His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus Leads the Consecration of the Lower Chapel of Dormition Cathedral


The London parish is one of our oldest in Western Europe. It dates back to the end of the 17th century, when Peter the Great visited England in January 1698 and lived in Deptford, on the Thames, for four months, learning the art of shipbuilding at the King's docks. The church established then was called the "Greek-Russian Church." The location of the first church is impossible to ascertain because of the construction of the growing city. The church was attached to the Russian Embassy and most of the church items were provided by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

From 1919 through the 1920's, the church was located at 31 Welbeek Street under a long-term lease. The Russian colony was small then, and the house chapel suited their needs. But during World War I, in connection with the establishment in England of various Russian offices relating to providing military equipment for the Russian Army, the Russian colony in England began to grow. By the end of the war and the onset of the Revolution, a stream of refugees from all over Russia began arriving. The defeat of the White Army, beginning with the Northern Front, caused this stream to become significant. The house church under these circumstances could not accommodate the masses of worshipers. The lease for that space was coming to an end, and the house was destined for demolishing. The Church of England came to the rescue and provided the parish temporary use of a large, historic church. But the location of the church, in the business district of London, limited its attendance by Russian people. Services, however, continued. The use of this church continued until the Church of England provided another church built by the Duke of Westminster on his own property and given to the people of England. The church was very large, in the center of the city and could easily be adapted to Orthodox needs. It was consecrated to Holy Apostle Philip, and, preserving its name, also became known as Holy Dormition Church, as had all earlier Russian churches in London.

In 1927, ecclesiastical unity of the Russian colony in London was rent asunder as a result of Metropolitan Eulogius' departure from the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. As a result of disputes for and against this division, the London parish almost split in half. An agreement was reached on the further use of the church: services were performed by the groups on alternating weeks.

In 1928, 38-year-old Archimandrite Nicholas (Karpov) was assigned to London. The 5th tome of The Life of Metropolitan Anthony, by Archbishop Nikon (Rklitsky, +1976), contains the following account: "Archimandrite Nicholas at this time was 38 years old; he graduated Moscow Theological Academy in 1915 and was a teacher in theological schools in Russia and a sermonizer in a monastery in Oboyan, in the Kursk Diocese. In Serbia he served in Serbian parishes, and then taught at Bitol Theological Seminary, where he enjoyed the adoration of the entire staff and student body. He was appointed rector of the London parish, which was being torn apart by church strife. Archimandrite Nicholas managed this difficult task and with his piety won over the sympathies of the parishioners, and reintroduced peace in parish life."

Fr Nicholas' character was ebullient, energetic and gregarious, he always served with genuine prayerfulness and piety. It is remarkable that, despite his liveliness, upon entering the church, he seemed to undergo a transformation. His reading of the Gospel was moving. Unforgettable were his performance of the Paschal service and reading of the Gospel in four languages: Slavonic, Greek, Latin and ancient Hebrew. The midnight Paschal service drew many people, not only Orthodox Christians but the heterodox and even a few Jews who did not wish to miss it and the joyful mood it created. Many Englishmen asked to have the date and time of the Paschal service published in the press in advance. Most of the parishioners remained until the end of Divine Liturgy, when many would partake of the Holy Mysteries. Chartered buses then took the worshipers to various points in the city of London.

"Upon Archimandrite Nicholas," continues the book on Metropolitan Anthony, "fell the honor of being the first Orthodox bishop of London. Taking into consideration the political importance of London, the ecclesiastical troubles among the people of England and the tendency within the Church of England towards drawing nearer to Orthodoxy, this Russian Orthodox bishop's cathedra was especially important."

On the Sunday of All Saints, June 30, 1929, Archimandrite Nicholas was consecrated as the first bishop of London since the division of the Churches in 1054. Metropolitan Anthony of blessed memory came from distant Serbia for the consecration, as did Archbishop Seraphim of Western Europe and Archbishop Feofan of Kursk and Oboyan, Bishop Tikhon of Berlin and Germany, Hieromonk Feodosii, the cell-attendant of the First Hierarch; Mitred Protopriest Vasily Vinogradov from Brussels, Protopriest V. Timofeev of Paris and Hierodeacon Ioannikii of Bulgaria.

Vladyka Feofan brought with him the Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God. The solemn service of the gathered bishops before the miracle-working icon, and the rare eventóthe consecration of a bishopódrew a great number of Orthodox faithful, clergymen from the Church of England and others. The large cathedral was filled to capacity. Reading on the kliros was a psalm-reader from Tsarist Russia, Foka Feodorovich Volkovsky. Present in the church was Grand Duchess Ksenia Aleksandrovna, sister of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II.

Upon the entrusting to Bishop Nicholas of the episcopal staff, Vladyka Anthony said: "The instructions are given to you from above on this day of your consecration that you must be in this life not only an Orthodox servant of God, but a servant of Russia, sharing the highest sympathies with our Russian people, her pious love for the saints, something the Protestants do not understand, saying that Russians, by venerating saints, diminish thereby the glory of Christ. For Christ Himself gave this firm foundation for this, saying, 'And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them' (John 17:22). Yet being a Christian and a Russian patriot, you are of course far from that sinful chauvinism being committed by all the nations now calling themselves Christian, even, alas, Orthodox peoples. We can boldly state that only the Russian people, in their finest individuals, can accommodate universal love with patriotism and looks upon these two lofty concepts as not being mutually exclusive, but mutually infused in each other.

"..The Lord sent you the fate to begin your archpastoral service in the country of a people who have many educated sons among them who possess heartfelt love for our people and our faith. I have become convinced of the latter having spent several days in the newly-established Anglican Abbey 'Our House.' There I was consoled to see the profound and fervent piety of young monks and became persuaded that for them, prayer is not simply an assumed ceremony, but a burning cry of the soul, heatedly striving towards God and towards spiritual cleansing. We are also convinced of this by the establishment in recent years of Anglican monasteries while in other countries, even in Orthodox ones, monasteries and monasticism are quickly diminishing. And so, you must show special pastoral attention to those souls, especially the young souls in the Anglican Church who might wish to become closer acquainted with the Orthodox faith and the Orthodox Church. Fit them into your archpastoral heart and pray to God for the salvation, and for that of your own Russian people, and for those English people who are approaching the Orthodox Church, so that you can say that to the degree God granted, you were "all things to all men.

"…In this holy deed may the holy saints of God strengthen you, those who are glorified in the entire universe, and piously venerated by you, as a true Russian person and a truly believing Orthodox pastor, the new saint, John of Tobolsk, in whose canonization you were fortunate to participate." (Life of Metropolitan Anthony).

In 1958, after many travails and difficulties, hope arrived that an entirely usable church would become available for rent. This was a church once belonging to Scottish Presbyterians, closed for services and adapted for use as a furniture warehouse. Its owner, an Anglican parish, rented the church to a commercial firm. Through the joint effort of the parishioners, work was done to bring the church into what proved magnificent shape. At the beginning of 1959, the solemn consecration of the Church of St John (Maximovich) took place, conducted by Bishop Nikodim of Richmond, his vicar and the rector of the London parish, along with representatives of all the Orthodox Churches in England.

Having purchased a house with a large yard in Western London at the end of the 1990's, the parish began to build a splendid cathedral dedicated to the Holy Dormition of the Mother of God and the Holy Passion-bearers Tsar-Martyr Nicholas and His August Family, to whom the lower chapel was dedicated and consecrated this May 29. In February of this year, the parish council and building committee decided to begin work on the upper church immediately after the consecration of the lower sanctuary.

On May 27, His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus arrived in London. Greeted by the Rector of Holy Dormition Cathedral, Priest Vadim Zakrevsky and the parishioners, His Eminence headed for the Cathedral, where he venerated the holy icons and addressed those who gathered.

The following morning, His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus, along with Archbishop Mark, Bishop Michael and Bishop Agapit, Fr Alexander, Fr Peter and Fr Serafim Gan, Protodeacon Victor and Subdeacon Nicholas, the Cathedral's Rector and parishioners visited Westminster Abbey and other historical sites of the city. Later that day, His Eminence officiated at all-night vigil at the Cathedral. During the festal polyeleos, besides the aforementioned bishops and clergymen, Archbishop Kyrill of San Francisco and Western America and clergymen of the Diocese of Great Britain also participated: Archimandrite Alexis; Priest Thomas Hardy; Priest Andew Phillips; Priest Peter Baulk and Priest Paul Elliot and Hierodeacon Savva. At the end of service, the sisterhood offered a trapeza in honor of His Eminence the First Hierarch.

On May 29, His Eminence performed the great consecration of the lower church in honor of the Royal New Martyrs along with the archpastors and clergymen who participated in the vigil, and then Divine Liturgy in the upper church, during which His Eminence Vladyka elevated Fr Thomas Hardy to the rank of protopriest; Fr Thomas has been a clergyman of the Diocese of Great Britain for many years. Archbishop Mark interceded for this award before the Synod of Bishops because Fr Thomas provides invaluable support to the rector of the parish in providing for its spiritual needs. Fr Vadim is burdened with ministering to small communities all over England, visiting prisons and refugee camps, and also tends to the Russian flock in Ireland, which he visits once a month. All this would be impossible without Fr Thomas' help in spiritually nourishing the London parish.

Participating in Divine Liturgy were Stavrophor Protopriest Milun Kostic, a clergyman of the Serbian Orthodox Church. As during all-night vigil, so during Divine Liturgy, a great multitude of people were present, and many communed of the Holy Gifts. At the end of liturgy, His Eminence addressed the worshipers with an archpastoral sermon, saying, in part:

"Dear brothers and sisters: Christ is Risen!

"I am happy to greet all of you with this happy Paschal greeting, heralding for us the joy of the Resurrected Lord.

"In these days we rejoice, for we hope, we pray that someday we will be resurrected for eternal blessed life with the Lord in the Kingdom of Heaven.

"Today's Gospel reading tells us that during His earthly life, the Lord Jesus Christ revealed His divinity in various ways, and rarely spoke directly of it. Even to His disciples, the apostles, He revealed the mystery of His Divinity only during the final days of His social work.

"But this woman of Samarian, despite her sinfulness, was deemed worthy to hear from the Lord the direct confirmation that He is the Messiah: 'I that speak unto thee am he.'

"The Samaritan woman, speaking with the Lord at the well of Jacob, recognized in the Lord an uncommon person, and so decided to ask of Him a response, clarification of the question which troubled the Samaritans and led to quarrels with the Jews. The Jews had said that one must only pray and bring sacrifice in Jerusalem, in the Temple. But the Lord Jesus Christ said to her: 'Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.'

"The woman replied: 'I know that Messiah cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things.' To which the Lord said: 'I that speak unto thee am he.'

"The woman was alarmed by this news and immediately went to the city and told the men of this.

"And so the woman of Samaria came to Jacob's well for plain water, and found the Lord, from Whom she received the blessed water.

"She went to Samaria with the teaching of Christ, and to other countries, and became a martyr for Christ. May the Lord illumine us with His grace through the prayers of Holy Martyr Photinia.

"Today we consecrated your lower church. In this way, we invoked God's grace upon your labors, the church dedicated to the Holy New Martyrs and all the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia.

"The New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia suffered for the Orthodox faith, for the truth of Christ, at the hands of the atheists. They gained thereby the grace-filled gifts from Christ our God. The New Martyrs now help the Russian Orthodox people return to the path of the church and to live according to the teachings of Christ, they help us in the path to salvation.

"Russian people scattered throughout the world, in building holy churches and in living their lives must become preachers-missionaries of the Holy Orthodox faith. Your church, which we consecrated today, and the upper church, which, God willing, you will complete, preach Holy Orthodoxy with their magnificent cupola and cross, which can be seen from afar.

"I wish you, brothers and sisters, to finish the construction of the upper church as well, so that it would be painted with holy icons and consecrated. Then your church, honoring the feast day of the Holy Dormition of the Mother of God, will not only be an adornment of this city, but would be a source of gracious gifts for all who gather here.

"May God help you, brothers and sisters. Amen."

At the end of services, Archbishop Anatoly of Kerchensk (ROC/MP) arrived along with Protopriest Mikhail Gogolev, a clergyman of the London Cathedral of the Moscow Patriarchate; Archdeacon Makary of Moscow's Sretensky Stavropighial Monastery; and Archimandrite Emelian, a clergyman of Archbishop Gregorios of Thyateira and Great Britain (Patriarchate of Constantinople).

Before the kissing of the cross, Archbishop Mark greeted His Eminence Vladyka Laurus, expressing on behalf of the clergymen and parishioners of the London Cathedral deep gratitude that His Eminence found the time to visit London and perform the great consecration and Divine Liturgy, after which he turned to the parish rector and parishioners with a word of greeting, wishing them God's help and the speedy completion of the construction project. Then His Eminence Vladyka Laurus granted gramatas [decrees of blessing] from the Synod of Bishops to Priest Vadim Zakrevsky and a series of parishioners and benefactors. During the trapeza that followed, delivering speeches were Archbishop Mark, who welcomed the visitors from the other Local Churches; Bishop Agapit, Protopriest Alexander Lebedeff and Priest Vadim Zakrevsky. For the first time in a long time, all the priests of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia in England were able to meet with His Eminence the First Hierarch and with each other. This opportunity was appreciated and welcomed by all. The clergymen and worshipers parted ways with an elevated spirit.

Later that evening, His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus visited St Edward's Brotherhood, dedicated to the Martyr King Edward, whose relics abide in the monastery church. Here, His Eminence was warmly welcomed by the Abbot, Archimandrite Alexis and the brethren.

His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus, donning the minor hierarchal vestments, performed a moleben at the cross erected on the site where the new monastic residence will be built. During the service, besides the above-named bishops and clergymen, representatives of other Local Orthodox Churches, local civil leaders and an enormous number of faithful were in attendance.

On May 30, His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus and those with him, visited Annunciation Convent in London, founded in 1954 with the blessing of St John (Maximovich) for spiritual-educational purposes.

Then, through the efforts of A and N Samarenko and other parishioners, a festal reception was offered to honor His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus. Here His Eminence was given the opportunity to speak with the parishioners and worshipers of Holy Dormition Parish on various ecclesiastical and spiritual matters. At the reception, His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus, Archbishop Mark, Protopriest Peter Holodny, Priest Vadim Zakrevsky, PM Lisitsyn and others spoke.

In his address, His Eminence Metropolitan again congratulated the rector and parishioners, calling upon them all to make good use of the newly-consecrated church, to become part of the church, and, taking in the salvific mysteries of the Church, to lead their spiritual lives, for "I have prepared my dinner" (Matthew 22:4), says the Lord. And so, "Let us accept Him," writes St Macarius the Great, "and lead Him into ourselves; because for us He is food, and drink, and eternal life."

On May 31, after thanking Archbishop Mark, the Parish Rector, Fr Vadim Zakrevsky and the parishioners, who welcomed him so warmly, His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus and his co-travelers left for home.

We wish His Eminence Archbishop Mark and his God-protected flock further successes in the work of the Church, and may the Cathedral being constructed be a beacon of Orthodoxy placed on high, illuminating with Divine Truth the hearts of the faithful in Great Britain.