The Early Conferences

There had been limited, though influential, contacts between Orthodox and Anglicans in the period before the St Albans conferences. In particular, valuable work had been done by individual churchmen such as Birkbeck and Palmer. The Fellowship Conference, 1927The Eastern Churches Association, which remains active although small to this day as the Anglican and Eastern Churches Association, was founded in the 1870s under the influence of a group of Anglican churchmen and politicians, among them the then prime minister William Gladstone. This association was intended as an official channel for fostering good relations between the Orthodox Churches and the Church of England. By the 1920s, it already seemed to those attending the St Albans Conferences rather old and stuffy.

 

The conferences at St Albans broke ground in a number of areas. First, they provided an opportunity for informal contact and the fostering of friendships between Christians of different traditions. Secondly, an opportunity was found for common worship, something not experienced previously, and in fact regarded with great suspicion by many Orthodox mindful of their canons prohibiting 'prayer with heretics and schismatics'. The daring decision was made to hold a daily celebration of the Eucharist, alternating between Orthodox and Anglican rites. There was no intercommunion, but the liturgy was offered each day on the same altar, and this was seen to provide a symbolic focus for the hope of future full eucharistic unity.

In this light, the conferences of 1927 and 1928 can be considered ground-breaking for their time. Both annual conferences and alternating Orthodox and Western celebrations of the Eucharist have remained features of the life of the Fellowship up to the present day.

It might be worth pointing out at this point that Roman Catholic participation in the conferences (and subsequently in the Fellowship of St Alban and St Sergius) was not possible in the 1920s and 1930s, owing to the prohibition of Catholics by their bishops to participate in ecumenical affairs. The Fellowship Committee, 1933One encyclical issued by Cardinal Griffin, the head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales at the time of the Fellowship's foundation, actually banned the Catholic faithful from membership of the Fellowship.

The lasting result of the Anglo-Russian Conferences, which actually included many who were neither English or Russian, was the foundation of the Fellowship of St Alban and St Sergius as a means of providing a focus for continued contact and friendship between Orthodox and Anglicans. The two saints were chosen as heavenly patrons reflecting the cultural and spiritual characters of the Fellowship's two constituent parts. St Alban, England's first martyr, was a Roman of the second century in whose town the conferences of 1927/28 had been held. St Sergius of Radonezh, a great Russian monastic leader of the fourteenth century is one of Russia's most popularly venerated saints. His lavra (monastery) of the Holy Trinity at Sergiev Posad (known to many Westerners by its Soviet name Zagorsk) may be regarded as one of the major spiritual centres of Russian Church life.

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St Alban & St Sergius

Based in Oxford, England, the Fellowship operates with the blessing of the local Orthodox hierarchs, and with the approval of the Anglican and Roman Catholic authorities. Our Patrons are:

Archbishop Elisey of Sourozh

Archbishop Gregorios of Thyateira

Archbishop Job of Telmessos

Bishop Angaelos (Coptic Orthodox Church)

Dr Richard Chartres , Bishop of London

Dr Sebastian Brock , FBA

Lord Williams of Oystermouth

Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia

In addition to its other activities, the Fellowship maintains an information service for those seeking to know about the Orthodox Church both in Great Britain and throughout the world. Enquiries may be sent by post, telephone, or e-mail. We also maintain an unusual collection of books and periodicals on subjects relating to the Eastern Churches which our members may use.

The Fellowship makes a number of grants each year to groups and projects which operate in accord with its aims. Through our sponsorship of a wide range of church-related activities throughout the world, we are able to form new contacts between Orthodox and other Christians.

In addition, we have our own programme of activities in several Orthodox countries, including Greece, Russia, Serbia and Romania. These include publications, conferences and exchange visits.

 

 

 

The Fellowship of St Alban & St. Sergius, 1 Canterbury Road, Oxford, OX2 6LU, United Kingdom. Tel: +44 (0) 1865 552 991. E-mail: admin@sobornost.org