Our wonderful, growing and busy Cardiff parish of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia was founded in Bright Week 2011, so as we approach Pascha, we are coming to the end of our twelfth year!
So, our community will soon be a teenager, though hopefully without the more-challenging traits of teenage life.
What change has occurred during these twelve years, from the starting point of only having a monthly Saturday Liturgy celebrated by one of the cathedral clergy; the congregation almost exclusively 100% Slav; and the services only using English for the creed and Lord’s Prayer.
When we moved to Nazareth House and services became weekly, we saw an immediate change, and discovered the difference between those who thirsted for spiritual life and seized every chance for prayer, worship and the Holy Mysteries, and those who enjoyed the monthly Liturgies and sociable meal as an opportunity for Russians, Moldovans and Ukrainians to come together.
Our numbers initially fell, as the parish identity evolved with the changes in clergy and the initial blessing of services three or four times a week, in Nazareth House and Newman Hall.
Including our assistant priest, Archpriest Luke, we now have four parish clergy, services at least three times a week across our South Wales mission, and have made a spiritual impact on local people exploring Holy Orthodoxy – as attested to by our baptisms – with Patrick, Brigid and Mary baptised a little over a week ago; the enrolment of another catechumen last Sunday; two or three more baptisms later in the year; and the constant enquiries and arrival of students and other new people who feel welcome and at home in our friendly traditional community.
All of this is despite the fact that we still have no place of our own in the city; moving around due to covid (and even administered the Holy Mysteries in Cardiff after Liturgy in Llanelli); having to set up and put away every time we have a service; and whilst the clergy have to travel to and fro across South Wales, also serving in other places, with only the rector as a salaried priest.
Father Luke, of course, is retired from secular employment, but Deacon Mark and Hierodeacon Avraamy show great dedication, receiving no income from the parish!
Weekly services now see parishioners travel from Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire each week, as well as those who live on this side of the River Severn, and our services are now in English with a little bit of Welsh (hopefully to grow) as well as Church Slavonic.
We have worshipped in the Greek Church, Nazareth House, Llanelli during lockdown Newman Hall, St John’s, St Mary Butetown, and again in Nazareth House. And… despite nomadic life, the parish flourishes and grows!
Our congregation is still relatively small, usually having thirty-five to forty-five adults each Sunday, but given the vast geographical area in which parishioners live, we seldom have everyone in church at the same time.
We are heartened that those who come – with some more occasional friends of the parish driving for the midlands and west country – seeking maximalism and faithfulness to Sacred Tradition, and are not interested in diluted, liberal, renovationist alternatives to the fulness of the Church’s teaching and praxis.
Our Slav parishioners have shown great warmth, generosity and openness in embracing British people who have become such a dedicated part of our parish, as well as in their support of the three British clergy, and show the missionary spirit of ROCOR – particularly in this multi-national diocese.
We look forward to the next baptisms, to the task of teaching and nurturing those totally new to Orthodoxy, of Fr Avraamy’s hopefully permannent transferal to our diocese, to developing English and Welsh in our services – and above all to finding a building as an Orthodox temple, when God sees fit. Perhaps the parish’s teenage years will see this great and much needed development in our Welsh capital city!
Poday Gospodi! Grant this, O Lord.