Today in the Forest and Thereabouts

Though the wet weather made it impossible to have our hoped for moleben at St Anthony’s Well, near Micheldean, we nevertheless made our journey to the Forest of Dean, today, and I was very happy to finally be able to bless the home of our Cheltenham parishioner, Tatiana, before we gathered at Zoe’s house in Drybrook where we also blessed the house and had lunch.

It was wonderful to be with Wessex parishioners, as well as our sisters from Gloucestershire, and to have time together at Zoe’s house before we travelled north to see the wonderful Romanesque frescos and medieval wall-paintings in the church of St Mary, at Kempley, with it’s squat fortified thirteenth century tower, pink-washed south exterior wall and wonderful interior.

The barrel vaulted sanctuary, with its iconography of the Pantocrator, scenes from the book of the Apocalypse, apostles and saints was one in which it would be our dream to celebrate the Divine Liturgy, feeling such an apt setting for prayer and worship.

Given the improved weather of the afternoon, we resolved to get to St Anthony’s Well and did, indeed, get there, along the rough and narrow lanes, and though the edge of the woodland to reach the spring, with enclosed Paul, intrepidly entered by Porphyrios, who submerged himself three times in the icy waters.

The mud and rain made worship impossible, but we were very glad to have made it, and know that we will return so that others can bathe in the well, and to have an Orthodox service under the trees in this wonderful spot, which parishioner Zoe said is cherished and visited by locals – young and old – every day.

We are immensely thankful to Tania for her welcome in Ruardean, and to Zoe and her family for their warm hospitality in welcoming our pilgrims from both sides of the Severn, and for sharing their love and knowledge of the Forest with us.

We look forward to future visits to parishioners, the wonderful part of Gloucestershire in which they they live, and seeing the local churches, including Ruardean where there has been a Christian sanctuary since before the Norman conquest, and where we were greeted by St George slaying the dragon in the tympanum over the door, as well as the other medieval churches of the Forest.

Our thanks also go to our pilgrimage secretary, Tracy, who has worked hard, yet again, fielding a lot of calls and messages over the last week or so, especially as the weather saw plans change and evolve. She even wielded a chain saw, so that the tree blockage on the lane to the well could be cleared: a first on our monthly pilgrimages!

At the end of the house blessings, we chanted many years for our parishioners and their families, and we do so again, as also for Tracy. Mnogaya i blagaya leta! Many, blessed years!

Venerable father Anthony, pray to God for us, and for all who come to your well, seeking blessing and healing!

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