About our parish
While the ever-memorable Metropolitan Anthony was alive, there was never any question of opening a new Sourozh parish in the Greater London area. Indeed any parish within reasonable travelling distance of the Cathedral would have found it difficult to survive, so great was the attraction of Vladyka Anthony. After his repose in 2003 the diocese tried to encourage people living in different parts of London to form ‘neighbourhood groups’. One such group was started in North and East London, meeting for fellowship and discussion in people’s homes. A member of that group happened to be the dentist for the then priest at St Andrew’s Anglican Church in Romford. Thus began the Sourozh connection with the place where our Romford parish now holds its services. But this was a period of great change in the Sourozh diocese and it was only in May 2008 that the first Orthodox liturgy was served in Romford.
For almost three years Father Joseph served in an empty church. What a lot we did to make people aware of the Orthodox services in Romford. We put notices in Russian shops, distributed leaflets among neighbours, established our website, but people did not come.
At some point we decided to serve the Liturgy for the last time and then we would establish a congregation in another place. And a miracle happened – several new people came to the ‘last’ service. They liked being with us and they promised to tell their friends about us. So with each service our church began to fill up with new parishioners. Now our community comprises 40 adults and 20 children as the regular members of the congregation, among whom there are not only Russians, but also English people, Ukrainians, Moldavians, Romanians, Lithuanians and Latvians. The Church of England has always supported us, and we maintain good relations with their local clergy. Our congregation also tries to be involved in charitable activities – once a month we send donations to the local Food Bank.
During his latest visit Vladyka Matthew noted that our parishioners were very friendly and welcoming. Indeed we also feel ourselves to be a family. In spite of the fact that we do not live close to one another, we go to one another as guests, observe festive occasions together and share our joys and sorrows, and our children are friends. New people are very surprised that we stay for tea after the service,talk to one another, put questions to the priest, share our experiences of recent pilgrimages and bring the food of our own countries.
The happiest times of our parish life were at the beginning, when new people appeared and became members of our family. Someone had their first confession, someone else had their child baptised here, and someone came to ask the priest how to pray for a departed person and has not missed a single service since then. But we also had problems. We could not sing, we did not know how to bake prosphora, where to get candles for services, what wine to buy for Communion. Our dear Father Joseph and Matushka Sarah gradually taught us everything and now regular parishioners contribute their service: some open the church and set up the furnishings, others prepare prosphora and yet others concern themselves with the choir and finally others assist the priest. Our main problem now is setting up a parish school. Our parish includes 20 children between one and twelve years of age. We want to convey to them what goes on in church, so that they will not lose their relationship with God when they grow up. Nor is it easy to bring our youth into church and parish life: this too is a matter of concern for our people at this time.
More and more there appear people who come simply to light a candle, but do not stay to the end of the liturgy. Although this is also a good indicator for us, because people know who we are; we know that our congregation is of use to some and believe that it is not for nothing that God did not permit Father Joseph to serve the last Liturgy in our church.