Visit monasteries virtually with us!

Last week the Fellowship’s summer series of virtual visits to monasteries began with a session on Holy Dormition St Nicholas-St Basil Monastery in Nikolskoe, Donetsk Region in Ukraine.

This week on Thursday 6 August, join professional storyteller Anna Conomos for a visit to Annunciation Monastery, Ormylia, Greece. Discover for yourself why this place is so special by attending: register for Zoom details on our dedicated page.

If you cannot join us on the day, we hope to post a recording shortly after the session. Come and see!

Online series on monasteries

Since we have not been able to hold our usual summer conference, the Fellowship committee have planned a six week series of presentations about different monasteries around the world. We are so excited to share the history, spiritual life and the work of these wonderful, holy places!

These will be held on Thursday evenings at 19:00 BST (London time), 30 July-3 September on Zoom, and if you can’t make the date for any reason, we hope to eventually make recordings available on the website.

If you would like to attend these sessions, please register on our dedicated page. Come and see!

And don’t forget that we also have a page with other resources, including spiritual talks and live streamed services.

Online conference for Orthodox musicians

Fellowship Chairman Margaret Haig attended the virtual conference co-hosted by the International Society for Orthodox Church Music (ISOCM) and St Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in New York. It was creative, thought-provoking, spiritual, practical, and fun! Personal reflections will appear in Forerunner in due course.

Press Release

Yonkers, NY – Over 200 church musicians from Europe, Australia, and North America gathered in online presentations and discussions exploring the theme of “Music as Liturgy.” The 3-day event was co-hosted by the International Society for Orthodox Church Music (ISOCM) and St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary (SVS).

As choirs and churches around the globe face the uncertainty of how to remain physically safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, participants at the 2020 Pan-Orthodox Music Symposium looked at the question of how clergy, faithful, and in particular singers and chanters “do the liturgy.”

“I have never taken part in a music event outside of my parish before now, so the Introduction to Liturgical Conducting Masterclass has given me confidence to conduct when our two choir directors are not available,” said David Galloway of St John of the Ladder Orthodox Church, Greenville, SC, “I have made connections with many Orthodox conductors and music educators to help me learn even more.”

The work of church musicians has become particularly difficult in 2020 with the pandemic restricting both the method and number of church musicians who can sing responses during liturgical services. One of the most attended sessions during this year’s Symposium explored ways to move forward in a post-pandemic world.

“While many of our churches and schools have been partially or completely closed, the pandemic is challenging us to find ways to pray and make music while also taking care of one another,” according to Robin Freeman, Director of Music, St. Vladimir’s Seminary, and member of the Symposium organizing committee. “This online Symposium highlighted for many of us the growing possibilities of technology for teaching, learning, and making music together.”

While participants were unable to gather in person to celebrate the All-Night Vigil and Divine Liturgy, this year’s event featured masterclasses on 8 different topics to develop skillsets in advance of a return to the kliros and choir lofts in their home parishes.

Coursework, led by Dr. Peter Jermihov, Chicago, IL, Dr. Tamara Petijevic, Novi Sad, Serbia, John Boyer, Portland, OR, and Nazo Zakkak, San Diego, CA, and others explored conducting at varying levels of experience, vocal technique, Byzantine chant, composition, and engaging young people with church music.

The conference addressed both the spiritual and technical issues that we face as church musicians.,” said Ruth Rutledge, head chanter at St Barnabas Orthodox Church, Costa Mesa, CA, adding, “The spirit of charity and genuine care was very evident among all the speakers who were of the highest caliber and professional excellence. It was a beautiful, profound, and practical three days of education and time to contemplate the larger perspective of our work in the church.”

Dr. Susan Ashbrook Harvey of Brown University offered a keynote presentation titled “Ancient Models from Ancient Syriac Christianity” wherein she explored how musical traditions were shaped by liturgical experience and are carried forward into today’s worship among Syriac Christians.

Other presentations included “The Rites of Hagia Sophia” by Dr. Alexander Lingas of City, University of London; a piano performance by Dr. Paul Barnes, “A Bright Sadness,” featuring original piano selections written by Victoria Bond, David von Kampen, Philip Glass and Father Ivan Moody, inspired by Orthodox chant, and a second keynote presentation by Protopresbyter Ivan Moody exploring the theme in reverse, “Liturgy as Music.”

This year’s Symposium was dedicated to the life and work of the Archpriest Sergei Glagolev, the noted priest and musician who led efforts beginning in the 1950s to exclusively use English throughout the church year. A commemorative video was shown (https://youtu.be/xTPmf96wYV0) and Father Sergei offered greetings to attendees during a special live session at this year’s event.

“It would be difficult to imagine a more successful Symposium, and the extraordinary fact of its occurring in the present challenging circumstances seems only to have made participants the more inspired,” said Father Ivan, chairman of the ISOCM. He added, “it is to be hoped that this pan-jurisdictional event will inspire further work that brings people together in this way – one of the central aims of ISOCM – working for the glory of God.”

With a record number of participants attending this year’s Symposium, representing nearly every Orthodox jurisdiction in North America across 39 states, and attending from 12 countries, organizers expect future events will be considered in the coming months.

Encouraged by the positive engagement by participants, organizers suggested an openness to new, positive possibilities, allowing the Holy Spirit to work within us, guiding our efforts to be more attuned to each other – musically and personally – with hope in God blessing our effort in building up the universal Church through sacred liturgical music.

Presentations and Addresses from the Symposium will be included in a future edition of the ISOCM’s online Journal: https://journal.fi/jisocm/index

The ISOCM is already preparing for its Ninth International Conference on Orthodox Church Music in Joensuu, Finland, 7–13 June 2021, exploring the theme of “Church Music and Topography: City, Village, and Monastery.”

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About the International Society for Orthodox Church Music

Founded in 2005, the ISOCM seeks to provide an open platform for musicians, musicologists, singers, and composers that encourages dialogue, the exchange of information and ideas, and inspires cooperation. The Society sees the promotion of communication between East and West as one of its priorities and hosts biannual conferences, at the University of Eastern Finland on its Joensuu campus. The Society also hosts regional symposia and gatherings elsewhere throughout the world to help create opportunities for collaboration and the sharing of knowledge in the field of Orthodox liturgical music.

For more information about the ISOCM, visit: www.isocm.com

About St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary

St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary serves Christ, his Church, and the world through Orthodox Christian theological education, research, and scholarship, and the promotion of inter-Orthodox cooperation. The pan-Orthodox graduate school of theology within the canonical jurisdiction of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) is located in New York’s Westchester County. The Seminary’s programs are registered by the New York State Education Department and are accredited nationally by the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada. The Seminary grants the degrees of Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.), Master of Theology (Th.M.), Master of Divinity (M.Div.), and Master of Arts (M.A.). The seminary’s Institute of Sacred Arts www.instituteofsacredarts.com makes events like the Symposium possible for the general public.

For more information about the Seminary, visit: www.svots.edu

Fellowship news: resources for you

Fellowship activities have been affected like everyone else in this time of uncertainty. We have compiled a list of resources for your use: live streamed services, talks and sermons, other information and even events. Please take a look and we hope this will be helpful. It is not an exhaustive list so you can make suggestions for additions by emailing us.

We have limited stock remaining of our 2020 Calendar and Lectionary, now reduced to £4 per copy including postage. While you are at home, this might be a useful resource to keep up with daily readings, if you do not have other means. You can ask for a copy via the contact form on our calendar page.

We are also thinking about future Fellowship events. There will be no summer conference this year, and how we hold events over the next months and years may need to be different. For example, our popular annual Youth Festival was due to be the usual residential event at Bradwell-on-Sea in Essex, the place where St Cedd built a monastery. The youth committee was able to change the format to an online conference, with more people able to participate than ever: UK, France, Germany, Spain, Cyprus, Greece, Australia, USA, Georgia, Romania, Russia and more. It may be that the Festival and other events continue to incorporate an online element, even when we can meet in person again.

God bless you and keep you in these testing times.

God permits tribulations and adversities to befall people – even the saintly – so that they may persist in humility. But if we harden our hearts against adversities and tribulations, he also hardens these tribulations against us. On the other hand, if we accept them in humility and with a contrite heart, God will mingle tribulation with mercy.

St Isaac the Syrian
Fresco of St John the Baptist, Optina Monastery, Russia

Study weekend on St Irenaeus of Lyons

We are delighted that Bishop Irenei of London and Western Europe will lead the Fellowship’s next study weekend, organised and hosted by the Orthodox Parish of St Dunstan in Poole. Bishop Irenei has spoken at Fellowship events when he was previously in the UK, and we are very grateful that he has agreed to come and speak again.

Truth in the Face of Heresy: Spiritual Life in the Witness of St Irenaeus of Lyons

21-23 February 2020, with services at St Dunstan’s as well as the talks.

If you would like to come along and find out more about this wonderful saint of the Western Church, please complete the attached application form.  £50 per participant, but please contact us if you will need some financial help to attend.  Accommodation should be booked by participants separately, but Poole has many hotels and guesthouses to choose from.

Come and see!

2020 Study Weekend Application

Conference places available!

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There are still places available at our 40th anniversary conference, 19-21 July at The Hayes conference centre, Swanwick, Derbyshire:

40 things you didn’t know about Orthodoxy

Come along and hear our fantastic speakers on the founding and first 40 years of the Fellowship; the next 40 years for Orthodoxy in this country; 40 days with the Bible; living under the patronage of St John the Baptist; and finding God in the wilderness.

Places are still available, but contact us soon – link to the application form below.

OFSJB 2019 summer conference application form

£210 for non-member, £200 for members, £180 for unwaged or students. Let us know if a bursary would help you attend if you cannot afford the full amount.

Hope to see you there!

Events in 2019

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The Fellowship events in 2019 have begun with an excellent study weekend 1-3 February hosted by the welcoming Parish of St Demetrios in Edmonton, North London. [The photographs in this post are all from that event and we appreciate the parish allowing us to use them.] The study weekend was on the theme of “Truth, Love and Fellowship in the Epistles of Saint John“. We heard from Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia, who introduced the epistles to us.  The main themes were taken up by different speakers: Dr Krastu Banev focussed on Fellowship; Fr Chrysostomos Tympas spoke about Truth; and Fr Kristian Akselberg spoke on Love. But our discussions were far wider and included baptism, the influence of the saints in our lives, prayer for others, how we should treat other Christians and non-Christians, art, how to love, and a whole host of other issues. It was a great start to our year! We thank Fr John Hookway and all the Parish for generously hosting the weekend.

And this was only the start! The Youth branch will be having their annual festival 24-27 May for 18-35 year olds on “Discovering Orthodoxy through our Saints“, held at the Othona community in Bradwell-on-Sea, Essex.

We would love for you to join us at our summer conference, 19-21 July at the Hayes Conference Centre in Derbyshire, where we will be discussing the intriguing topic of “40 things you didn’t know about Orthodoxy“. It is a special event, our 40th anniversary conference, so please come and help us celebrate, join in spiritual fellowship, and learn some new things about the faith! OFSJB 2019 summer conference application form

In September, we hope to have a meal in Oxford close to the feast of the Conception of St John the Baptist, at which all will be welcome. More details to come!

Don’t forget, the Women’s Ministries Initiative hold their own events such as study days, and the Mosaic Choir will be performing in various places at various times.  If you know of other events that we should include on our calendar, please let us know.

Come and see!

John Speak (1944-2018) – Memory Eternal!

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John pictured (front row centre) at the pilgrimage and study day in Ely

John was formerly Chairman of the Orthodox Fellowship of St John the Baptist. He was born in Wakefield and was a scientist, graduating at Oxford in Physics in 1966. He retired in 2004 after 27 years’ service at Stamford School in Lincolnshire. Colleagues have spoken warmly of John and his work, one saying it was a privilege to work with such an expert physicist.

John began his long association with 2, Canterbury Road at Oxford, living there when Donald Allchin married him to Marilyn in 1966 and the wedding reception was held in the garden. John and Marilyn had 3 children and 9 grandchildren, to whom he was devoted.

John encountered Nicholas Zernov and the Orthodox Church at Oxford, but it was not until 1988, when he felt able to travel for services, that he was received into the Church by Father Barnabas of New Mills, Wales.

John cared deeply for the Orthodox Fellowship of St John the Baptist. As chairman (2007-2013), he was extremely conscientious, an examiner of detail, who always acted with the utmost integrity. He was warmly appreciative of others, praising the time and expertise that so many members gave to the Fellowship. John spent many hours on the important revision of the Fellowship constitution approved in 2013, that included the important provision that a President should be appointed in the Fellowship from among the Bishops of the Pan-Orthodox Assembly. John supported all Fellowship activities including the Youth Festivals. He was delighted to see young members coming in to take over his work.

John was a member of the Rutland and Peterborough Theological Societies and a valued supporter of the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies in Cambridge – in all three bodies, he was well known for asking penetrating theological questions.

John appeared to be recovering slowly from a stroke, but he was too weak for the medical team to operate on a leaking heart valve and infection. He knew he was dying, but was peaceful after Father Raphael Armour, priest from the parish of St Ephraim the Syrian in Cambridge, came and ministered to him. John in his weak physical condition, listened to recorded liturgies, making the sign of the cross, so was full of faith and in communion with the Church he loved at the end of his earthly pilgrimage.

John reposed on 21 August 2018. May his memory be eternal!

[This obituary has been written by Gladys Bland, Secretary of the Fellowship]

Forty Years of Fellowship!

1979 was the year that

  • Margaret Thatcher became the first female Prime Minister.
  • McDonald’s introduced the Happy Meal
  • Sony launched the Walkman
  • Philips demonstrated their new “Compact Disk” or CD
  • Elton John was the first westerner to perform in the USSR
  • Mother Theresa won the Nobel Peace Prize
  • The Dukes of Hazard were topping the TV shows and
  • Dustin Hoffman & Meryl Streep starred in Kramer vs Kramer

It was also the year that the Fellowship of Saint John the Baptist was founded to bring together English speaking Orthodox in the UK.

Next year, 2019, the Fellowship Celebrates Forty Years!

As well as holding a fun, fortieth, family festival in the Summer- we’d also like to produce a special 40 years anniversary edition of Forerunner.

So if you have photos, memories or anecdotes of the Fellowship in the last 40, 30 or even 10 years, please share them with us!

Also, for those of us who weren’t even born 40 years ago – what is your vision for the next 40 years?

Drop us a line at ofsjb.web@gmail.com