On Saturday 12th August we held our annual pilgrimage to Crowland Abbey to honour St. Guthlac and the martyred St. Theodore, whose relics are still with us. We were joined by parishes of the Eastern Missionary Region as well as other Orthodox people. Representatives from all the parishes were present. Sayedna led the worship and Archimandrite Philip, Fr. Michael Alexander and Fr George, concelebrated at the Divine Liturgy along with Fr. Dn. Thomas. Fr. Michael preached the sermon, giving a brief account of the history of Crowland and the tradition of pilgrimage there and the importance of being witnesses and our attendance here was our witness for Christ. Finally, he asked that we thank God for the examples of St. Guthlac and St. Theodore to help us on our own pilgrimage in life.
Our thanks to David Serle, churchwarden of Crowland who made us so welcome and to Fr. Charles Brown, retired vicar of Crowland who has supported us over many years and whose good offices and encouragement have led to the establishment of our chapel there. Following a picnic lunch Great Vespers was served by Archimandrite Philip during which we venerated the skull of St. Theodore bearing the mark of martyrdom of a Viking sword. Our parish was greatly blessed when George Ioannou, the icon painter, presented us with a reliquary containing the relics of fifteen saints for which we are very grateful. Our thanks to all who came as their presence was also a gift for us.
Our pilgrimage to Crowland in honour of St. Guthlac and St. Theodore on Saturday should give all of us food for thought. On St. Guthlac's feast day 11th April is also commemorated the Appearance of the Most Holy Mother of God at Pochaev in Ukraine where she left her footprint on the rock on which she stood, it becoming a great monastery and pilgrimage centre to this day. St. Guthlac and St. Theodore each in their own way have left their footprints in Crowland leading to the building of a great abbey , the church being the only remnant left after the destruction of the monasteries in our land by vandals who too left their footprints. Beloved Fr. Dennis of eternal memory found this place on one of his many travels and he too has left footprints which we follow. Our footprints will also be left here, now in the tangible form of an Orthodox chapel (pictures of which will be released upon its completion). This is remarkable when we consider that there has been no Orthodox presence here for nearly a thousand years. Let us also remember other footprints like those of St. John of Damascus in another place contemporary with St. Guthlac. If they could have met what would they have said to each other? What shared experiences would they have had? When Christ walked by the seashore, He too would have left footprints and look where they have led. May He bless our footprints that others may wish to follow.
If you want to find out more about the history of Crowland and its saints, the Crowland Abbey website https://crowlandabbey.org.uk/ is an excellent source of information.
Much Love, Fr. George.