I have been thinking much of late about Orthodoxy in these British Isles. If one separates it into the essentially immigrant-ethnic ghettos on the one hand and the former Anglican convert missions on the other, the picture isn’t all that marvellous.
One lot seem uninterested in mission and largely persist in worshipping in a language other than English ….. not much help to would-be converts – even if they are welcomed. The other lot are rather inward-looking, having saved themselves from the slide of Anglicanism, many of them have not yet become more than superficially Orthodox.
There are of course quite a few parishes scattered across the country which are making valiant efforts to become “British Orthodox” in some sense or other. Yes, of course their origins tend to show through, but they are there and they are trying hard. I think this is to be encouraged.
Most of the people that I know wring their hands about the destructive ethno-separatism – the jurisdictionalism, and that is probably the most difficult problem confronting Orthodoxy in the British Isles today.
For a start, the jurisdictions make no sense to the would-be convert, he tends to see them as divisions, and doesn’t want to belong to a divided Church. Telling him that we are really all one Church doesn’t help much, when the divisions are all too obvious.
Certain people – and Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware) stands out here – do manage to transcend the jurisdictions, but it is rare at the leadership level. There is unfortunately competition amongst some leaders who each think that they are (or ought to be) in charge of everyone.
So my thoughts turn to “what can I do about this”? Precious little is the realistic answer. I can concelebrate where possible with clergy of other jurisdictions. I can happily send would-be converts to other jurisdictions where they have the best/closest church. I can treat all Orthodox as just that – Orthodox and no qualifications.
We are about to set up our permanent Hermitage home. I want it on Mull, because I feel strongly called there – and my Metropolitan mentioned it in his instructions. But more than that, I wonder if we shouldn’t aim for two, three or four small Orthodox monasteries on Mull. I am thinking of the leadership, boost that this might give to Orthodoxy in general throughout the country if leaders and people saw a monastic spiritual enclave on Mull.
We all know the great value that Mount Athos has been to Orthodoxy down the centuries. Those of us who know genuine British history, know the great leadership that the Celtic monasteries gave – and the later leadership that the Anglo-Saxon monasteries gave – at times when the episcopal leadership wasn’t all that evident or not strong enough.
Right from the beginning the converted Culdee colleges gave a centre of learning and spiritual leadership, hence Iona being such a major centre for Christianity – to say nothing of the great monasteries in Wales and Ireland.
On Mull, we have an island right next to Iona. It is large and has facilities but only about two thousand people. Every pilgrim to Iona must pass through Mull. It has plenty of land available and houses for sale. In other words, a small monastery could easily be set up there for very low cost if the monastics are available.
One wouldn’t want a lot of failure set-ups as has happened in the past, but I believe that if the right people are involved, it could be possible to encourage the beginnings. As it is it looks as though the first two monastic institutions are likely to be set up fairly soon, so there is a beginning.