Sunday, December 6, 2015

St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, Oxford

The parish of St Nicholas is a parish of the Diocese of Sourozh, of the Russian Orthodox Church (Patriarchate of Moscow). The parish was founded with the blessing of Archbishop Innokenty of Korsun, administrator of the diocese, in the summer of 2006. Although the parish is recently established, the tradition of Russian Orthodoxy has been maintained in the city of Oxford for over fifty years. The first Russian Orthodox Church in Oxford was founded in 1941, when Hieromonk Nicholas (Gibbes) arrived to live there. Fr Nicholas, formerly Charles Sydney Gibbes, had been employed by the Russian Imperial Family as the English tutor to Tsarevich Alexis. After the family's assassination, he eventually returned to England, settling in East Oxford. There he established a small Orthodox church within the medieval chapel of St Bartholomew (Bartlemas).



In 1949 he purchased a house on Marston Street and established a chapel there, dedicated to St Nicholas the Wonderworker. The community which grew up around Fr Nicholas was the first significant Orthodox presence in Oxford, and his witness and ministry attracted a number of converts to Orthodoxy.
A permanent Russian Orthodox parish, dedicated to the Annunciation of the Mother of God, was established in the 1950s, and with the establishment of the House of St Gregory and St Macrina in 1959, services were held there in a house chapel, which was shared with the Greek Orthodox Community of the Holy Trinity.


In 1973 the two parishes, having outgrown the house chapel, moved to a new church built in the garden of the house, as a permanent place of Orthodox worship which continues to this day. Many benefactors, both Orthodox and friends of Orthodoxy belonging to other Christian traditions, helped to make it possible to build the new church. From the outset, the church on Canterbury Road was envisaged as being a home for Orthodox of all local traditions.
In July 2006, a proportion of the Annunciation Parish members voted to move from the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Moscow to the Patriarchate of Constantinople, in order to follow its former rector, Bishop Basil of Sergievo who had already made this move. Those parishioners who chose to remain in the Diocese of Sourozh within the Patriarchate of Moscow, petitioned Archbishop Innokenty of Korsun, the temporary administrator of the Diocese, to form themselves into a new parish. Thus, the Russian Orthodox Parish of St Nicholas the Wonderworker was formally established in September 2006. Fr Stephen Platt, formerly the parish priest of the Parish of the Annunciation, was appointed as its first rector. As such, over fifty years after the foundation of the original chapel of St Nicholas, Oxford again has an Orthodox parish dedicated in his honour. 



After a number of 'homeless years' when the parish was forced to rent worship space, the community acquired a derelict Anglican church which in 2010 was renovated to become a most attractive place of Orthodox worship.
St Nicholas Parish is a multi-national community, comprised of Orthodox Christians of many ethnic backgrounds, who live, work or study in the Oxford area. Students, families with children and people of all ages and professions - both 'cradle' Orthodox and converts to Orthodox Christianity - are sure to find a warm welcome in this community.  The inscription over the church porch proclaims the prophesy of Isaiah: (Is 56: 7) 'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.’ This is the hope and expectation for the community - to become a house of prayer where all could worship the Lord of all.[1]

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