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

Posted in Parish News.