God Preserve Our Cheltenham Faithful!

Dear brothers and sisters, 

How sad it is to learn of such subterfuge and deception in the Church, as faithful parishioners of the Cheltenham parish (opposed to the plans of the suspended reader, Philip Hicks) inform us that they were excluded from the on-line meeting held yesterday evening, to ‘discuss’ the future of the parish. 

Other parishioners refused to take part in this meeting, as it was irregular, contrary to the byelaws of ROCOR and part of the attempted coup.

However, loyal parishioners whose views were not known and were therefore not blocked from the meeting, have reported that there was no real discussion, and that there will be no vote, as the schismatic party has declared that this is a ‘lateral move’. At least the Ukrainian schismatics have a ‘vote’ – even if it is rigged with busloads of people from elsewhere.

Therefore, having decided that he would move to the Paris-based Archdiocese, suspended Reader Philip Hicks (who has no canonical release form ROCOR) is ignoring the parishioners who are rejecting this schism, and at his behest the parish is transferring to the Archdiocese of Metropolitan Jean of Dubna. 

No it is not, whatever the suspended Reader, his wife and handful of supporters may do! 

The ROCOR parish in Cheltenham will continue and Cheltenham parishioners have contacted Father Deacon Mark and myself, making clear their opposition to this rebellion, pledging their loyalty to the ROCOR and to Vladyka Irenei as their bishop. They are clear that the Parish of the Holy Great Prince Vladimir is THEIR parish, not the possession of a suspended reader and the starosta. 

What does this mean? 

  • The Cheltenham Parish of ROCOR will continue to exist, no matter what the other party says, does or insists – and the individuals involved will probably be stamping their feet and insisting on a lot of things. 
  • It means that the Cheltenham parish will continue to be cared for by Cardiff clergy, despite the demands on us in Wales.  
  • There are already discussions regarding organising car-shares and transport to make it possible for as many of the faithful (some of whom do not drive) to attend worship in Cardiff and we will seek to do the same for movement in the other direction for Cheltenham services.
  • We do not know whether it will be possible to worship in All Saints Pittville, so we are examining other options. His Grace, the Bishop of Ebbsfleet, under whose spiritual jurisdiction All Saints falls, has been advised of this schismatic activity and the clerical suspensions in place. We await his response. 
  • Father Deacon Mark and I will meet the faithful as much as possible, to pray and give reassurance as some have been deeply hurt, confused and distressed by these awful events and the secretive machinations behind their backs. They need our prayers, and support – spiritually and possibly materially. 
  • Our parishes will be spiritually reconnected after what appears an obvious and conscious effort to de-ROCORise the Cheltenham Parish and separate our flocks.

I call upon the Cardiff faithful to support this Cheltenham flock as much as possible: to travel to services; to assure them of our love and support when they are with us; to consider accommodating anyone who is forced to use public transport (and this applies to others of our flock from beyond the Severn).  

When Liturgy resumes, I hope that Cardiff parishioners, whether from South Wales or the West of England will make the pilgrimage to Cheltenham, so that we can all join together as one flock of our diocese, from which others have left to further their own schemes. 

Above all, we must pray with fervour and hope, for the peace of the Church, for the healing of schism, and for those who have fallen away. May Christ purify and enlighten their minds, driving away the fog and darkness which obscures their vision, so that they may repent and be re-united to His Church. 

In the meantime, the Patriarch’s office, reassures Vladyka Irenei of the personal support of His Holiness, and His Grace, Bishop Matvey of Sourozh has stated his opposition to this schism, despite the statements made claiming His support for the awful events of the last week. His Holiness is clear that statements regarding the transferral of the suspended Archpriest Andrew Phillips and his coterie are false. The Patriarch has not blessed this move and has himself declared it uncanonical. 

Lastly, I remind the faithful in Cheltenham that the Reader Philip is suspended and forbidden to exercise his ministry as a Reader. The Church is clear that praying and worshipping with a suspended cleric is canonically forbidden and a sin. Expect to told that he is not suspended, that you are being deceived by your ROCOR clergy, and that all is canonically well. Do not listen; do not discuss; simply refuse and stay away.  

Some of you may be contacted by the schismatic party in the next few days. State that you are a parishioner of the ROCOR parish of the Holy Great Prince Vladimir, that you are loyal to your Church and bishop and put the telephone down. Do not be bullied, do not be pressurised, and remember you have nothing to discuss. End the telephone call and go and light a candle and pray for those trying to lead you into schism and further their own ambitions with you as a tool. Be humble, be merciful and compassionate – but also be wise! 

“Brethren, be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist steadfast in the faith.” 

With much love in Christ – Hieromonk Mark

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