On 11 December 1948, Archbishop Sawa (Sowietow) of Grodno graced Bristol’s Anglican Cathedral, presiding at Vespers in the Norman Chapter House and celebrating the Divine Liturgy the following morning.
This significant visit culminated in a general meeting that established the Orthodox Church of the Nativity of the Mother of God in Bristol, under the Polish Autocephalous Orthodox Church in Exile. Canonically operating with the Ecumenical Patriarch’s blessing through the Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain, this community remains the city’s oldest Orthodox church and the oldest within the Archdiocese since its inception.
The parish’s 75th anniversary was commemorated on 12 December 2023 with a Moleben of Thanksgiving and a reception in the Cathedral, by kind permission of the Dean and Chapter. The Archimandrite Kyril Jenner, Priest-in-charge, led the Moleben – a concise intercessory service in the Russian tradition – attended by local Orthodox Christians and distinguished guests.
Among them were the Very Rev. Protopresbyter Anastasios Salapatas, representing His Eminence Archbishop Nikitas of Thyateira and Great Britain, the Very Rev. Protopresbyter George Nicolaou from the Greek Orthodox Church of Ss Peter and Paul, Bristol, the Rev Oeconomos Richard Penwell and delegates from the Church of St John of Kronstadt in Bath, and Fr Richard McKay, a Roman Catholic priest representing the Bishop of Clifton, along with the Cathedral’s Dean and Vice-Dean. The Dean, V. Rev Dr Mandy Ford, extended a warm welcome to all.
The parish choir, directed by Anthony Hearn and joined by choristers from the Lord Mayor’s Chapel, beautifully rendered the Moleben in Russian musical tradition, featuring festive arrangements by Readers Anthony Hearn and Botolph Beavis. Archimandrite Kyril then enlightened the congregation with a talk on the parish’s history and founders.
Coinciding with Archimandrite Kyril’s birthday on 12 December, the choir performed ‘Many Years’ using his harmonisation of a Znamenny melody. The celebratory mood continued at a reception in the Chapter House, offering a chance for fellowship among the local Orthodox community and guests.
This reception, held in the birthplace of the parish, symbolically marked the completion of a full circle, celebrating 75 years of Christian witness in Bristol. In prayerful hope, we ask that God continues to bless this community, through the intercession of the Mother of God and all the saints, for many years to come.
Source: Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain / R C Beavis (modified by the Archdiocese)