Sunday, August 31, 2014

Orthodox Church of St Basil and St Stephen, Corfu

Walking around the Old Town of Corfu, one comes across many Orthodox Churches, with the unique and beautiful artistic style of the Ionian Islands; where East meets West; where Orthodoxy meets the Western artistic and musical style. The Orthodox Church of St Basil and St Stephen is not an exception to this rule.

An interesting reality, however, is the fact that most churches in the Old Town of Corfu are dedicated to at least two or three saints, a rare reality in the rest of the Orthodox Church. This creates an interesting tradition, allowing for the multiple celebrations of the festivities of a certain Church during the ecclesiastical year.  

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Travelling around the World

Photographer Kiend Lam created this beautiful video with more than 6.000 pictures from the 17 countries he visited. He travelled to the U.S.A., England, France, Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Egypt, Turkey, Jordan, Thailand, Indonesia, Japan, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Bolivia and Peru.

Friday, August 29, 2014

White Cliffs of Dover

Known throughout the world, the iconic White Cliffs are internationally recognised - so much so they were voted Britain’s most popular stretch of coastline! They have witnessed action and invasions throughout centuries - the historic Dunkirk evacuation was even planned from within them. Today they provide a welcome sight to the millions of visitors who visit White Cliffs Country.

The cliff face reaches up to 300 feet. The cliffs stretch for about 16 miles – about 8 miles (12km) each side of Dover. They are composed of soft, white chalk. Chalk is made up of a large number of tiny skeletons of plants (coccoliths) that floated in warm seas 130-65 million years ago. They sunk to the sea bed and over a long period of time were compacted to form chalk rock.

Railways at the White Cliffs (1898-1914)
Many of the paths that the visitor can see criss-crossing the cliff tops today, follow earlier routes. However, it wasn’t sightseers or ramblers who created these walks – during the 20th century railways moved building materials and weapons across the cliffs. In 1898 S. Pearson and Son built the Martin Mill railway. They were to build the new harbour walls and needed to be able to transport shingle and ballast to the harbour. In 1925 a tramway was built over North Fall Meadow. The War Office was extending the barracks near Dover Castle and, to save money, reused the bricks from the demolished prison blocks. During World War II super heavy guns capable of firing across the channel were installed on the cliff tops. One part of the Martin Mill tracks was extended for transporting the mobile guns as well as ammunition for the heavy guns by using it as a military railway.

The Aerial Ropeway (1929-1954)

The coal mine opened in 1906 and usually lost money. In 1926 it was sold to Tilden Smith and its luck changed when a rich seam of coal was hit. Although just seven miles away, it took over 24 hours and considerable expense to move the coal by rail to Dover. To save money, Tilden Smith planned an aerial ropeway that would move 3000 tons of coal each day directly to the dock side. Work was finished and on Valentine’s Day, 1930, the ‘Corminster’ was loaded with coal. Sadly, Tilden Smith never saw his dream realised, dying before the first ship was loaded. Coal exports through Dover never took off and the ropeway fell into disuse. In 1954 it was broken up and sold for scrap.  

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Annual General Meeting followed by Coptic Lecture – AECA

The Anglican and Eastern Churches Association (AECA) is organising its annual general meeting followed by a Coptic Lecture, to be given by His Grace Bishop Angaelos. The Lecture is entitled: ‘Christianity in the Middle East, a source of reconciliation and hope’. The event will take place on Tuesday 9th September 2014 at St Mark’s Coptic Church, Allen Street, London W8.

The programme of the event is as follows:
6.00 – 6.45 pm Annual General meeting
6.45 – 7.45 pm Lecture given by Bishop Angaelos
7.45 – 8.30 pm Refreshments

Everyone is welcome to attend. For further information please contact the General Secretary of the Association, Janet Laws, email: or  

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


Is faith important? Do we all have the gift of faith within us? Do we need faith to believe in God? These are some of the questions posed by many today, who question not only faith, but also God. According to the New Testament (Hebrews 11:6),  ‘But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.’

According to St Paul faith is ‘the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.’ That is, faith is the unshakable belief in the real existence of blessings which we hope for; it is the certainty for things which we cannot perceive with the eyes. Faith is absolute trust in God and not merely the assumption that God exists.  Faith in God means to completely trust him. Faith, therefore, is the love we show towards Jesus. According to St John of Damascus, faith is the communion with tradition, as is experienced within the Orthodox Church.  

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Peloponnesian Association of GB – Dinner

The Peloponnesian Association of Great Britain is organising a Dinner with live music, on Sunday 28th September 2014, at 6.30 pm. The event will take place at Alexander the Great, Greek Restaurant in Camden Town (8 Plender Street, NW1 0JT). The price for the event is £25.
To book for this event please
call Dimitri Salapata on: 07985726677
or email at:

Monday, August 25, 2014

Experiencing the Truth

The Orthodox Church has always given a great emphasis to the life in Christ, living the Church, being in communion with God through the Holy Sacraments. An academic understanding of the faith will only take the Christian so far. Living the Church, the Tradition, the Bible, and being in communion with God is essential for experiencing the Truth, i.e. God.

‘The role of the Church is not, therefore, to impose upon man’s mind some truth which otherwise he is unable to perceive, but to make him live and grow in Spirit, so that he himself may see and experience the Truth’. [1]

[1] Meyendorff, John, Living Tradition, (Crestwood, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1978), p. 41.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

St Michael’s, Camden Town, London

St Michael’s Anglican Church, in Camden Town, London, was the first church building designed by Bodley and Garner, built in the Gothic style. The nave of the church was complete in 1881 and the chancel added and consecrated in 1894 under its first vicar, Father Edward Penfold.

It is linked to St Michael’s Church of England Primary School. In 2003 it became part of the St Oancras Team Ministry, with St Pancras Old Church, St Mary’s Church, Somers Town and St Paul’ Church, Camden Square. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh Centenary Conference

The Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh Foundation is organising a Centenary Conference dedicated to Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh at King’s College, London, for two days – 15 and 16 November 2014. This conference will attract a number of distinguished speakers from all around the world. The list of speakers is as follows:
Dr Rowan Williams (Cambridge, UK)
Metropolitan John Zizioulas of Pergamon (Athens, Greece)
Father Alexander Fostiropoulos (London, UK)
Brother Adalberto Mainardi (Bose, Italy)
Dr Susanne Sklar (Wisconsin, USA)
Dr Elisabeth Robson (Brighton, UK)
Costa Carras (Athens, Greece)
Karin Greenhead (London, UK)

‘The Glory of God is a Man Fully Alive’
                St Irenaeus of Lyons
These words of St Irenaeus, quoted so often by Metropolitan Anthony, speak of a fullness of life which he himself never ceased trying to live. He spoke of it in many different ways – as the ‘radiance of God’ which shines through a person who has reached the full potential of his being; as love which is ‘the abundance of triumphant life, a life… so deep and absolute that it can pour itself out without thinking of the risk, the danger or the loss.’ He himself had in great measure this fearless plenitude of life, and the gift of inspiring others to seek it. But he was in no doubt about the courage and daring, the transparency and human vulnerability needed to attain it. And he urged that what it required of us above all was to be human, to take our place not only ‘under the shelter of the wings of God’ but where things are tragic, in the eye of the storm.
With these thoughts in mind the ‘Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh Foundation’ has organised this Conference, the sixth in Western Europe to be held in his memory, celebrating the centenary of his birth. We will look at his spiritual and theological vision and teaching, and at him as a person, in that what he preached was inseparable from what he tried to live. And we will reflect on aspects of the theme in the light of his example as a pastor and shepherd who strove to live every word of the Gospel to the full, and to live it in the very heart and turmoil of the modern world.
About the Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh Foundation
The Foundation is a body of independent trustees whose task is to collect together, publish and make known the writings, recordings and films which make up Metropolitan Anthony’s legacy – a body of work which spoke not only to his own church but far beyond its boundaries to the whole of society. The Foundation now has an extensive Archive which contains not only his published material but a rich collection of his unpublished works: spiritual and theological writings; letters, films and documents concerning his life and pastoral ministry. The Archive is now available for research, on request through the Foundation.

For enquiries please contact:
Telephones: 01869 347457; 07415 983900

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Orthodox Church of the Virgin Mary of Foreigners

This Church is situated in the heart of Corfu town in the square where the Church of St Spyridon is also located, just off Theotoki Street. The church of Panagia Xenon or the Church of the Virgin Mary of Foreigners was constructed in the 18th Century by the priest Ieronimos Nicodemos from Epirus (the part of Greece opposite Corfu), built for refugees from Epirus who settled in Corfu after the persecutions during the Ottoman domination.

It is built in the three aisled basilica style and displays fine works of arts from the 18th century, especially its ceiling which was the creation of N. Koutouzi. It also houses a rare icon ‘Riza Lessai’ created by artist M.Mantzavinos in 1814 and beautiful ornate chancel screens which were decorated in gold plate.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Sainthood in the Orthodox Church

Sainthood in the Orthodox Church

By Dimitris Salapatas

(This article was published in the Orthodox Herald, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain, January – February – March 2014, Issue 304-306, pp. 25-27.

The word "Saint" literally means "Holy One". We acknowledge the holiness of those who have struggled to live holy lives, above and beyond the average Christian, by calling them "Saints".
Orthodox faithful who attend Church during Matins (the service normally celebrated before the Divine Liturgy) hear the Synaxari, the commemoration of the Saints. Every day we celebrate a number of Saints or even events, for example from Jesus’ life. This Synaxari is taken from the Church’s canon; hence we use the term canonization when referring to the recognition of a certain person to Sainthood. However, it should be stated here that the true Saint (Hagios) is only God. In the Old Testament we read: “For I am the Lord your God; you shall name yourselves holy and keep yourselves holy, because I am holy…” (Leviticus 11:44; 19, 2; 20: 7).Therefore, man only becomes holy, saintly, through participation and communion with God.
In the Orthodox Church we give a great importance and honour to the Saints, due to the fact that they reached theosis, i.e. became small Gods, in communion with God – they inevitably reached the ultimate objective that we all have, salvation. By salvation we mean that “the Church entrusts to everyone the enormous honour to be responsible for the salvation of the whole world, of this world whose flesh is our flesh and whose life is our life. And salvation for the Church is the liberation of life from corruption and death, the transformation of survival into existential fullness, the sharing of the created in the mode of life of the uncreated”[1]. “Salvation is more than forgiveness. It is a genuine renewal of man. And this renewal is effected not by the discharge, or release, of certain natural energies implied in man’s own creaturely being, but by the “energies” of God Himself, who thereby encounters and encompasses man and admits him into communion with Himself”[2].
Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia, one of the most prominent Orthodox theologians in the West claims, in his book The Orthodox Church, that:
“The aim of the Christian life, which Seraphim described as the acquisition of the Holy Spirit of God, can equally well be defined in terms of deification. Basil described the human person as a creature who has received the order to become a god; and Athanasius, as we know, said that God became human that we humans might become god. ‘In My kingdom, said Christ, I shall be God with you as gods’[3]. Such according to the teaching of the Orthodox Church, is the final goal at which every Christian must aim: to become god, to attain theosis, ‘deification’ or ‘divinization’. For Orthodoxy our salvation and redemption mean our deification”[4]
Therefore, we identify through the above that through deification we reach the deeper meaning of what a human person is, i.e. according to the image and likeness of God, of the Holy Trinity. It is significant to emphasise the fact that “the saints of the Church, as a rule, do not even suspect their sanctity. It is the others who recognise the reflection of God in them, and perhaps, they too, in their sanctity, are able to discern the image of God in every human being”[5].
From the 2nd century AD the title ‘Saint’ was given to a number of exceptional people of the Church. First we have the Holy Apostles, then the Martyrs and then the Confessors. This happened spontaneously, from the whole body of the Church. The confession of their belief in Jesus Christ and their martyrdom was sufficient for the Church to give them the honorary title. The common conscience of the Church, the faithful - who are the body of the Church – recognised these people as Saints, without any other recognition needed by the Ancient Church. The mere inscription of their names in the diptych was enough for the proclamation of the certain person to Sainthood. The recording of the Saint in the local festive calendar was undertaken by the laity, of course with the permission of the local bishop, with the vote of the people prevailing over that of the bishop. It is interesting to point out that there have been cases where the proclamation of a Saint without the ecclesiastical conscience of the faithful remained null and void; however, the same has occurred where the Hierarchy of the Church has not ratified a certain person to Sainthood, identifying that there was no reason for their proclamation. Nevertheless, with time the prerequisites in regards to the recognition of a Saint within the Orthodox Church were established.
In order to become a Saint one has to be a member of the Orthodox Church, living an orthodox, exemplary and virtuous life; confessing the faith, suffering persecution for Jesus Christ and finally martyrdom. However, we can identify other requirements for the title of Saint, such as the performance of miracles before and after their death, the beautiful smell radiated by the holy relics of the Saint and the intactness of the holy relics. Nevertheless, we do have many examples of Saints who reached this position in an ‘unorthodox’ and ‘unconventional’ manner. The Sainthood of the faithful is a relative status; they were not perfect and sinless – only God is sinless and Holy, Saintly in nature-; they were flawed with numerous shortcomings. However, they excelled in the struggle for the faith to Jesus Christ and lived a life in Christ.
Christ claims to be the Way. Therefore, if we are permitted to use a metaphorical image, we could claim that the road to Sainthood (and to Salvation, theosis) is like a road. There are a number of routes, lanes and speeds one can take in order to finally reach his destination (theosis). Our lives can also be seen as an ocean, whereby the Saints are islands, scattered here and there, showing us the way and giving us an opportunity to rest. It is interesting how today we have ceased to consider the Saints as our role models; on the contrary, we all prefer to have footballers, models, actors as role models. However, our objective in life, theosis and salvation, can only be reached if we follow the example given to us by the Saints. They are the role models we all need to have if we wish to reach the Kingdom of God.  Martin Luther King Jr. claimed that ‘a man who won’t die for something is not fit to live’. Well, these saintly figures died for what they believed, professed their faith in Christ and eventually died for God. They are saints because of their union with God. How many of us today would do this? They are, inevitably, the greatest inspiration for all Christians, who wish to reach their final goal, which for a Christian is the Kingdom of God.
St Symeon the New Theologian, another prominent Church Father[6] describes the saints as establishing and materialising a golden chain:
“The Holy Trinity, pervading everyone from first to last, from head to foot, binds them all together… The saints in each generation, joined to those who have gone before, and filled like them with light, become golden chain, in which each saint is a separate link, united to the next by faith, works and love. So in the One God they form a single chain which cannot quickly be broken”[7].
These are the examples we should all have if we wish to reach our ultimate objective in life, salvation. That is why Jesus became man; that is why he was crucified and finally rose from the dead.
The Orthodox Church classifies the Saints into different categories, depending on their capacity and quality. The categories are as follow:
1.      The Theotokos, the Mother of God. In Greek She is known as Panagia, i.e. All Holy, All Saintly. During the Divine Liturgy we sing the hymn “It is truly right to call you blessed, who gave birth to God, ever-blessed and most pure, and Mother of God. Greater in honour than the Cherubim and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim, without corruption you gave birth to God the Word; truly the Mother of God, we magnify you”.
2.      The Holy Angels. During the Divine Liturgy we chant the Cherubic Hymn, one of the longest hymns during the Liturgy. This hymn highlights how we, the faithful, pass into the world of the angels: “We who are mystical images of the Cherubim, and who sing the thrice-holy hymn to the life-giving Trinity, let us now leave aside every earthly care, for we are about to receive the King of all, escorted by the angelic hosts”. 
3.      St. John the Baptist. He is the figure who brings together Old and New Testament, being the last prophet, who saw the Messiah; his significance was also pointed out by Jesus, who claimed, “among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist”(Matthew 11.11)
4.      The Holy Apostles, who spread the Gospel to the world.
5.      The Apostolic Fathers. These were the Fathers who constituted the period after the Holy Apostles, the Ecclesiastical Hierarchs, who were the students of Christ’s Apostles, or people who saw them and listened to their homilies.
6.      The Isapostoloi. The title means ‘Equal to the Apostles’; it was given to Saints who dedicated their lives to the spreading of Christianity, such as St. Constantine and St Helen, who found Christ’s Cross.
7.      The Hierarchs – The Bishops and Fathers of the Church.
8.      The Holy Martyrs. (Prosomion of All Saints Sunday:  “The Martyrs made the earth heaven by the radiance of their virtues, they imitated the death of Christ, they trod the way which brings immortality, they purified the passions of mortals by the surgery of grace, they competed nobly with their whole soul in all the world: let them be praised”[8]).
9.      The Great Martyrs.
10.  The Confessors (omologites). These are the faithful who professed their belief in Christ, but who were not martyred, either because their persecutors did not torture them to the point of death, or due to the fact that they stopped the persecutions, allowing them to die with natural causes.
11.  The Apologists. During the first centuries after the foundation of Christianity the pagan world persecuted the new religion in many ways. One was the academic, theoretical one. Therefore, whoever defended Christianity on an academic level, in front of the persecutors were given this title.
12.  Hosios, Blessed. In ancient Greek the epithet ‘hosios’ means the one who is dedicated to God. It was stated that after the end of the persecutions, a virtuous life in Christ is equal with martyrdom. These are the ones who left their secular life and became monks, ascetics and hermits.
13.  The Just. Those who lived before Christ, according to His divine Law, with the hope of the coming of the Messiah, such as the Forefathers, the Patriarchs, Kings etc.
14.  The Prophets. These people lived in the Old Testament epoch, the last one being St. John the Baptist; they preached to the Jewish people the word of God and prophesised the coming of the Messiah.
15.  The fools for Christ. This last group of saints is definitely the weirdest one. The fools are people acting crazily, being extreme in the way they practice their faith and the way with which they speak to others. However, despite being rare, they give a different understanding of who can be a saintly figure within Christianity.
Who has access to the Holy Spirit? Is tradition static? Many today are amazed that we have new saints proclaimed even during our epoch; however; St. Symeon the New Theologian[9], one of the most important Fathers of the Orthodox Church, described how “it would be considered heresy and a subversion of Scripture to claim that later generations do not have access to the Holy Spirit or cannot acquire the same vision of God as given to the early Apostles, Fathers, and saints”[10].
            Therefore, we understand that Saints exist even today; they are among us. This is a belief verified by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, in Constantinople, whereby in November 27th 2013 the Holy and Sacred Synod entered in the Synaxarion of Saints of the Orthodox Church hieromonk Porphyrios Kafsokalyvitis (1906-1991), who will be celebrated on the 2nd December, and hieromonk Meletios of Ypseni, in Rhodes, (18th-19th century), who will be remembered on the 12th February.
            Should we venerate the Saints? This is a question posed by many who are outside of the Orthodox tradition. Protestants do not understand the ‘obsession’ the Orthodox have with the Saints. However, this is part of the Tradition of the Church since its early centuries. The Orthodox faithful honour these people who have achieved theosis, showing us the way, encouraging us to follow in their footsteps. Even in Scripture we find instances where Saints are honoured. In Acts 28:10 we read “They honoured us in many ways”. Therefore we see that the Church truly believes that the Saints reflect the glory of Our Lord, that is why we read in 2 Corinthians 3:18 that “…we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit”. However, it is significant to identify that God promotes the idea of sainthood to his people, when he states: “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy” (Leviticus 19, 2). The Saints also radiate the uncreated light of God (Matthew 5:14, John 8:12, Ephesians 5:8, Colossians 1:12, Apocalypse 22:5). This honouring, however, is not independent from the glory, honour and love we give to Jesus Christ, since they and we are members of His Body, i.e. the Church. They are God’s beloved, God’s friends, and Christ’s brothers. The remembrance of the Saints is eternal (Hebrews 11:4-38). The faithful, therefore, praise with sacred songs towards the Saints, who are heirs of the Kingdom of God and inhabitants of Paradise.
            The significance of the Saints within the Orthodox Tradition is also evident through the celebration of the Name Day. It is difficult for the non-Orthodox to comprehend the importance of the Name Day; nevertheless, it is a clear indication of our faith in the Church. The first name given to a child is always a Christian name. It is the Saint of this name who is the patron of the child. Sometimes the child is named after a saint for whom the family has special devotion, or merely the family follows the tradition of giving the grandparent’s name. It is to our patron Saint that we should pray to and have special devotion for, so that we may receive an abundance of God's blessings. Not only should we hold our patron saint in special reverence, but the Orthodox faithful normally have an icon of the saint in their room and in the icon corner. His or her life should be read and studied, so that we may learn how our lives should be directed. On the feast day of the saint, we celebrate our name day and the saint's day. This day is considered as our birthday into the Church and on this day we celebrate this important event. The Name Day is an opportunity for the Christian to place the Saint at the centre of attention, pointing out the ties between the individual and the entire Church—both the living and those fallen asleep, since it is on this day that the Church is commemorating the saint.
            In conclusion, the honouring of the Saints is not an indication of idolatry, as was considered during the iconoclastic period in Byzantium (8th-9th centuries AD). They should be seen as the greatest role models and examples which we all should have. They are a clear indication of God’s constant love towards his creation.

[1] Yannaras, Christos, Elements of Faith, (Edinburgh, T&T Clark, 1991), p.48
[2] Florovksy, George, Bible, Church, Tradition: An Eastern Orthodox View, (Belmont, Nordland Publishing Company, 1972), p. 117,118
[3] Canon for Matins of Holy Thursday, Ode 4, Troparion 3. 
[4] Ware, Timothy, The Orthodox Church, (London, Penguin Books, 1997), p. 231
[5] Andreopoulos, Andreas, Gazing on God, (Cambridge, James Clarke & Co, 2013), p. 22
[6] Another Church Father, St. Clement of Rome, in his first Epistle to the Corinthians, in Chapter XVII explains how the saints are an example of humility for all of us:
“Let us be imitators also of those who in goat-skins and sheep-skins went about proclaiming the coming of Christ; I mean Elijah, Elisha, and Ezekiel among the prophets, with those others to whom a like testimony is borne [in Scripture]. Abraham was specially honoured, and was called the friend of God; yet he, earnestly regarding the glory of God, humbly declared, "I am but dust and ashes." Moreover, it is thus written of Job, "Job was a righteous man, and blameless, truthful, God-fearing, and one that kept himself from all evil." But bringing an accusation against himself, he said, "No man is free from defilement, even if his life be but of one day." Moses was called faithful in all God's house; and through his instrumentality, God punished Egypt with plagues and tortures. Yet he, though thus greatly honoured, did not adopt lofty language, but said, when the divine oracle came to him out of the bush, "Who am I, that Thou sendest me? I am a man of a feeble voice and a slow tongue."And again he said, "I am but as the smoke of a pot”
Staniforth, Maxwell and Andrew Louth, Early Christian Writings, (London, Penguin Books, 1987), p. 30

[7] Centuries, III, 2-4
[8] Sunday of All Saints,, accessed 04/02/2014, 16.31
[9] “Those of whom I speak and whom I call heretics are those who say that there is no one in our times and in our midst who is able to keep the Gospel commandments and become like the holy Fathers…Now those who say that this is impossible have not fallen into one particular heresy, but rather into all of them, if I may say so, since this one surpasses and covers them all in impiety and abundance of blasphemy. One who makes this claim subverts all the divine Scriptures. I think (that by making this claim) such a person states that the Holy Gospel is now recited in vain, that the writings of Basil the Great and of our other priests and holy Fathers are irrelevant or have even been frivolously written. If, then, it is impossible for us to carry out in action and observe without fail all the things that God says, and all that the saints, after first practising them have left in writing for our instruction, why did they at that time trouble to write them down and why do we read them in Church? Those who make these claims shut up the heaven that Christ opened for us, and cut off the way to it that he inaugurated for us. God who is above all, stands, as it were, at the gate of heaven and peers out of it so that the faithful see him, and through  his Holy Gospel cries out and says, ‘Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest’ (Mt. 11:28). But these opponents of God or, rather, antichrists say, ‘It is impossible, impossible’” Symeon the New Theologian, “Catechetical Oration”, 39, 3-5, in the Classics of Western Spirituality series (New York: Paulist Press, 1980), p.311-313
[10] Bartholomew, His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch, “Encountering the Mystery – Understanding Orthodox Christianity Today”, (New York, Doubleday, 2008), p.41

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Inspiration through Time: Women’s Ministries in the Orthodox Church OTRF Conference - Abstracts

Inspiration through Time: Women’s Ministries in the Orthodox Church
OTRF Conference
High Leigh 8-10 September 2014

James M. Nelson, Body, Soul and Spirit: Psychological Reflections on Gender and Personhood
M.Div., Ph.D. Department of Psychology Valparaiso University
Modern psychological approaches to gender differences must deal with many epistemological problems and limitations. “Truth” that emerges from scientific research in psychology simply involves probabilistic claims about the overall characteristics of a group, but these claims are frequently “false” because many individuals within the group do not fit its general description. The same is true about psychological statements of group differences based on characteristics like gender—interesting statements can be made about overall differences between men and women, but these can seldom be used to make specific predictions and judgments about individuals. Despite this, many intriguing findings about gender differences emerge from psychological research and can inform theological discussions on the topic.
Contemporary psychological study of the body and gender is heavily influenced by
neuroscientific study of the brain. For many years, gender differences were thought to be largely sociocultural in their origin, as the central nervous systems of men and women were thought to be largely identical. Modern neuroscientists now reject this conclusion, pointing to a host of structural and functional differences in the brains of men and women found through the use of neuroimaging techniques. Sometimes these differences may provide an advantage for one gender in solving a particular kind of problem, in other cases men and women may be equally effective at problem solving but approach a task in different ways. The differences affect cognitive styles as well as social relationships.
Despite these advances in cognitive neuroscience, it is evident that human differences,
including gender differences, cannot be reduced to neurology. A psychological understanding of mind and soul must also look at differences between men and women that are mediated by environment and culture. These differences also impact problem solving style and social relationships, and can have important effects in many areas, such as how men and women exercise leadership in groups.
Psychological considerations of person and gender from neuroscientific or sociocultural perspectives are interesting and valuable, but ultimately they fail to completely penetrate the inner, active, free and transcendent mystery of the human person. Investigating this core spiritual aspect of the human person is probably more a task for theology than psychology, but some writers like Carl Jung have offered understandings of gender that seem to touch on this. Jung’s theory is interesting as he sees both male and female as transcendent indwelling potentials within all individuals regardless of their biological sex. This differs from the view that each individual has a single-gendered spiritual nature that matches that of the body. Aspects of Jung’s thought seem to be compatible with traditional Christian and Orthodox understandings of gender, however there are also some highly important differences, suggesting that Jung’s theory should be used with caution.

Mary Cunningham Women as teachers and scholars in Orthodox Tradition: the examples of Elisabeth Behr-Sigel and Wendy Robinson
[Nottingham University, Department of Theology and Religious Studies, Lecturer in Historical Theology, Faculty of Arts]
This paper discusses the role of women as teachers or scholars in the Eastern Christian tradition. After a brief look at early Christian models, including St Macrina and the ‘Desert Mothers’, Sts Sarah, Synkletike, and Theodora, it turns to the ongoing place of women as teachers in non-liturgical contexts. The contributions of two 20th- 21st-century women, Elisabeth Behr-Sigel and Wendy Robinson, are explored, with two main questions being asked: 1) what are the special insights of these important scholars? 2) Do Behr-Sigel and Robinson reveal a particularly ‘feminine' perspective in their approach to Orthodox theology (according to concepts of gender differentiation proposed by theologians such as Paul Evdokimov, Sergei Bulgakov, and others)? The paper will also engage briefly with Behr-Sigel’s arguments in favour of the ordination of women to the priesthood, asking whether such a position could only have been proposed by a female scholar and whether it is likely to gain greater support among lay and clerical Orthodox Christians in the foreseeable future.

Nick Mayhew-Smith ‘From Ia to Godiva: British women and the pre-Conquest church’
[Author of the book Britain's Holiest Places, and PhD candidate, Roehampton University]
Few periods in history can claim such a diverse array of female hermits, nuns, abbesses, martyrs and patronesses as the early British church. Some are remembered as mere place names on a map, ancient church dedications hinting at service and sacrifice unknown. Others, such as St Hilda of Whitby, helped shape the course of history, and with it helped define an era of female monastic leadership that has never been seen again.
Through patchy written records and elusive archaeological evidence it is possible to glimpse the rich variety of roles women played in the conversion and establishment of Christian Britain. This presentation will examine some of the more surprising and inspiring examples of female leadership, devotion and sacrifice to be found in the early church. It will also provide some illustrated examples of painted and carved images that have yet to be fully explained.

Fr Andrew Louth: St Makrina, Didaskalos.
[Professor Emeritus of Patristic and Byzantine Studies, Durham University UK
Visiting Professor of Eastern Orthodox Theology, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam]
We know about St Makrina mainly through the devoted memory of her young brother, St Gregory of Nyssa.  By comparing his perception of her with that of others such as St Basil and St Gregory the Theologian, I hope to build up a picture of her necessarily hidden role in the life of the Church.

Niki Tsironi: Female Emotion or Crossing of Boundaries? The Lament of the Virgin in middle-Byzantine Literature and Art
[Athens, National Hellenic Research Foundation, Onassis Foundation, Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation]
In the present paper I attempt to explore the connotations of the female expression of emotion with reference to the Lament of the Virgin as expressed in the middle Byzantine period. More specifically I intend to explore the boundaries between male and female in the context of Orthodox theology and the means through which gender identity is conceived and articulated through artistic media, such as literature and art.

Michael Sarni Anglo-Saxon Double Houses and the Ascetic Endeavour’
Besides discussing of the work of the great abbesses of pre-Viking double monasteries in the light of Eastern Orthodox monastic tradition, the paper will consider their monastic predecessors - St Brigid and St Genovefa, some near-contemporary examples of spiritual direction by women ascetics, and a case of a modern double monastery.

Lidia Kroshkina "Holy mother's way" and its embodiment in service of mother Maria (Skobtsova)"
[Tutor at Humanitarian University, St Philaret's Christian Orthodox Institute, Moscow, Russia]
The report is devoted to a theological view of mother Maria (Skobtsova) on the ways of Christian service in the modern world, and also to their embodiment in her merciful, missionary, church, theological and liturgical activity.

Sophia Androsenko ‘Women’s Ministries in Catechism in the Transfiguration Fraternity (1990 until today)’
[BA student at School of Theology, St Philaret's Christian Orthodox Institute, Moscow, Russia]
The presentation examines the experience of women catechists in the Transfiguration Fraternity since 1990, when the fraternity was officially established. The following questions will be raised: Transfiguration Fraternity catechetical ministry in the historical context of catechumenate in the Church (what do catechists and their assistants do?); why and in what way are women involved in catechism? a woman catechist: an advantage or a compromise? pluses and minuses of woman catechist (obstacles, limitations, advantages as compared to men catechists); the issue of confession.

Zoya Dashevskaya ‘Particular qualities of women’s church ministries in liturgical and canonical sources’
[Dean, School of Theology, St Philaret's Christian Orthodox Institute, Moscow, Russia]
1.      Short overview of the sources: content and the analysis of the material. The place of women in church gatherings of second - fourth centuries. Circle of interests and spheres of responsibilities of women and for women in Graeco-Roman society during the period of late antiquity. Social status of women.
2.      What does the term ‘women’s ministries’ mean? Which ministries do we know about in liturgical and canonical sources? Which ministries do they not mention?
3.      Women’s ministries, which need ordination/installation and the ones that do not. Conditions of installation/raising for the ministry. Spiritual gifts, which are necessary for performing each ministry. Difficulties, warnings, responsibilities for performing or not performing of one’s ministry.
4.      Development of women’s ministries. Witnessing of the canonical literature.

Svitlana Kobets ‘Female Holy Fools in Eastern Orthodox tradition’
[Literature Instructor at St. Michael's College at the University of Toronto]
The paradigm of holy foolishness as a form of Christian asceticism and saintliness is considered not to be gender-sensitive. However, if we compare the number of vitae of female and male holy fools, we see that males constitute the overwhelming majority of holy foolish saints. What was the reason for such a staggering imbalance? To what extent was it possible for a woman to choose the path of holy foolishness and to be on par with her male peers who roamed around naked or near naked, led an unsettled and unprotected life and presented themselves as mad and possessed? In which ways do the hagiographies and phenomenologies of female holy fools differ from those of their male peers? Is the paradigm of holy foolishness indeed the same for male and female ascetics? In this paper, as I address these questions I will discuss the idiosyncrasies of female holy fools’ hagiographic portrayals vis-à-vis those of their male counterparts both in Byzantium and Russia.

Dimitris Salapatas: Women Chanters and Hymnographers within the Byzantine Tradition
This paper will analyse the significant issue of chanting and hymnography within the Byzantine tradition, especially when executed by women within the Orthodox Church. There are many views on whether there should be women chanters, what they can chant, when they can chant etc. However, this paper will only analyse the tradition as seen through the Orthodox Church which retains and practices Byzantine Music. Additionally, Scripture, Church History and the Fathers of the Church will be used in order to verify the practice of the Orthodox Church. By analysing and examining the past we will be able to understand the current practices and identify the future prospects in the relation between Orthodox women and Byzantine Music.
It is evident that within the tradition of the Orthodox Church there are not many women chanters and hymnographers; the most famous being Kassiani, she is merely an exception to the rule. However, what will be analysed within this paper is the fact that many male members of the Church cannot accept women as chanters and are against this reality. Some are even arrogant enough to propose that women should merely sit with the rest of the women and listen to the male choirs. Many have the belief that if a woman is chanting, and a male chanter arrives, she should leave with ‘humility’ and allow for the male singer to continue the service. These negative pre-conceptions will be examined and analysed within this paper.
Personal beliefs, practices and examples will be given, showing the practical issues, especially as seen within the Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain. Women chanters play a key role in the day to day services, where male chanters are absent. Many times, even children chant, in the absence of a male chanter. However, what is their role today? In order to achieve a better understanding of these questions, a survey will take place, where chanters and priests from a number of countries will be asked to answer a number of key questions, on whether there should be women chanters.
Additionally a small analysis on Byzantine Music will be given, to ascertain whether women can chant within this ecclesiastical musical reality. However, despite the fact that Byzantine Music is dominant within the Greek Orthodox World, it is not the only musical tradition that exists. The Ionian Islands, for example, retain a more western and choral tradition, which is of course part of the Greek Orthodox Ecclesiastical tradition.  Therefore, a comparison between the two musical traditions within the Greek World will give significant results in regards to the role a woman has within the Pasltirion.

The key objectives of this paper are to identify the current role of women chanters, using the past practice as a basis. What is the future for women chanters within the Orthodox Church? Could there be an efficient marriage between women and Byzantine Music? Most importantly, can the male members of the Church accept women as chanters? Maybe the answer is a simple one. However, there are many who oppose this reality. The outcome of this paper is to further educate the members of the Orthodox Church on this crucial matter, in order to bring further equality and understanding between women and men.