In March 2010, the Orthodox Christian Community of All Saints of Lincolnshire were able to secure a 25-year lease on St Matthias Church Centre, on Burton Road, Lincoln.
The Orthodox Church was founded by Our Lord Jesus Christ in Jerusalem, upon his Glorious Resurrection. It was taken to Antioch and Damascus by Saints Peter and Paul. The Church has spread around the world and continued in unbroken existence down the centuries to the present time.
For all that Lincolnshire seems to be a pretty out of the way place, as far as Orthodox Christianity is concerned, it was once a hub of activity and holiness. There are at least 101 Orthodox Saints closely associated with Lincolnshire. One could add many others who passed through (several of them giving their names to places on the way – for example St. Helen who found the Holy Cross and her son St. Constantine who passed this way having become Emperor in York). Here is a short list:
St. Aldwyn (5th Century); St. Oswald (d. 642); St. Ostrythe; St. Erkenwald (d. 693); St. Ailred (Ethelred) (d. 716); St. Werburgh Abbess (circa 785); St. Chad (d. 672); St. Botolph (d. 680); St. Adulph (d. 680); St. Werburgh (d. 700); St. Simon the Zealot; St. Guthlac (673- 714); St. Pega (Pea) (d. 719); St. Werburg of Mercia (d. 785); St. Bertram (8th Century); St. Cissa (8th Century); St. Etheldritha (Alfreda) (d. 835); the Martyrs of Croyland (Crowland): Sts. Theodore Abbot, Askega Prior, Swethin Subprior, Elfgete Deacon, Sabinus Subdeacon, Grimkell & Agamund Centenarians, Herbert Chanter, Egred & Ulric Servers, Egelred and the Seventy Companions (all martyred 870); St. Thurketyl (887-975); St. Helen and St. Constantine; St. Hibald (d. 690); St. Paulinus (d. 644); St. Herefrid (d. 747); St. Aethelheard; St. Elwin (Aethelwine); St. Edilhun and St. Egbert.
… and those are just the ones we know about!
The Orthodox Christian Community of All Saints of Lincolnshire, under the care of the Patriarch of Antioch, now has a firm base in the City of Lincoln.
It was originally built in 1890 (during the reign of Queen Victoria), as a garrison chapel for the soldiers of the Sobraon barracks. It cost £1,000 to build – a huge sum of money at the time. When the army moved out, the Chapel passed into the ownership of the Vicar and churchwardens of St Nicholas Parish Church (Church of England) on Newport. It was used as a chapel-of-ease within the parish, to make it easier for people who were unable to make the journey all the way to St Nicholas Church itself. (As St Nicholas Church is only a couple of streets away, this does make one wonder!)
Sometime around 1985, the nave and aisles were partitioned off internally and turned into a community centre. The Sanctuary and Choir of the Church were retained as a Chapel for regular worship by the local Church for the Deaf – in fact the whole building was leased, and managed for community use, by the Lincolnshire Deaf Association (LDA).
In 2004 Fr Philip Hall, the parish priest of the fledgling parish of All Saints of Lincolnshire, arranged for the Orthodox Christian Community to rent the Chapel inside the community centre for three hours each Sunday morning, to serve Orthodox Divine Liturgy. During the six years to 2010, the congregation has grown – and continues to grow: the small Chapel is no longer big enough to accommodate the faithful. English, Greek, Russian, and many other nationalities all meet on Sunday to worship Our Risen Lord. When we last counted, the temple was filled with people of 14 distinct nationalities, from Eastern and Western Europe. On some Sundays, it can become very crowded!
The LDA did not wish to take on a further long lease of the building when their lease expired. Consequently the parish began three-way negotiations with the LDA and the Church of England authorities, intending that the parish take on a new 25-year lease immediately upon expiry of the lease to the LDA. What was originally expected to be a fairly straightforward transaction took four years – with many unanticipated problems along the way – but it was finally agreed that the Church Council of the Orthodox Christian Parish of All Saints of Lincolnshire should enter into a new lease agreement with the owners of the building (the Vicar and churchwardens of St Nicholas Church). Thus, on 12th March 2010, the entire building and grounds came under the management and use – and responsibility – of the the parish. The Lincoln Deaf Association continues to use St Matthias’ Church Centre for community activities and also frequently holds a signed service of Holy Communion.
As the Orthodox congregation has grown and changed over the years since 2010, so the use of the building has also changed. The Temple and hall have been repainted, and new steps have been built between the Temple area and the hall (which is about 18 inches lower). The congregation is now too large for the small Temple, and on Sundays the dividing doors between the Temple and hall are folded back to create a much larger worship space. The walls of the hall are covered with many small icons – mostly donations from members and friends of the parish, and very large icons of the Twelve Great Feasts are now being painted to hang on the upper walls.
The Temple is furnished with an Iconostasis, candle stands, many beautiful icons and all the things necessary for the offering to God of worship in the Orthodox Tradition. Further improvements are planned, and the aim is to have the Orthodox Chapel open regularly during the week, for services and for private prayer, and to provide a warm welcome for those who wish to learn more about our faith.