Father Andrew Phillips
I live only five minutes from St John the Wonderworker Orthodox Church in Felixstowe, yet had no idea that such an unusual place of worship was situated behind a fairly nondescript brick wall.
Located on a residential housing estate, the hall-like structure has just a cross and a sign outside to signify that this is Suffolk’s only Orthodox Church.
I had heard of Russian and Greek Orthodox – but knew little about the English Orthodox faith, so was pleased to pay a visit to meet worshippers and the bearded priest, Father Andrew Phillips, whose day job is as a teacher.
Entering the church I was greeted by candlelight and the most wonderful unaccompanied harmony singing. The sound swelled to fill the blue and yellow painted room, whose walls were almost covered by around 400 icons, or small framed pictures of saints. The polished floor is covered by large rugs, and at the further end the sanctuary, is partially shielded by an icon-screen. Standing proudly in the hall are three lecterns on which are displayed further icons – but there are no pews and only a few chairs.
St John the Wonderworker Orthodox Church
Although a style of worship similar to that of Catholics, Father Andrew explained to me that the Orthodox Church worships as the first century Christians would have done – standing to pray, singing the Creed without instruments, and having married priests. “Indeed I have six children myself, so quite a large family”. He went on to explain that Orthodox Christians would not dream of modernising their worship in any way. The whole point is that their services would be instantly recognisable to any early Christian who strayed into the 21st century.
With a regular congregation of around fifty, worshippers at Felixstowe come from several different countries, but services are conducted in English and members include local people who have attended Divine Liturgy and have enjoyed the simplicity of the style.
In the candlelight, with the choir singing for me, I sat enthralled by the fact that this church is quietly continuing traditions from the first century of Christianity.
last updated: 23/04/2008 at 15:36
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