Orthodox America

  From St. Edward’s…

With this issue's focus on Saxon England, it seemed appropriate to include news of St. Edward's Brotherhood, dedicated to the memory of the teenage King, martyred in 979. The following report has been graciously supplied by Archimandrite Alexis in answer to a last-minute request, and includes some background for readers unfamiliar with the Brotherhood's recent history. 

    Two of us moved to Brookwood on March 18, 1982, and a few days later, on the feast of the Forty Martyrs, we began daily services here. There were two former churches on the property, one practically dilapidated, and five acres of land. Through the generosity of numerous benefactors the world over, the larger church building was renovated and converted for Orthodox Christian worship in time for the Enshrinement of the Sacred Relics on September 16, 1984. Just a few days before the Enshrinement, the donation of the Relics to our Church was challenged in the High Court We were permitted to proceed with the ceremonies on condition that the relics were to be kept in a bank vault until such time as sufficient measures be taken at the church to ensure the relics' safety there. The judge gave his decision on September 14, and the next day the relics were received at the church by Bishop Gregory, then secretary of the Synod Bishops.

      In April of last year we finally obtained a ruling from the High Court regarding the security measures deemed necessary, and set about raising funds for the work that this would entail. Last December, on the feast of St. Aethelgifu, the first Abbess of Shaftesbury (where St. Edward's relics had been enshrined in Saxon times), we brought the relics back to the church where, glory be to God, they remain to this day. The plaintiffs might still bring suit against us, and there are indications that they intend to do so--but, except for employing delaying actions with regard to the security measures, they have not pressed their original claim since September 1984.

      When we settled at Brookwood, we did so in part because there were a small number of people in the area who were Orthodox but had no church. There was then no concrete plan to found a monastery or to do more than establish a shrine and a cemetery for Orthodox Christians on the five acres of land. However, a small monastic community has taken root here. At present there are three monks: Fathers Ephraim, Niphen and myself, and a novice, Brother Mark. At the beginning, our Sunday and feast day congregation numbered only a handful of about eight people, Today it has increased to an average of twenty-five. We celebrate services daily in English, using Greek and Slavonic if people come who are familiar with these languages, although we have found that some Greeks come particularly to have the services in English, so that their children and grandchildren can understand.

      About a quarter of our property was purchased from us by the Serbian Orthodox community in London, so that they could establish their national cemetery along side our own. They have landscaped their area in a highly professional way, and have shown our small mission community great brotherly love and support.

      The works that we have undertaken to make the church ready, and then to remodel the second church to provide living accommodation for the Brotherhood and a parish hall for the mission parish have been financed solely by the donations of our benefactors. To earn its keep, the Brotherbred makes candles, church incense, and produces The monthly magazine The Shepherd. This and tending to the grounds and the growing number of guests and pilgrims take up the greater part of our time.

      Each day we chant Matins in church, followed on Saturdays and Sundays--and usually on two or three other days each week, depending on the festivals that fall--by the Divine Liturgy. In the evenings we read the ninth hour and chant vespers. After vespers on Tuesdays, we chant the Supplicatory Canon to the Mother of God, and during the litanies, we commemorate all those who have asked for intercession, praying before the icon of the Mother of God "Quick to Hear." For feast days, of course, we celebrate the Vigil Service.

      There is still much to be done here, and it seems that we shall have to expand quarters for pilgrims, because on weekends and for leas(days we often have more people than we can comfortably accommodate. However, we believe that it is wise to hasten slowly. When we have the resources we make another addition, another improvement and through God's grace, our small monastic endeavor has the beginnings of a proper community and our mission is perhaps the beginning of a parish. Were it not for our sins and weaknesses, I am sure that much more could have been achieved over the last seven years. Nevertheless, we give thanks that despite these impediments we have been able to lay a foundation, and we ask the prayers of our Orthodox brethren that we might now begin, even at this late hour, to make some spiritual progress.  

Archimandrite Alexis