Centenary of the Archdiocese of Orthodox Churches of Russian Tradition in Western Europe

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Saint Anne parish, Northampton

Saint Anne’s, by the standards of the Archdiocese is a relatively new parish, established by the blessing of Archbishop Gabriel, of blessed memory, in May 2010. Saint Anne’s was established out of the parish of the Annunciation, oxford where Father Timothy Curtis was serving as assistant priest. He lives in Northampton and when he wasn’t needed in Oxford he assisted at both the Romanian and the Greek parishes in Northampton. A couple of families approached Fatehr Timothy to establish an English-speaking community, and with the encouraged of Bishop Basil (Osbourne), one Divine Liturgy was served in his house. Within weeks, the Lady Chapel of Holy Sepulchre Church in Northampton became the home to the new and rapidly growing community of Saint Anne. Father Timothy’s spiritual home is Saint Anne’s monastic house in York, and so a relic of Saint Anne soon found its way to Northampton. The new community served the Divine Liturgy in Holy Sepulchre church, a 10th century round church, for several years until their new premises was found in 2013.

For a whole year, the community searched every property for rent and sale in Northampton, hopping to find a location suitable for the growing parish. Holy Sepulchre was adequate, but it was not possible to increase the number of services without clashing with the Anglican parish and the military services in the church. Old shoe factories, disused churches, office blocks and care homes were all considered. Eventually, a disused community centre was found and leased from the council. It is a small 1920s style one storey cottage, with a main chapel big enough to fit 40 people, a narthex, kitchen, study and disabled toilets. It was originally a building on the ancient cattle market, hence the address, and latterly a centre for people for learning disabilities. With the generosity of two parishioners and a loan from the Oxford parish, six months rent as a deposit was paid and we moved in over Christmas 2013.

In that time, the church has been transfigured. In 2016, the extraordinary wall frescos painted by Sr Joanna Reitlinger for the St Basil’s chapel in Ladbroke grove in 1947 were provided on permanent loan from the Fellowship of St Sergius and St Alban. These beautiful wallpaintings, on flimsy and fragile tea chest panels, with accompanying iconostasis, have transformed a small modern space into a heavenly realm. Each panel has been mounted carefully on the wall in more or less its original position maintaining the narrative of the saints of Western Europe, of Great Britain, of the Mediterranean, of the slavic world and the east all in their places. The upper register of the frescos, the scenes of Creation to Revelation have proven more problematic to mount in the ceiling, and has required rewiring the whole building- an ongoing project!

Today, the parish is thriving mix of many languages and cultures from around the world, with plenty of children and a loving, family atmosphere, served by Fr Timothy, Fr James, Deacon Eugene and Reader Peter. There is strong community involvement, with a beautiful choir that the children get involved in, a women’s prayer group, and we are working on a mental health counselling service. When the lockdown occurred in the UK, we started broadcasting live on Facebook, but have always had a strong social media presence, so have many people joining us online. We also have a podcast homily service for remote parishioners. We look forward to growing the parish again when the restrictions are lifted with more improvements to the building and more opportunities for prayer services. The community is guided by simple fidelity to the tradition received through our Cathedral and our Archbishop expressed in this quote “now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith” 1 Tim 1:5.