World War II and St. Basil's House
Over the next twenty-five years, the Fellowship was to expand the scope of its activities, always driven by the tireless enthusiasm of Nicolas Zernov and its other founders. Annual conferences allowed western Christians to come into direct contact with some of the leading lights in the field of Orthodox theology. Frs Sergii Bulgakov, Georgii Florovsky and Alexander Elchaninov, together with lay theologians like Vladimir Lossky and Lev Zander all began to make regular appearances at Fellowship Conferences, which lasted over three weeks during the summer.
In the years following World War Two, a house was acquired in Ladbroke Grove, London W11 to serve as a permanent base and headquarters. A library was established for the use of Fellowship members, and an Orthodox chapel was opened in the house, dedicated, like the house, to St Basil the Great. The chapel, opened by Metropolitan Germanos of Thyateira, was to serve as the spiritual centre of the Fellowship for the next forty-five years. Uniquely for an Orthodox place of worship, the chapel contained an Anglican altar, outside the Orthodox sanctuary, so that both Anglican and Orthodox eucahristic celebrations might be possible there.
The chapel was decorated with iconographic wall-paintings done by Sister Joanna Reitlinger, a Russian Orthodox nun living in Paris at the time. The purchase and furnishing of St Basil's House and chapel was made possible through the generosity of many members and friends of the Fellowship, many gifts being made with an element of self-sacrifice. The tempera paint for the icons in the chapel was even produced using eggs donated from people's food rations (rationing was in force during and following the war).
The war was to have another beneficial effect on the life of the Fellowship. As the war progressed, the Annual conference was replaced by a work camp, in which Fellowship members worked together on farms to assist in the war effort, at the same time continuing discussion and debate in the evenings, and worshipping together each day before work. This all served to deepen the bonds of Christian friendship and Fellowship between members.
In 1948, a young Russian priest from Paris, Fr Anthony Bloom, arrived at St Basil's House as the Orthodox chaplain of the Fellowship. A year later he was appointed vicar of the Russian Orthodox patriarchal parish in London, and was replaced as chaplain by Fr Lev Gillet, known to many as the 'monk of the eastern church', the name under which many of his writings appeared. Both Fr Lev and Metropolitan Anthony, as he was to become, have played a decisive role in the development of Orthodox Church life in Britain, in international ecumenical affairs and in making the Eastern Christian tradition of prayer and spirituality known to a very wide audience. Their many publications are still in print and widely read.