History of the Local Communities
The first Greek Cypriot to arrive in Plymouth in 1935 was Maria Photiades. From 1946 other families began to arrive and set up restaurant businesses in the city centre as it was being rebuilt after the wartime destruction. More people arrived after the Turkish occupation of their villages in 1974. In recent years the Community has become more mixed with Greek Mainland, Russian, and English members. As a result the Holy Services are now in a mixture of Greek and English.
The Church Parish was founded in 1964 by Archbishop Athenagoras II and dedicated to the Greatmartyr Demetrios. In 1994 Archbishop Gregory approved the addition of the Greatmartyr Nikitas, the Gothic saint, since so many of the families had originally come from the village of Nikitas near Morphou. For over 30 years the Parish rented places of worship from St. Peter’s Parish. In 1996 the Community purchased the church and community centre on the West Hoe, originally dedicated to the Archangel Michael. It is now beautifully furnished with iconostasis, icons, lamps, and banners from Greece. The Bishop’s throne was hand-carved in Cyprus by the renowned Talliadoros brothers.
The University of Plymouth has attracted many Greek students, particularly in the fields of Marine Studies, Architecture, Business, and Information Technology. The Community is always ready to help and support them when they are away from home.
The Greek Orthodox parish in Torquay was founded in 1964 by Archbishop Athenagoras II and dedicated to the Apostle Andrew. For the greater part of its history it has been served by the same priest as Plymouth and the two parishes have worked closely together. The families come from Paignton, Dawlish, and Teignmouth besides Torquay itself. Some of the older women arrived in the area after marrying British servicemen following the Second World War. Then families arrived from Cyprus to set up businesses.
In 1981 the Community purchased the ancient Parish Church of St. Saviours in Torre. It had been the people’s Church served from the nearby Torre Abbey until 1529. After the destruction of the monasteries it was the only church to serve the fishing village. With the coming of the railways, Torquay rapidly developed into a town, taking in the nearby villages of Marychurch, Chelston, and Cockington. Torre Church remains in the centre of the town, having seen Catholic, Protestant, and now Orthodox worship.
The Orthodox Church
The Greek Orthodox parishes in Plymouth, Torquay, and Falmouth are in the Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain whose Archbishop Gregory lives in London. The Mother Church for Greek Orthodox Christians who live in England, America, and Australia is at Constantinople. Constantinople was founded in 311 as the capital of the newly Christianised Roman Empire at a time when the whole of Asia Minor (modern day Turkey) was Greek speaking. Its bishop was early on called the Ecumenical Patriarch. Until the Great Schism between eastern and western Christians in 1054 he ranked next to the Pope of Rome. After 1054 he was ranked first in the Orthodox Christian world. The present patriarch is called Bartholomew.
Orthodox Christians are grouped in self-governing national churches, (Russian, Romanian, and Serbian, for example) using different languages, but are united in faith and worship. Our parishes are regularly in contact with the Russian Orthodox parishes in Exeter, Coombe Martin, and Truro whose Archbishop Anthony also lives in London. There is also an Antiochian Orthodox presence in West Cornwall which is connected with the Patriarch of Antioch who lives in Damascus.
In terms of world size the Orthodox Church ranks next to the Roman Catholic Church. In England there are about 250,000 people in the Greek Archdiocese, 100,000 in the Serbian Diocese, and 5,000 in the Russian Archdiocese. There is now an Orthodox Christian presence in every major town or city in England. Increasingly you will find English used alongside the mother tongue and in most congregations there will be people who were not originally Orthodox in faith.
Today it is often difficult to see any difference in the interiors of Catholic and Protestant churches, but an Orthodox building and its worship will be very distinctive. The altar area will be enclosed by a large screen full of icons and the walls will be covered with further icons of the saints with lamps in front of them. The singing will be unaccompanied and normally reserved for trained cantors.
The worship will be bathed in incense and surrounded with colour. Even the Holy Gospel Book is bound in golden covers with elaborate symbols. The Orthodox Churches have had no Reformation, Counter-Reformation, or Vatican 2. There has been a quiet development from the time of the apostles until the present age without any major breaks. The Greek Orthodox Church preserves and reads the New Testament in the original Greek in which it was written, even when it is translated immediately afterwards. It honours the Greek Septuagint version of the Old Testament which pre-dates the Massoretic Hebrew text followed by Protestants.
The Orthodox Church has no central HQ like the Vatican. Its bishops meet in worship and in synods, but do not need have any permanent secretariat. Orthodox Christians outside Eastern Europe, Asia, and Africa are served by bishops who are members of one of these self-governing churches. Constantinople, Antioch, Moscow, and Serbia all have large numbers of Christians outside their home areas.
The Order of Seniority of the Chief Bishops of the 15 Self-Governing Churches
Ecumnical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople
Pope and Patraicarh Theodoros II of Alexandria and All Africa
Patriarch Ignatios IV of Antioch
Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem
Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia
Patriarch Pavel of Serbia
Patriarch Theoktistos of Romania
Patriarch Maxim of Bulgaria
Catholikos Ilya of Georgia
Archbishop Chrysostomos II of Cyprus
Archbishop Chistodoulos of Greece
Metropolitan Sawa of Poland
Metropolitan Staphanos Church of Estonia
Archbishop Anastasios of Albania
Metropolitan Christoforos of Czechia and Slovakia
There are three autonomous churches under Constantinople
Archbishop Leon Autonomous Church of Finland
Archbishop of Mount Sinai Damianos Autonomous Church
Archbishop Gabriel of Comana – Autonomous Russian Tradition Church of France