I still managed to see a few people in the early evening before joining our young people to congratulate Kalina on her birthday. Many years!

Despite half-term, road closures, car-troubles and parishioners’ commitments, we were heartened by attendance at today’s Liturgy, and despite the dent in numbers we were still comfortably in excess of forty souls once the children were factored in.

It was good to welcome brothers from Swansea, and it was lovely to be joined by our former parishioner, Monika, visiting from Leicester with her children. In my homily on the saving curiosity of Zacchaeus, I referenced her film “Finding Faith”, and anyone who would like the link and sign-in details should contact me or Father Deacon Mark.

Many thanks to the kliros, operating on holiday numbers, and to Sasha for lone-serving, and thanks to those who brought flowers and refreshments for our celebration.

We greeted Yuriy at the end of our service, congratulating him on his sixth birthday and chanting many years before singing happy birthday after grace at trapeza, during which it was lovely to see so much conversation, warmth and fellowship.

I must admit to being rather slow today after a lovely but busy week and lots of travelling, last Sunday having seen me head over the Severn, taking the opportunity to not only have a prayerful quiet-day in Glastonbury, but also to perform several house-blessings and be in Chippenham for a singing practice with our Wessex gentleman before returning to Llanelli for the feast. Masha has also spent time working on vocal technique and chants with our local ladies, and we are very grateful for this preparation for the liturgical life of our Wessex mission.

We are extremely encouraged by the support being given by the feoffees  of the Chapel of St Laurence in Warminster, who, as trustees, govern the extra-parochial chapel, which is classed as a non-royal peculiar, having being acquired by the townspeople of Warminster at the reformation.

We greatly look forward to our Liturgies on the second Saturday of each month, commencing on 9th March with the Hours and Liturgy at 10:30, confessions being heard from 10:00. The generosity of spirit that we have already received is heartening, with help offered in notifying the local Orthodox that we will be serving in the town.

We already hold a Wessex prayer meeting on the last Monday of the month, currently meeting ‘afloat’ on Porphyrios’s narrowboat – now christened the “porphyrion”. Last month’s initial gathering saw the blessing of the boat and a mission-supper, following several house-blessings, a pilgrimage to Whitchurch Canonicorum and the blessing of the River Wylye. We shall be certainly trying to maximise what we fit into clergy visits.

Our Cheltenham Liturgies will be moving to the third Saturday of the month, and our pilgrimages will be on the fourth Saturday.

Returning to the principality – this week’s confessions in Nazareth House will follow the Thursday pattern, for which emails would be appreciated by 18:00 on Wednesday. I shall also be able to hear some shorter confessions before and after our moleben in St Alban’s., and have already mentioned this to a few people.

We look forward to our protomartyrs pilgrimage on Saturday, and pilgrims should assemble at the Oratory Church of St Alban-on-the-Moors for our 10:30 moleben to St Alban and the reading of his life, before the veneration of a portion of his sacred relics and icon. We are very grateful to Father Sebastian and his confrères for their characteristically warm hospitality, which includes use of the church-hall for a bring and share lunch, for which all food-offerings will be very gratefully accepted.

Weather permitting, we shall head to Caerleon after lunch, visiting the Roman remains of the ‘city of legions’, where the protomartyrs of Wales, Julius and Aaron were garrisoned as soldiers of the Imperial army, before their arrest and martyrdom.

Thanks to those who have already offered lifts to our non-drivers. This is much appreciated.

Echoing Deacon Mark’s announcement, would parishioner please refrain from parking vehicles on the grass on the right hand far end of the drive, next to the church vestries, this has been planted with bulbs and seeded with wild flowers and is not a parking area.

Our prayers are with our very dear sister, Despina, as she makes her way across Europe to Greece, before the last leg to life in Cyprus, and we wish her a safe journey, happy that Catalin is accompanying her on a long and challenging drive for the land bound portion across the continent. She occupies a very special place in our hearts and is greatly loved in our ROCOR and Romanian Orthodox communities in which she has been a faithful presence and a help to many. Kalo taxidhi! May God bless your journey and protect your every mile!

Whilst we were celebrating in Cardiff, our diocese was blessed by the ordination of Deacon Alban Illingworth to the sacred priesthood in our London Cathedral, and he will serve in our Durham mission. We are greatly blessed that despite mischievous schismatic ‘defrocked’ whispering about the state of our God-preserved diocese, we go from strength to strength, with the establishment of new missions, the ordination of new clergy, and growth within our parishes. We congratulate Father Alban, as well as newly-ordained Deacon Antonio in Geneva, and the priest Georgi who has transferred from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to serve in Zurich. Many, blessed years to you all, dear fathers. Axios! Axios! Axios!

Please remember the clergy in your prayers.

In Christ – Hieromonk Mark

Weekly News – Monday 12 February

Dear brothers and sisters,

Greetings to you all after another busy weekend, with Liturgies in Cheltenham and Cardiff, the joy of sharing the celebration of Faith with so many people, and the unexpected arrival of geographically distant parishioners and friends not seen for a while. It’s also wonderful that recent visitors are now clearly new parishioners, looking very much at home in the parish. Praise God!

Before the busy week ahead, I’m happy to be soaking up the sun on a bus wending its way over the Mendips for a quiet, prayerful day in Glastonbury – having just glimpsed the Tor rising above the Somerset Levels – before a house blessing and time with our Wessex parishioners, the feast of the Meeting of the Lord in Llanelli, then confessions and pastoral time in Cardiff before another weekend.

Our third week back in St John’s was blessed with another well-attended Liturgy (which constantly sustains forty adults or more, plus the children every week), with parishioners from across Wessex joining us for our celebration, which ended with the admission of young Maximilian to the catechumenate after around six months of dedicated participation. We are very grateful to his dad for driving him the considerable distance from Monmouth week by week.

Thanks to our choir, who sang a linguistically well balanced Liturgy, with English alongside the Slavonic, reflecting the developing dynamic of the parish, and thanks to all who contributed to trapeza by bringing food and so warmly and generously looking after everyone.

Parishioners are clearly enjoying being in St John’s, though we are still getting used to things, with a rather minimal set up. However, without the rather stark interior of Nazareth House, even the minimal Orthodox setting feels much warmer. We are very pleased that the large shrines for our iconostasis now flank the high altar when not in situ for Liturgy, and look forward to the frontals that Georgina will be making for them (as well as new analoy covers) after her current Walsingham visit.

The return of weekly trapeza has made a great difference to parish life, and it was heartening to hear my nephew say what a welcome change it was to be surrounded by so many kind and generous people. This is a prime way in which we can touch those who come through our doors with God’s love working in us and through us.

As clarified on messenger, our LOCAL pilgrimage will involve venerating St Alban’s relics in SPLOTT, not Hertfordshire. I have emailed Fr Sebastian to check the availability of the hall for a bring-and-share lunch, as this could make things more straightforward. ‎

We shall celebrate the moleben to St Alban in the Oratory Church in Swinton St, at 10:30, venerating a portion of the protomartyr’s sacred relics, and then have lunch if the hall is free. We shall then head to Caerleon, weather permitting, to visit the amphitheatre and remains of the garrison where Saints Julius and Aaron would have lived. Notification of your intention to attend would be appreciated, so that we can endeavour to match places in cars with non-drivers for the journey to Caerleon. Lifts will be greatly appreciated for those of you with spare places in your vehicle.

The lack of availability of St John’s on Thursdays means our Liturgy for the Meeting of the Lord will be in the little chapel of St David and St Nicholas, at 11 New Rd, Dafen, Llanelli SA14 8LS.

The Hours and Liturgy will commence at 10:00. I will travel to Cardiff after the Liturgy so that confessions may be heard in Nazareth House in the late afternoon and early evening. Please contact me by 18:00 on Wednesday, though I have already received some verbal requests at Liturgy. Notification of those intending to confess on Sunday is also greatly appreciated, so that we know how many people are expected within our limited time-frame.

Thanks to all who have started contributing to St John’s food bank, and also to all who contributed to the extra collection for leprosy Sunday, a few weeks ago, raising over two hundred pounds, before any offerings from further west.

I look forward to the celebration of the after-feast of the Meeting of the Lord and feast of St Agatha, on Sunday, for which the variables may be found at “orthodoxaustin”:


In Christ – Hieromonk Mark



Parish News – 14 January

Dear brothers and sisters,

Greetings for the forefeast of the Baptism of the Lord, and the feast of the repose of our dearly loved St Seraphim of Sarov! It is always so heartening when we celebrate a saint who is so universally loved, especially in such fractious and divisive times. May he pray for us, and for true Orthodox unity in the face of schism and such betrayal of Faith.

This weekend’s services saw the leave-taking of the feast of the Nativity, with the Divine Liturgy being celebrated in Cheltenham, and the feast of the Circumcision and St Basil in Cardiff. It was a very joyful weekend, though much quieter than last weekend, with our Nativity services.

We were very glad to arrive in Cheltenham in bright winter sun, and under the now expected blue skies, sharing a joyful Liturgy for the Leave-Taking of the Nativity, with Masha visiting and helping to sing the festal chants.

We thank her and our usual singers for their labours on the kliros, and we are very grateful to our sisters for a generous meal, enjoyed by all. It was lovely to have Cardiff parishioners join us, as well as brothers from the Oxford parish. I am extremely happy that the next Cheltenham Liturgy, on Saturday 10th February, will be on the feast of Saints Ephrem and Isaac the Syrian, a double-joy and double-blessing!

Our Cardiff Liturgy today was a little different to usual, with three principal singers away, but it was good that our very capable Hierodeacon Avraamy and Marina were joined by some of our sisters, and that our brother, Alexander, was able to move from the sanctuary to the kliros to rouse the Liturgy with Byzantine chant. We look forward to more Byzantine chant in our services, after the joy of the polyeleos at our Nativity vigil and today’s Liturgy chants.

With Christmas behind us, today’s feast and joyful celebration stood between the Nativity and Forefeast of Theophany, and it was lovely that we were able to bless Vasilopita in honour of St Basil the Great at the end of Liturgy, and to see the pleasure that the shared cakes brought to our congregation. With the prayers for the Lord to bless our ‘comings in’ and ‘goings out’, this seemed very apt, as we prepare for our return to St John’s.

Sadly Thursday morning activities in the chapel at Nazareth House make the usual services for the eve of the Theophany impractical, though I will hear confessions in the afternoon, before my journey to London. Please email me by 18:00, on Wednesday.

The coming weekend will see our last Liturgy in Nazareth House, and we will perform the Great Blessing of Water at the end of Liturgy, so please bring bottles to take Theophany water home, and send any requests for houses of flats to be blessed.

Following the service and packing ready for our move to St John’s, I will be heading to Wiltshire for a few days, where our new Wessex mission will hold its first prayer meeting and where I will bless the River Wylye and the homes of some of our parishioners in both Wiltshire and Dorset, hoping also to visit St Wite’s shrine with parish pilgrims.

After returning on Tuesday and Wednesday’s move, I look forward to Theophany home-blessings in Cardiff.

On behalf of the clergy, may I extend thanks for the generosity and kindnesses shown to us over the festive period.

May God bless you all.

In Christ – Hieromonk Mark


Weekly News – 25 December

Dear brothers and sisters,

I hope that those of you sharing western Christmas with your families have a been blessed with a time of sharing and joy.

Though the festivities may last for a day or two more, it is important for us to focus on the remaining week and half of the Nativity Fast, preparing for the coming feast prayerfully and with spiritual focus.

Given it was western Christmas Eve, we expected our Sunday Liturgy to be low in attendance, but we were surprised by the number of people who made their way to Nazareth House, and we were pleased to welcome new visitors. We were relieved that Mass ended earlier than usual, allowing more time to set up the church. Thanks to all who helped with this, and we are – as always – grateful for those who played their part in the celebration of the Liturgy.

The Sunday of the Holy Forefathers reminded us that we are in the last two weeks of the Fast, and the coming weekend – with the Sunday of the Holy Fathers – will be our last before Nativity, marked by the reading of the genealogy of Christ, when we will hear the generations through which Christ came in the flesh: the generations through which God descended to humanity, and humanity was raised up to heaven.

The variables for next Sunday’s Liturgy may be found at orthodoxaustin, as usual:


Confessions will be on Thursday, so I would appreciate emails/texts/messages by 19:00 tomorrow evening to allow time to get in touch with those who would like to attend. Please remember that there are some parishioners who are unable to come for confession in the week, and really need time on Sunday.

The following weekend, our service on Christmas Eve will be at 19:00, possibly simplified due to us having limited singers, and the Christmas Day Liturgy at our usual Sunday time – starting as close to. 11:00 as possible.

Our sisters have started discussing food for Christmas trapeza, and I would direct you all to the WhatsApp group, where discussions are going on, though our senior-sister Menna can also be contacted regarding food you may wish to bring. Let’s remember that Christmas refreshments are not only the responsibility of our sisters, and that we ask all to try and make an offering in some way.

This Saturday will bring the joy of Stephen’s baptism at 13:00, at the Old Church Hall in St Nicholas.

Anyone wishing to attend should contact me or Menna, so that we know that you are coming, and give directions, if needed We greatly look forward to this and welcoming Stephen to the Holy Mysteries on Sunday morning. Glory to God for all things!

Struggle on during the remaining days of the Fast, and if things have previously not gone according to plan, shake off the dust and pick yourselves up. If you’ve not prayed much, then start NOW. If you’ve neglected the Fast, them start NOW, even at the eleventh hour – remembering the encouraging words in St John Chrysostom’s wonderful homily that we hear at Pascha.

It applies equally to the coming feast, and to the whole of our Christian lives!

“For the Master is generous and accepts the last even as the first. He gives rest to him who comes at the eleventh hour in the same was as him who has laboured from the first. He accepts the deed, and commends the intention. Enter then, all of you, into the joy of our Lord. First and last, receive alike your reward.”

Let us spiritually make our way to Bethlehem, to contemplate the wonder of Love-Incarnate: Emmanuel – God With Us.

May God bless you all.

In Christ – Hieromonk Mark

Weekly News 18th December

Dear brothers and sisters,

Greetings for the feast of St Nicholas the Wonderworker! S prazdnikom! We especially send our warmest greetings to Kolya and to Olga’s son Nicholas, who has just graduated.

Though the Nativity is still a while away for us, the holiday season has certainly arrived, with our students having departed at the end of term and parishioners going to Russia, Ukraine and other destinations for the feast. This evening, carols and mince-pies in Splott brought a pre-festive reminder with the words and melodies that many of us knew growing up, shaping our childhood images and language of Christmas.

We also enjoyed listening to some traditional carols at Wednesday’s charity concert for Christians in the Holy Land, with the money raised following a Sunday collection of over £450 in Cardiff, a Llanelli collection, and several more personal donations. Many thanks to Masha, Edmund and Aldhelm, to all who supported the event, and those who have given with such generosity. It was lovely to be in a warm, candlelit St John’s, the parish not having used the church since Pascha.

Though I expected Sunday’s Liturgy to be thinly attended, we still mustered more than forty souls, with the possibility of confessing all who needed to approach the Holy Mystery, some of those having confessed outside the Little Oratory. We were pleased to welcome visitors for the first time, and hope that they will join us again for Liturgy soon, and perhaps join us in the cafe for a cuppa after we have packed away.

At the end of the Liturgy, the litia for the departed was offered for the repose of the souls of the newly departed handmaidens of God, Nadezhda, Galina and Viera, whom we ask you to remember in your prayers.

As already communicated, we are now unable to have confessions during mass – something that only became necessary due to changes in Nazareth House, but as guests we must ensure that there are no distractions during catholic services. With this in mind, for as long as we continue to celebrate Liturgy in Nazareth House, worshippers should try not to arrive before 10:45, unless instructed otherwise.

I received no answer from Nazareth House regarding this week’s confessions (as also to the matter of the Christmas Vigil), so through the good offices of the Oratorian Fathers, confessions will be heard in St Alban on the Moors on Thursday. Please email by Wednesday at 18:00 to make arrangements. I hope that will shall offer devotions to St Alban whilst we are there. It was a great joy to catch up with the Fathers this evening, and they reminded us that the Oratory Church is always there for our needs.

We look forward being together on Sunday, when we will celebrate the Sunday of the Holy Forefathers, and the variables may be found here:


It will be a great help to know who will need confessions, so please let me know.

We ask your prayers for the sick – Ludmilla, Brigid and Margarita.

Finally, Sunday brought a surprise to those in the congregation who were unaware that the Paddy who had died in the city centre, was NOT the Paddy who had become a friend of our parish whilst in Canton. His presence at Liturgy was a shock to some of our parishioners, and I was happy that we were able to chant many years for him, as well as for Andrew, who celebrated his nameday last week.

In Christ – Hieromonk Mark

Weekly News: 11th December 2023

Dear brothers and sisters,

After the forbidding weather of the last few days, I’m very happy for a sunny (and smooth) journey back to Wales from a visit to Cheltenham, for the funeral of the newly-departed handmaiden of God, Galina, asking your prayers for the repose of her soul: memory eternal!      

After a quieter week than usual, Deacon Mark and I were, of course, in Cheltenham on Saturday as well, celebrating the December Liturgy for our mission.

We were pleased to welcome visitors from Oxford, and despite extremely unpleasant driving conditions between Llanelli and Cardiff, we were blessed with our usual Cheltenham weather, with the sun coming out during confessions and filling the chapel with sunlight. By the time we left, the sun and primulas outside the chapel made it feel more like spring than winter. Thanks to mama Galina and mama Liuba for taking the reins and overseeing things in Natalya’s absence. Our next Cheltenham Liturgy will be on the Sunday after Nativity: 13 January, new-style.

The weather certainly impacted upon Cardiff attendance on Sunday, with a smaller than usual congregation of around thirty adults. With the last university lectures of the term this week, our students will be leaving for the Christmas vacation, so things will be quiet in the weeks ahead. I have greatly enjoyed spending time with the students and young people over the current term, and hearing their discussion on theology, history, the arts, culture and politics has been an antidote to the consumerist-mindlessness of much of the world around us. We pray for safe journeys for them – as well as parishioners from eastern Europe – as they rejoin family, both a home and abroad. May God bless them, and the holy angels guard them and guide their steps.

Sunday brought the contrast of our Cheltenham Liturgy in our very humble non-conformist setting with Nazareth House, in which our depleted congregation on such a windy and rainy day seemed somewhat swamped in the vastness of the chapel.

Our choir was also reduced, but what particularly struck me was how a quartet singing with confidence and focus can lead the Liturgy so effectively. In the absence of our usual basses, Hierodeacon Avraamy moved to the choir, which always sings with great confidence when he moves from the sanctuary to the kliros. Thank you, Father, and thanks to Olga for her direction of the choir during such a lovely Liturgy for the feast of the Kursk-Root Icon.

It was good to hear from Marina about the shipments of blankets, bedding and clothes to Ukraine, with the hope that the next collection will start being arranged after Nativity, when I hope that we will be able to contribute towards the costs of transportation as well as much needed donations.

On Wednesday (13th December), Masha will sing in a charity concert in St John’s Church, Canton, CF5 1NX at 19:30, with accompaniment by Edmund and an original piece for organ and electronics by Aldhelm, our Royal College master’s composition student. Money raised by charitable giving will be used for the support and relief of our Orthodox brothers and sisters in Israel’s West Bank and Gaza. Please endeavour to bring a friend and show your appreciation for the musical offerings in the evening’s collection.

As I have made known, during this period of rail disruption and overcrowded trains I will be limiting my journeys, and will be in Cardiff on Wednesday and Thursday, this week, with the availability of confessions on Thursday after the catholic morning mass, and in the afternoon and early evening. Please email requests by Thursday. As on the last two Thursdays, an Advent Moleben will be chanted at 16:00. As many of you will be in St John’s for Wednesday’s Concert, I will also be happy to hear some confessions there, if it helps.

Given the severe overcrowding of trains on Saturdays at this time of year, invariably resulting in a ninety minute homebound journey standing up – often with inebriated and anti-social company – I will not be in Cardiff on any of the remaining Saturdays in December – though we look forward to Steve’s baptism in St Nicholas on Saturday 30th!

Our remaining December dates follow:

Wednesday 13th December: 19:30 – Holy Land Charity Concert, St John’s Church, Canton, CF5 1NX. Confessions in St John’s by arrangement.

Thursday 14th December: 16:00 – Advent Moleben. Confessions will be heard before and after service.

Sunday 17th December: 11:00 Hours and Liturgy in Nazareth House, Cardiff. Confessions from 10:15.

Monday 18th December: Great Vespers for the Eve of St Nicholas Day, Nazareth House, Cardiff.

Tuesday 19th December: 10:00 Hours and Liturgy for St Nicholas Day, Llanelli.

Wednesday 20th December: 19:00 Compline in Llanelli.

Thursday 21 December: 16:00, Vespers for the Conception by St. Anna of the Most Holy Theotokos, Nazareth House, Cardiff. Confessions will be heard before and after the service.

Sunday 24th December: 11:00 Hours and Liturgy in Nazareth House, Cardiff. Confessions from 10:15.

Friday 29th December: 16:00 – Advent Moleben, Nazareth House, Cardiff. Confessions will be heard before and after service.

Saturday 30th December: Steve’s baptism in St Nicholas in the Vale. Details from clergy.

Sunday 31st  December: 11:00 Hours and Liturgy in Nazareth House, Cardiff. Confessions from 10:15.

May God bless you all, and give you strength as we continue our preparation for the Nativity, during this Advent Fast.

In Christ – Hieromonk Mark

Weekly News – Sunday 3 December

Dear brothers and sisters,

Today saw the celebration of the first Sunday of the Nativity Fast in Nazareth House, and we were relieved that we had fifteen minutes more than usual to set up for Liturgy – not much it may seem, but a significant help for us. I was happy that though today saw a fair few parishioners with commitments or circumstances keeping them away from Cardiff, we still mustered a goodly sized congregation for the beginning of Advent.

We were glad to have Hierodeacon Avraamy back with us, after being in Florence and only arriving home in Swansea in the early hours of last Sunday morning. We are very fortunate in having two deacons for Liturgy, and the solemnity that their concelebration adds to our services.

Thanks to all who contributed to today’s celebration, especially our servers, who though only two in number did so much, especially with the tidying up and packing away of the church.

It was lovely to see such sociable post-Liturgy fellowship as eighteen of us relaxed in our local café, with the clergy and students being the last to make their way home after animated conversation.

I neglected to announce that tomorrow’s Liturgy for the feast of the Presentation of the Mother of God in the Temple will be in Llanelli, with the Hours at 10:00 and the Liturgy at 10:30.

At least one person has understandably asked why there would not be a Liturgy in Cardiff in the morning, and that is due to a few reasons and not a casual decision.

With the parish lacking clergy-accommodation in Cardiff, it is not always possible to stay in town, and – as mentioned in the announcements – the present industrial action already has a major impact on travel from Llanelli to Cardiff. I spent ninety minutes standing and squashed in a corner on extremely crowded trains yesterday, after and before  three mile walks at either end of the journey. As some of our parishioners know, trains are constantly cancelled or late, making the those that are running extremely overcrowded, and every journey a gamble.

Each Liturgy requires the church to be set up after the end of Catholic masses of various and unpredictable length, someone to sing the Liturgy, and then for everything to be put away again. Without a guarantee that this support can be provided, Liturgy is Cardiff will not be practicable and our weekday Liturgies will be in Llanelli when there is no assistance for me in Nazareth House.

Such decisions are not taken casually, and I would ideally wish to see every festal Liturgy in Nazareth House, not to mention the celebration of Saturday Liturgies, but for this to happen, we need guaranteed support.

Given this weekend’s Saturday mission Liturgy in Cheltenham, I will make Thursday the confession weekday, and will fit in with parishioners’ needs in the afternoon and evening, though there will be a pause in confessions to chant an Advent Moleben at 16:00, as was done last week. May I have confession requests by noon on Wednesday, please.

Confessions can also be heard at the time of setting up the church in Cardiff, but we would like requests, given that we will be doing so on the way back from Cheltenham.

Looking ahead, may I remind you that Monday 11th December will see the Penarth Community Choir’s Christmas Concert, which our parishioner Marina (who sings in the Community Choir), hopes parishioners will be able to support. The performance will be in Tabernacle Baptist Church, Plassey St, Penarth CF64 1AE and starts at 19:00. Tickets cost £5 for adults and £4 for children.

Later in the week, Wednesday 13th December sees the charity concert in St John’s Church, Canton, CF5 1NX at 19:30. Masha, Edmund and Aldhelm will perform to raise money for the support of our communities in Israel’s West Bank in this time of crisis and urgent need. There is no entry fee but there will be a retiring collection to raise money for this needy and worthy cause.

Finally – we have heard the sad news that Paddy, whom we first met at St John’s died last week. Few people understood that this homeless man was a man of faith, with a deep knowledge of the scriptures and lively trust in God. His cancer noticeably wasted him over the time in which we knew him, and during that time he never asked for anything material, though members of community tried to give a little financial assistance. He did, however, always ask to pray, and constantly gave thanks for life, despite being destitute, seriously ill with little hope of recovery, enduring homelessness to avoid the culture of drugs and alcohol in hostels.

After our return from St John’s, he was able to overcome his fears and visit us, having grown up as an abandoned child in Nazareth House. Having talked of moving to accommodation in Northampton to have a clean break from negative influences in Cardiff, we were unaware that he was even in the city, until hearing the sad news. Please remember him in your prayers. Memory eternal! May the Lord have mercy upon his soul, and remember him in His Kingdom.

In Christ – Hieromonk Mark

Weekly News: 20th November

Dear brothers and sisters,

It seems a rather odd time at the moment, with family commitments, colds and viruses, and travels keeping parishioners away, and some of our brothers on pilgrimage, but parish life carries on regardless – whether services, study group, book-club, confessions, pastoral visits or social time.

Thanks to our choir and readers who sang so beautifully and prayerfully yesterday, with the use of both Church-Slavonic and English in the cherubic hymn being greatly appreciated. Thank you also to two of our youngest gentlemen, who despite being only teenagers were extremely industrious and instrumental in setting up the church in the absence of our usual helpers – moving and arranging furniture, lighting candles and lamps, and being a great help to Father Deacon Mark.

It was lovely to have so many children in church yesterday, and for them to commune of the Most Pure Mysteries, and we were able to welcome George back after his pilgrimage to the Bulgarian Athonite monastery of Zographou, to celebrate the dedication-feast of this house. Two of our brothers remain on the Holy Mountain and will be blessed to be part of the Feast of the Synaxis of the Holy Archangel Michael in the monastery of Docheiariou, tomorrow. We were also pleased to have Mike back with us, after some weeks of ill-health.

Over the last few days, I have been especially pleased to visit the Cardiff Oratory, whose Fathers very much miss being alongside our Orthodox presence, and who were updated with news of parish life, reminding us that we are always welcome to visit the shrine containing a portion of St Alban’s relics and the icon of Saints Alban and Amphibalus, painted by Misha.

Until our return to Nazareth House, weekday confessions were heard in St Alban’s Church, and some our parishioners made a weekly visits to the shrine. I hope that this might return, with a book of Orthodox prayers and intercessions being left in the church for our parishioners to pray and use.

Advent draws near, with various pre-Christmas activities beginning to fill the gaps in our diaries, whether school, community or church events, and it is always too easy for our Orthodox Nativity Fast to be overshadowed or even dominated by these events and shopping for western Christmas celebrations with non-Orthodox family and friends.

The lack of an equivalent of the Lenten Triodion shaping prayer and services can make the Nativity Fast a little haphazard and lacking the direction and momentum of Great Lent. This is precisely why we need to plan and prepare.

Last year, I encouraged parishioners to intensify their Advent prayer-life by praying the canon for the saint of each day, and I will repost the canons again, this coming Nativity Fast, together with fasting rules each week.

We should all seek to make extra offerings in our spiritual life – not only in terms of prayer, but also in actions: charitable giving, finding time to help others, supporting those who need it – which is the cue to report that after an extremely successful collection and dispatch of fleece blankets to Ukraine, Marina is organising another blanket collection. So… the donation of new fleece blankets for the  winter will be greatly appreciated. Please bring any offerings to church.

Advent spiritual reading needs to be planned, with plenty of online resources available in addition to books – whether in printed or electronic form, but no matter how much or how little we be able to read in what may be busy and active lives, spiritual reading is important as an enriching and nourishing part of our Nativity Fast.

I hope that we may recommend books to one another on our WhatsApp pages or in the comments here, but I will start by recommending a few resources and classics known and already appreciated by some our parishioners.

As a prayer-resource, as plugged at our discussion on Friday evening, I wholeheartedly recommend the two volume Book of Akathists from Jordanville:

Volume I:


Volume II:


The Spiritual Psalter, is an anthology of the writings St Ephraim the Syrian, and was compiled in the 19thcentury by St Theophan the Recluse:


The Sayings of the Desert Fathers, is an ancient collection of short maxims, to be read, digested and contemplated in prayer and quiet time.


Valentine Zander’s Saint Seraphim of Sarov is an Orthodox classic…


… and I would recommend it, together with the volume of the Little Russian Philokalia containing teachings of St Seraphim.


Looking forward to the week ahead… I am greatly looking forward to our parish-pilgrimage to the Church of St Lazar, in Birmingham on Saturday (92 Griffins Brook Ln, Birmingham B30 1QG), where the Divine Liturgy will commence at 09:00. We are a little unclear about possible lifts for our students, though things will hopefully become clearer as the week progresses. After the Liturgy, we will pray before the Trojeručica (Three Handed) icon of the Mother of God – a copy of the original, in the Athonite monastery of Hilandar, visited by our brother, Alexander, yesterday!

This week, I will be free to hear confessions on Wednesday and Friday. The church will be in use from 18:00 on Wednesday, so any confessions after this time will be in the sacristy, requiring anyone confessing to wait outside for me to collect them. I am happy to hear confessions at times earlier than we generally start, knowing the duties that some of our parishioners have. Please, just ask. Obviously confessions for Wednesday need flagging asap, and Friday requests by noon on Wednesday, please. Please be mindful that long confessions are not practical on Sundays, though all if working well at the moment.

Though I will be in Cardiff this Wednesday, there will be the usual mid-week service each Wednesday evening in Llanelli, and will chant compline at 19:00 on Wednesday night in the chapel of St David and St Nicholas in Llanelli.

In our prayers, we continue to remember the newly-departed handmaids of God Nadezhda and Photina; Margarita, Ludmilla and Brigid, among those unwell; Olga and Andrew, Alexander and Aldhelm on their travels; and for Patrick’s impasse in moving house.

Asking your prayers.

May God bless you all.

In Christ – Fr Mark