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Wanted: Three Priests

I can remember how at one point in the mid-1990s, the ever-memorable Archbishop Seraphim (Dulgov), the ROCOR Archbishop of Brussels and Western Europe, told me how almost every day he received a letter from a priest in Poland, the Ukraine or Russia asking to join his Diocese. His first question to them was: ‘What languages can you speak? Receiving the answer, only Polish, Ukrainian or Russian, he would reply that he could not take them.

It is a matter of fact that in Western Europe we need clergy who can speak both Russian and (not or) the local language. On top of this, many parishes are so poor that they cannot pay their clergy, so the priests must have a secular job, then they may well have to provide their own accommodation and additionally provide a choir, and on top of this, find premises for a church and pay for them.

Few are the takers of such unpaid and unappreciated missionary posts. And yet that is what we need.

I can remember four years ago how one of the Russian Archbishops in London told me what I had known for years: ‘We need ten churches in London, not two’. Four years on, there are still only two.

In pastoral work I find myself travelling ever increasing distances or people coming to me from ever increasing distances for weddings, baptisms, confessions and communions. In Colchester it is not unusual for me to have to care for Russians from east London (50 miles to the south-east), Lincolnshire (over 100 miles to the north) and recently, I have even been to the Isle of Wight (over 150 miles to the south-west).

Apart from Lincolnshire, I can now clearly identify three towns where we need priests and churches. These are naturally all large towns or cities (chapels in remote places in the countryside are of no pastoral help to the masses):

The first place is to the east of London, ideally Stratford. Here there is a large concentration of Russians or Ukrainians, who, getting off the Eurostar train from Paris, come looking for work. Over the last ten years many of them have settled there. This priest would have to be Russian and English-speaking.

The second place is Norwich (population of urban area 240,000). Two years ago we could have bought ideal premises there for 200,000 GBP. Of course, we did not have any such sum and there was no priest available. Again this priest would have to be Russian and English-speaking. But such a priest would soon find himself with a parish of at least 100 people.

The third place is the Isle of Wight. Here there is an opportunity for an English priest to gather together all the Orthodox on the Isle (population 140,000). On a visit there last July I met three Orthodox within the space of ten minutes. Ideally, a priest should find premises in Newport, the ‘capital’ of the Isle located in the centre of that compact island. At present there is no church on the island. A dedication to All Saints, with an annual pilgrimage to the ancient St Boniface church at Bonchurch, might be a good idea.

Of course, the above are just pastoral notes. But perhaps a priest somewhere could contact a bishop concerned, remembering, as has always been said: Man proposes, but God disposes.

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