The Orthodox Parish of St Helen of Colchester
The parish began in Colchester in 1996. In 2000 we moved into St Helen’s Chapel and have been happily worshipping there ever since. Although the Chapel has electricity it lacks a water supply and the space to accommodate a growing parish. We had 15 baptisms in 2017, for which buckets of water had to be brought in and taken away again by hand! On most Sunday mornings there will be some worshippers standing in the porch or outside altogether. Our ‘Sunday School’ - The Children of St Helen - cannot meet separately at the same time as the rest of the Orthodox Church on a Sunday morning.
We have a congregation of all ages and many nationalities. Many young families and University of Essex students from Orthodox countries find a place where they can worship in a familiar way and be welcomed into the North Essex community they have joined. There are five nationalities represented on the Church Council.
In the past over four hundred university students signed a petition in favour of obtaining St Martin’s. Families of former students have sent many gifts to be found in St Helen’s in gratitude for the spiritual well-being of their children the parish has been able to take care of.
Members of the parish travel to Colchester from across North Essex and East Suffolk. Once a month the Divine Liturgy is served at St James’ Church in Clacton. Between 2010 and 2013 the parish also helped to grow an offshoot in Basildon that is now established as a separate parish of All Saints, and the Community of St Fursey in Norfolk.
This parish is one part of the worldwide community of some 250 million Orthodox Christians in the world. It belongs to the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of the British Isles and Ireland, part of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East. The City of Antioch - where the disciples were first called Christians (Acts 11:26) - appointed its first Bishop (St Peter, before he travelled to Rome), by tradition, in 34AD (Acts 2:26).
The present Patriarch, John X, came to Colchester when he was our Metropolitan in 2009 and 2012 and served the Holy Liturgy in St Martin’s Church.
The city of Antioch is no more. Once the ‘Queen of the East’ and principal Roman city of the eastern Mediterranean, it suffered from earthquakes and finally, in 1268, was completely destroyed by Baybars the Mamluk. The modern Turkish city of Antakya is nearby. The headquarters of the Church of Antioch is now in Damascus.
The Church of Antioch is one of fourteen self-governing Orthodox churches that are all in full communion with each other.