Cheltenham Liturgy: Saturday 13th November

Cheltenham: Saturday 13th November – Confessions 09:15, Hours and Divine Liturgy 10:00 

Address: Prestbury United Reformed Church, 5 Deep St, Prestbury, Cheltenham GL52 3AW. 

Dear brothers and sisters,

Our Gloucestershire community will celebrate the Divine Liturgy tomorrow, honouring the Venerable Fathers of the Kiev Caves, Saints Spyridon and Nikodim the Prosphora Bakers, also remembering our departed Hierarch, Archbishop Nikodem of Richmond and Great Britain on his nameday.

We will chant the litia for the departed after our Liturgy, which will be celebrated just a few weeks after the 45th anniversary of his repose on 4th / 17th October 1976,  at the age of 93. Eternal Memory!

We look forward to celebrating the Holy Mysteries together, and spending time socialising after the service, when there will be a bring-and-share lunch and confession time for Cardiff and Wiltshire visitors.

May God bless you. Venerable Fathers Spyridon and Nikodim, pray to God for us!

In Christ – Hieromonk Mark

Icon courtesy of parishioner Mikhail Bulashov: https://www.facebook.com/Icons.GuardianAngel

Cheltenham and Cardiff Services This Weekend

Dear brothers and sisters, 

The coming weekend will see the resumption of normal parish life with the celebration of the Divine Liturgy in Cheltenham on Saturday, and Cardiff on Sunday. 

Our Gloucestershire mission will meet for the Divine Liturgy in Prestbury United Reformed Church, with confessions from 09:15 and the Hours and Liturgy as close to 10:00 as possible, though the number of confessing communicants meant an unavoidably late start last month. There will be a bring-and-share lunch after Liturgy, and our Cardiff faithful who will be communing on Sunday are welcome to make their confessions before their homeward journeys.

Our ROCOR parish continues as the canonical Russian Orthodox presence in Cheltenham, and our parishioners remain committed to the diocese and the Russian Church Outside of Russia. We pray that God may sustain them and give them strength. 

On our return to Cardiff, confessions will be heard at Deacon Mark’s office in Morganstown, and we will appreciate notification from those requiring confession as soon as possible. Confessions will also be heard in St John’s from around 10:15 on Sunday morning, and I again ask for an indication of those wishing to do so. Email: otetzmark@hotmail.com

Thank you, all who have already made arrangements. 

I look forward to our celebration of the Hours and Liturgy, and remind you that we are very much seeking to re-establish our bring-and-share lunch, as it is so good to see parishioners catching up with one another after Liturgy. So, please think about bringing offerings for the table. 

The variable parts of Sunday’s Liturgy may be found at ‘Orthodox Austin’ –

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1GZAIFRd1iRYrLSHwhsuKiSPVZWvjMtuS/view

As Advent and December, and the end of my secular-employment approach, we look forward to increased parish prayer and services, formalised catechism, and pilgrimage. I hope that we may begin to discuss these important aspects of the development of parish-life on Sunday – especially the celebration of a weekly Advent Moleben around the parish.

Many thanks to all who continue to have been in touch over the last week and to those who have sent ‘care parcels’. The kindness, care and generosity of our parishioners is both exemplary and inspiring. 

May God bless you all! 

In Christ – Hieromonk Mark 

Cheltenham  Saturday 13th November: Confessions 09:15, Hours and Divine Liturgy 10:00 

Address: Prestbury United Reformed Church, 5 Deep St, Prestbury, Cheltenham GL52 3AW. 

Cardiff – Saturday 13th November: Confessions 16:30 

Cardiff – Sunday 14th November: Confessions 10:15, Hours and Divine Liturgy 11:00 

A Priestless Sunday in Cardiff

Dear brothers and sisters,

It has been wonderful to receive calls and messages from our faithful, during the course, of Sunday afternoon, confirming how well the parish coped without a priest, due to my isolation, which sadly precluded the celebration of the Divine Liturgy.

This was the first time that the congregation had assembled for public worship without a priest, and a valuable (if unplanned) lesson in prayer and worship

However, the parish proved itself capable of coping in such circumstances, with the chanting of the Hours, the sung Typika and moleben to the Mother of God in honour of her Kazan Icon, demonstrating that when the unexpected happens, worship can continue with beauty and solemnity.

As I have already said in communication with parishioners, reader-services or services according to the lay-order (Богослужение мирянским чином), are very much part of the liturgical history of the Orthodox Church, latterly in the vastness of Russia, where some outlying settlements and hermitages, only had priestly services very rarely.

Between the visits of priests, the services were led by non-ordained monastics and lay elders. As in the desert of Africa, where the early monasteries and hermitages usually lacked clergy, lay liturgical practice was firmly established and was well known in each religious community.

I previously wrote on Facebook

“With the acquisition of some familiarity and knowledge of the order of the services and the sources for their parts, liturgical prayer without a priest is possible. This, perhaps, is the cue for us to start studying the liturgical cycle and to learn how to pray liturgically in the absence of clergy.

Many of us, have at some time in our lives, discovered this Tradition, largely through our physical distance from Orthodox parishes and services…”

I hope that we will be able to share the knowledge of reader-services in our Cardiff and Cheltenham communities, giving parishioners the confidence to come together for common worship without clergy.

I would like to thank our Deacon for taking the reins on this occasion. 

We are, as always, indebted to our kliros and readers for their devoted service, and owe great thanks to matushka Alla for the flowers that adorned the icons bringing so much joyful colour to the celebration.

I look forward to returning from my enforced retreat, adding that I am in good spirits, despite fatigue, tinitus and headaches. I look forward to serving our Cheltenham and Cardiff faithful next weekend.

Asking your prayers.

May God bless you.

In Christ – Hieromonk Mark

This weekend in the parish

Dear brothers and sisters,

After a successful response to the parish drive to finance a full-time parish-priest I am happy to inform you that I will be taking up this position on 1st December, ministering to the parishes in Cardiff and Cheltenham, hoping that we will also soon establish an outreach serving our Wessex parishioners.

As many of you are aware, combining full-time work in learning-disabilities and virtually full-time parish ministry was always a challenge, and has become increasingly difficult over the past few years, in which I have become very aware of my own limitations.

However, it has still been a joy to be able to combine both major causes in my life, knowing that Faith has been shaped my ‘external’ professional life, as well as parish ministry.

In the years since Metropolitan Hilarion asked me to take over the position of rector of the Cardiff parish and priest-in-charge of Cheltenham, much has changed, and the needs of the parishes have increased significantly.

Since our move from Butetown to Nazareth House in 2017, the parish has grown, spiritually above all, and we have seen a wonderful flowering of parish-life, despite lockdown and the continuing obstacles of the last year and a half. We are indebted to the Fathers of the Oratory and the Sisters of Nazareth for so much in this period, and we look forward to our return to Nazareth House with great anticipation.

In the meantime, we have to consider sustaining our presence in St John’s, Canton.

Since our last services in St John’s, our use of the church has been formalised with the completion of a hire agreement. As a result, we are now paying for the building on an hourly basis, which significantly increases our weekly outgoings, and the necessary payment for every hour we use the building.

Given the significant cost of each Sunday’s use of the building, Saturday services will no longer be financially sustainable for us given the small Saturday congregation.

I will discuss the situation with Deacon Mark on his return from Greece, and I am hopeful that we will find a way to move forward with Saturday worship and confessions.

As I look forward to commencing the position of full-time parish-priest on 1st December, I very much hope that parishioners will be willing to revive home akathists and various services, so that we will have worship on weekdays as well as the weekends.

However, this week there will be no Saturday service, but we will revert to using Deacon Mark’s office for confessions in the late afternoon and early evening. With this in mind, may I ask those wishing to confess on Saturday to email me – otetzmark@hotmail.com by Friday evening (and this will be strictly enforced), with those needing lifts out of town to Morganstown to let us know, so that we can endeavour to make their confession possible.

The Hours and Liturgy will be celebrated, as usual, in St John’s at 11:00, on Sunday morning, with confessions commencing at 10:15.

I would also appreciate knowing who will require confession on Sunday.

The variable portions of the Sunday Liturgy – St Luke’s Day – may be found here:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1jvkkwmS9nSNmtr1KvpA8VNT7Ivlm6ECX/view

In Christ – Hieromonk Mark

Swansea Liturgy this Coming Sunday

Dear brothers and sisters,

May I remind you all that this Sunday will see our South Wales parishes worshipping together in Swansea.

After faithfully celebrating the Liturgy in our chapel in Llanelli, Archpriest Luke will celebrate our first public ROCOR Liturgy in Swansea in the Vivian Hall, 82 Mumbles Rd, Black Pill, Swansea SA3 5AS.

The Hours will begin at 10:00, followed by the Divine Liturgy. Confessions will be heard before and during the Hours, and may we remind worshippers that all who wish to commune (with the blessing of the clergy) should prepare themselves with prayer, fasting and confession. This is the historical Tradition of the whole Church, whatever may now happen elsewhere.

We will have refreshments afterwards, so contributions will be most welcome.

Please allow sufficient time to find a parking space, as there is no immediate parking, but there is provision for free parking in Clyne Gardens and paid-parking at the lido.

I am so happy that members of our Cardiff parish have already pledged their support and look forward to a joyful gathering of the Orthodox faithful from across South Wales and the West of England in Swansea.

The variable parts of the Liturgy may be found at:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1BkZMMM8_kEDeMcxuFNaviWM7oRW1DBtJ/view

With love in Christ – Hieromonk Mark

A Joyous Day in Cardiff

Dear brothers and sisters,

Every Liturgy is an occasion for rejoicing, and each week we leave Cardiff buoyed by the joy of our celebration, no matter how physically tired we feel. However, today was an especially joyful Sunday, beginning with Elliot being made a catechumen and formally beginning the journey to the waters of baptism, after being an active member of our community for the greater part of the year. It was wonderful to see the joy on the faces of our parishioners – particularly on the kliros – when Elliot recited the creed, and during the final prayer:

O Master, Lord our God, call Thy servant Elliot to Thy holy Enlightenment and count him worthy of the great grace of Thy holy Baptism. Put off his old self and renew him for eternal life and fill him with the power of Thy Holy Spirit for union with Thy Christ, that he may no longer be a child of the body, but a child of Thy kingdom. Through the good pleasure and grace of Thine Only-begotten Son, with whom Thou art blessed, together with Thine all-holy, good and life-giving Spirit, now and ever and unto the ages of ages.

A wonderfully affirmative Amen resounded from the kliros.

I was greatly heartened to know that in baptism, he will take the name of his local sainted-hierarch, St Aldhelm of Sherborne: an apt name for a Dorset musician.

May St Aldhelm pray for him, protect and bless him!

The triumphal joy was sustained by the choir, lifted by the return of Aleksandra, after her period of rest following a fall, with the added blessing of Byzantine chants, in addition to the usual Russian melodies.

It was good to have an army of oltarniky today, and a blessing to have them helping with our commemoration after a busy time of confessing the faithful. When they bowed to the high-place and turned to the west behind the Holy Table for the creed, it was a wonderful sight. As always, they coped with the unexpected, as a blessing of our new travelling holy-vessels and icons crept into the dismissal of the Liturgy.

We were very happy to congratulate Peter on the occasion of his seventieth birthday, and to sing Mnogaya Leta with conviction and hwyl (Welsh gusto!). Again, dear Peter, we pray that God will grant you many, blessed years!

Our social time after Liturgy, allowed us to welcome visitors and catch up over a glass of wine, super-strong coffee for the rector and some lunch. This is one of the aspects of parish-life that we missed so much under stringent covid-regulations, and to return to this fellowship is a blessing and relief.

It was wonderful to have parishioners come to Liturgy to receive a blessing before travelling abroad, and we also hold our student Marina in our prayers, as she completes her M.A. dissertation at home in Moscow. It was strange not to have her with us, but the consolation was to see the friendship between our young parishioners.

Anglican use of St John’s, coupled with my work commitments see us relocate to Swansea, next week, to support Father Luke with the first public Russian Orthodox Liturgy in Swansea, in the Vivian Hall, 82 Mumbles Rd, Black Pill, Swansea SA3 5AS. We hope the weather will be fine, so that we might enjoy relaxing in the lido gardens after Liturgy. All are encouraged to bring food and refreshments for a bring-and-share lunch.

The Hours will be celebrated at 10:00, followed by the Divine Liturgy at 10:30. Confessions will be heard before and during the Hours. Parishioners from Wiltshire and Cardiff have already pledged their support, and our ‘mobile singers’ will be prepped in the next day or two.

Father-Deacon Mark, Alla and Yuriy will not be with us, but will be enjoying a well-deserved break in Corfu, charged with bringing the prayers of our parishes to the shrine of St Spyridon the Wonderworker, and when they return, we will hopefully chant a moleben to St Spyridon, who is greatly loved in the Cardiff parish.

Thank you to all who contributed to today’s Liturgy and lunch, making the parish a prayerful, warm and welcoming place for those who came through the church doors for the first time. Thanks are also due to parishioners who supported Liturgy in Cheltenham Liturgy, yesterday, building the spiritual bonds between our communities.

“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments…”

May God bless you all.

With love in Christ – Hieromonk Mark

Funding a full-time parish-priest

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

During our recent parish meeting we discussed the problems faced by Father Mark in combining care for the parish with his secular employment as a support-worker for Mencap.

Over time, duties and expectations have expanded and we have recently experienced clashes which have had a direct effect on his ability to serve us on both the Saturday and Sunday services, in addition to the expectation that he will be on-call and available throughout the week as our parish-priest – despite the fact that he is working more than full-time hours. 

Further, this has a very serious effect on Father’s health as he is, in effect, trying to work two full-time jobs, at a time when the parish is growing and when there is a growing need for pastoral work within our very widely-dispersed community.

Therefore, it was decided that, as a parish, we would investigate the possibility of supporting our parish priest with a ‘stipend’ (clergy salary), by raising enough specific donations to contribute towards this.

As I announced from the amvon, at the end of last week’s Liturgy, we have been successful in securing donation-commitments to provide a very basic stipend allowing us to formally offer Father Mark the role of solely being our parish-priest, free from secular employment. Therefore, we are currently preparing the formal paperwork to ensure that he is able to resign from secular work to concentrate on full-time work as rector of our parish.

Thank you to everyone who has come forward to make this possible. 

For those who have made commitments to donate and for those who have not committed, but also wish to donate towards the stipend-fund – even if only occasionally – please see the information below to ensure that:

1) you are able to donate securely and easily.

2) we are where possible able to reclaim ‘gift aid’ from the government to top-up the donations.

3) we can identify the donation as a specific contribution towards the stipend.

Commitments to donate towards the stipend

If you would like to donate specifically towards the stipend please could you inform Deacon Mark, so that your intention is registered on our admin system.

We simply need the following information:

1) your name.

2) the amount you wish to donate specifically toward the stipend.

3) the frequency of your donation.

4) if you would prefer to donate by bank transfer or cash.

5) whether we are able to register you for Gift Aid.

We all know that life can be unpredictable at any time and especially in the current circumstances, so please If should any circumstance arise affecting your ability to continue donations, or need to alter your donation, please make Deacon Mark aware, so that aware so that our systems may be adjusted. 

Importantly, we do not want anybody to put themselves in undue pressure or financial stress.

Donations by Bank Transfer

Donations may be made directly into the parish bank account at any time during the month to suit your circumstances. The parish bank details are:

Account Name: Cardiff Russian Orthodox Church

Sort Code: 01 – 01 – 55

Account No: 17716985

Donations by Cash

Cash donations may be made at any of the month’s services, but in order for us to ensure financial clarity and prevent confusion, please direct your donation to its intended purpose with the following procedure:

1) place your donation into an envelope.

2) write your name and ‘Stipend Donation’ on the envelope.

3) place your envelope in any of the collection plates.

By your doing this, we will be able to ensure that the cash is counted with a witness and then passed to Deacon Mark for banking and recording in the donation register.

Gift Aid

In order to maximise your donations, the government will allow us to claim ‘Gift Aid’ on all eligible donations. This means that the government will give the parish an additional 25% on top of your donation at no cost to you – and, yes, this really is free money!

There are specific conditions to make this possible. These are:

1) that the donor is a UK resident.

2) the donor is a UK Taxpayer (e.g. you pay p.a.y.e on your salary, tax on a pension, or capital gains on an investment);

3) the donor is donating on their own behalf and not on behalf someone else.

4) the donor has completed and signed a ‘Gift Aid’ form, allowing the parish to claim the money from the government.

If you have not filled in a gift aid form, please use the following link that will allow you to download a form for you to complete:

https://russianorthodoxchurchcardiff.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/ROCOR-Cardiff-Parish-Gift-Aid-Form.pdf

Alternatively, if you are unable to print the form above, please let Deacon Mark know and he will ensure you receive one at the next service.

Questions

If anyone has any questions please contact Deacon Mark by email rmfisher@ntlworld.com or mobile 07790 031375 and he will do his best to answer and resolve them for you.

With much love in Christ,

Deacon Mark

Greetings on the Feast of the Protecting Veil

Dear all,

I know that it is rather late in the day, but nightshifts make my days back to front and upside down. However, despite the hour, I greet you all and wish you a blessed and holy feast of the Protecting Veil of the Mother of God.

We have so many feasts celebrating the events of her life and her wonder-working icons, but this feast is a concrete celebration of that wonderful reality that is her ‘protection’; a mother’s instinct to protect her children; and the wonder is that there is no limit to the children who can find shelter under her omophorion.

We remember the vision of St Andrew the Fool in the Church of Blachernae, and the Mother of God’s protection of the Imperial City from the siege of the Avars and Persians in 626, but more than that – we celebrate the Mother of God as our constant protection, and as the mother who cares for us, as her children.

The earliest Christian hymn to the Mother of God is one that is very precious for us, and one which we – as a parish dedicated to the Theotokos – hear each week during clergy communion – “Beneath thy mercy… Pod tvoyu milost…”

Beneath thy mercy we take refuge, O Virgin Theotokos: disdain not our supplications in our distress, but deliver us from perils, O only pure and blessed one.

The history of this glorious hymn, celebrating the Protection of the Mother of God, shows how the Christians across the breadth of the ancient world came together to place themselves beneath the Protecting Veil of her love and mercy, with the Mother of God being a source of unity for Christians of every race and nation.

The earliest manuscript comes from the Coptic Christmas Liturgy and is written on a third-century papyrus. The hymn is part of the Armenian, Byzantine, Ambrosian, and Roman Rites (with a few variant words), and was so ingrained in the hearts and souls of the children of the Russian Orthodox Church, that when the service-texts were reformed in the mid 17th century, the faithful still clung to the original Slavonic text of their forebears.

Подъ твою милость, прибѣгаемъ богородице дѣво, молитвъ нашихъ не презри в скорбѣхъ. но ѿ бѣдъ избави насъ,едина чистаѧ и благословеннаѧ.
 
As we celebrate this feast, let us not only think of ourselves, but with fervent prayers of intercession take our loved-ones, friends, neighbours… and even enemies to the Protection of the Mother of God – asking her to mercifully be their refuge; to come to them in their distress; to hear our supplications for them; to deliver them from perils. And – let us commend those who do not even know the motherhood of the Theotokos to her Protection and intercession. This is the glory of the fifteen decades of prayers, we call the Rule of the Mother of God – offered to her for the intention of others, knowing the power of a mother’s intercession before the Lord of Glory.

Our Lady has become a mirror of God’s boundless and immeasurable love, desiring the salvation and restoration of all of God’s people – not just Christians, but all people, created in the image of likeness of God.

At the foot of the Cross, when the Saviour commended her to St John, with the words “Behold thy mother”, He spoke to the whole of humanity – humanity which was the gift of the Mother of God to our Saviour, who then commended her to us, and who – in the course of time – received His Mother into the glory of heaven, from where she watches over us, protects us, visits us, and works countless miracles.

Most Holy Mother of God, save us!

May God bless you on this wonderful feast.

In Christ –  Hieromonk Mark

The Leave-Taking of the Exultation of the Cross

The last two weeks have been very busy for the parish, with additional confessions at every moment possible around each Sunday’s Liturgy and an encouraging number of communicants.

The excellent attendance for the Leave-Taking of the Exultation of the Cross was reflected in the time it took for the faithful to venerate the Cross, and to be anointed with oil from Godenovo.

As with other feasts of the Cross, it was wonderful to see so many of the faithful venerate the Cross as the choir chanted Krestu Tvoemu (We venerate Thy Cross), and to see new faces and have parishioners from the entire geographical spread of our parishes: from the West Wales Coast to Wiltshire and Gloucestershire.

Following the final veneration of the Cross for the feast this year, a memorial service was chanted on behalf of two of the Welsh-Romanian families who are friends of the parish, and we thank them for their generosity in preparing gift bags in memory of their departed, so that all of our worshipers benefitted from their generosity, and they were kind enough to send a bag for Fr Luke who was celebrating in Llanelli.

It was a special joy to administer Holy Communion to baby Joachim, on his first visit since his baptism in the Romanian Orthodox parish in Coventry, and to see our previously ‘trainee’ oltarnik, Alexander, don a stikharion for the first time.

We now have the benefit of two Marks and two Alexanders in the sanctuary each week, and will happily welcome another John or Oswald to make further pairs! Today also saw little Yuriy’s first assignment, carrying an acolyte candle (having rejected the intended large taper!), which is quite impressive feat for a three-and-a-half-year-old.

We were glad to be able to thank our outgoing starosta, Alyona, for her labours on behalf of our parish, mindful that her wardenship saw the parish enter a very collaborative and positive period of community-life. We are indebted to her for her labours, especially in being so warm and welcoming to the many non-Slavs and converts in our community. She has always made it clear that our parish is built on Faith, not language or national identity. Alyona, we thank you for your poslushaniya, love and great support!

As always, our thanks go to all who made the Leave-Taking of the feast of the Exultation of the Cross such a prayerful, joyful and sociable celebration.

With love in Christ – Hieromonk Mark

Cheltenham Liturgy: Saturday 16 October

It is with great pleasure that we are able to announce that our next Cheltenham Liturgy will be celebrated in Prestbury United Reformed Church on Saturday 16 October, with confessions from 09:15, and the Hours and Liturgy beginning at 10:00 (subject to the number of confessions).

I very much hope that the Liturgy may be supported by our Cardiff and Wiltshire faithful, among whom are very some loyal friends of our Gloucestershire community. The very short notice before last weekend’s Liturgy made it impossible for some of our Welsh faithful to attend, though they would very much have liked to be with their brothers and sisters in Cheltenham for the celebration.

Falling, as it does, just after the feast of the Protecting Veil of the Mother of God, we will belatedly celebrate the Feast of the Pokrov, asking Our Lady’s protection for the Cheltenham Faithful.

In our prayers, we commend the ROCOR parish of St Vladimir to the Protection of the Queen of Heaven, that they may resist the many temptations raised up against them at this time.