I was blessed today at the liturgy in our little community of St Alban and St Athanasius in Chatham, Kent. Three little infants were present to receive communion and it was a joy to see them sitting on the carpet of our small church, and joining in as best they could with the congregational responses. I was also able to have another conversation with two Orthodox I will be joining in the sacrament of matrimony in May. In a small missionary congregation it is good to be able to spend time with people and to concentrate on engaging with all of those who have come to worship with us. Indeed I enjoy having children in the congregation throughout the liturgy, it is where they belong, and I could never imagine asking them to leave.
Later today I continued to make plans for the development of our mission in Stoke on Trent. I am organising a study day on Saturday March 15th called The Orthodox Way of Prayer, which we will use to introduce our Orthodox spirituality to as many people in the area as possible. But we need to already be planning the next stage in the life of this proto-mission, and so I have corresponded with the folk in Stoke and hope to celebrate a first Liturgy there on April 12th. I need to make lots of arrangements certainly, and determine if we are able to use a local church as the location for this important occasion. But these two events should be a solid foundation for missionary events in Stoke to build upon until a new mission congregation is established. One of the great blessings in being involved with people in Stoke is that they are all ordinary British people with a desire to learn more about Orthodoxy, and to experience it for themselves.They give me great hope that Orthodoxy does have a future among British people, not as an alien importation that only interests a few, but as something that is essentially British in culture and resonates with all those British people seeking a deeper and richer life in Christ.
I've also been working on my first study of the Irish Traveller and British Romany communities in the UK. I have a growing sense of interest in Orthodox mission among these people as I learn more about their history and culture and prayerfully seek God's will. It will be necessary to develop means to sensitively present our Orthodox faith in a simple and easily understood manner. As a first project I am considering how to work with those very few Orthodox Travellers and Gypsies I am in contact with to produce an illustrated explanation and introduction to our Faith. There will certainly be a need to find some Orthodox supporters with graphic design ability somewhere in the world. But as God wills I hope to be able to publish an introductory booklet later this year that will allow us to begin a missionary effort among the Irish Traveller and British Romany communities. At the moment they are being actively evangelised by Pentecostal missionaries, but if we believe that Orthodoxy is true life in Christ then we must surely be involved in sharing our faith with these peoples. I have contacted some of the academics who have been studying these communities and I hope that they will provide me with insights and guidance for my own continuing research.