Letter to the Congregation during the Current Pandemic
To my beloved brothers and sisters of St Dunstan’s congregation,
‘There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.’ [1 John 4:18]
I thought it right that in these strange times I should address some words to you all, both by way of encouragement and to help us keep a sense of proportion regarding all that is happening around us. If, like me, you are a keen student of History, you will know that these are not unprecedented times, as we are so often told by the media; Corvid-19 is not like the Black Death, nor even the Spanish Flu of 1920. But what is different is the way in which we are now able to deal with the situation. Our technological, medical and information systems are far superior to anything available to the human race in former times. Yet, on the other hand, this is something of a double-edged sword, in that the virus has spread so quickly around the globe precisely because of our technological abilities and liberty of movement.
We, as Orthodox Christian people meanwhile, hold fast to our faith and trust in God, fearing nothing and no one, save God. All our life we commend to God, and it is under His providence that we face all things. On one level, of course, we accept the scientific medical explanation and advice regarding this pandemic. It is morally incumbent on us to follow the instructions of the law and to cooperate, as far as we are able, with the civil authorities who are charged with alleviating the effects of this contagion, for the common good. However, when we seek a little deeper and ask ourselves, why precisely has this fallen upon the world, we must also consider a spiritual understanding, from a perspective that draws upon our Holy Tradition and the experience of the Church in ages past.
Although we naturally regard all illness as a misfortune, our faith calls upon us to bless God in all things and to take up our cross, regardless. Following Job, the Long-Suffering, our response to all afflictions that we cannot avoid must be to sanctify them and consecrate them as part of our ascetic struggle. Here we must draw on patience in a time of difficulty and repent. Repentance would have been a natural response to our forebears in the faith, in the face of any pestilence; It is the one thing that is, of course, absent now, in the modern world. It is absent in the response of the national, established Protestant church of this kingdom, but we do not need to be surprised at that now, even though their old Prayer Book of 1662 took an approach which would have been far closer to Orthodox Christianity.
So, let our first response to this situation (in so far as it lies within us) be to repent. Not that the modern world would understand the idea of having to repent. This disease has not come upon the world because we have not surrendered our moral sense to the ‘Woke’ agenda. Corvid-19 did not happen because of the rule of the Patriarchy, or capitalism, or man-made global warming and climate change, or Islamophobia, or homophobia or transphobia, or racism, or fascism or Brexit. God has allowed this fundamentally because of man’s sin and his abandonment of faith in Him. Hence this calls for repentance.
Neither should we ignore another aspect of the current situation, which is the role of the demonic. The devil is rubbing his hands in glee. The churches are closed; how else would he react? Let me be very precise about this point. When this is all over there will be those Christians, whether Orthodox or heterodox, who will have become very used to a lie-in on a Sunday morning; who will ask themselves whether there is any need to return to the practice of going to the service on a Sunday morning. Do not be deluded here: this a KPICIC, in the Greek New Testament sense, that is, a judgement, a time of trial, a demonic persecution. Those, who after this is over, drift away from the body Christ, will have fallen into apostasy, having given in to the temptations of the world, the flesh and the devil.
As to how we, the faithful, must deal with this, I would make the following suggestions. Firstly, Orthodox Christianity has a very clear understanding of what it means to be the Church, that is, the gathered people of God; those called out from the world. It is, therefore, painful for us not to be together, especially for the Divine Liturgy. Be assured, however, that the Clergy will be praying for all our people. Please, therefore, send me the first names of your families/households that you wish to be remembered in the prayers.
Secondly, be regular and disciplined in your own prayers, either alone or with your family members. This is especially important for those with the care of children. Remember, the family, together at the icon corner, although not the full expression of the gathered Church at the Liturgy, is still an icon of the Church, like the facets of a polished diamond that reflect the same light. If you are able, you can visit the parish Facebook and the website for liturgical material, prayers and homilies, so that you can observe the normal church calendar and remain united in the true Orthodox spirit, and also help maintain our common parish life in Christ, even though we are dispersed.
Finally, remember that the Great Fast continues. As we are able, we continue in prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Let us especially pray to Christ our God, at the intercession of Our Lady, St Dunstan and of all the saints, that we may arrive at Great and Holy Week and the glory of Pascha able, once more, to come together in the Name of the One God, from whom alone comes salvation and to whom be glory for evermore.
Yours in XP
the unworthy presbyter,
Saint Dunstan of Canterbury Orthodox Church
Christ is Risen!
Truly He Is Risen! Glorify Him!
A Parish of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of the British Isles and Ireland
Patriarchate of Antioch and all the East
Saint Osmund's Road, Parkstone, Poole, BH14 9JG
Parish priest: Fr Chrysostom, tel. 01202 602628;
Assistant priest: Fr Filip, tel. 01308 868543
Vespers is normally served on Saturdays at 5.00pm and on Wednesdays at 6.00pm. Fr. Chrysostom is available for Confession afterwards or by appointment. Orthros is served before the Divine Liturgy on Sundays at 8.45am.
For other services, etc., you can use the download button below to see our current Newsletter for all services this month
Statement Concerning the COVID-19 Virus
The outbreak of COVID-19, known as Corona Virus, continues to be widely covered in the media, causing feelings of anxiety among certain people. We do not have to take extreme measures at present but it is important that, as a community that worships together, we should be vigilant and observe the rules of hygiene, as we would normally, in order to avoid the spread of any seasonal disease.
The symptoms of the current virus are fever, cough, shortness of breath. Anyone with these symptoms should self-isolate immediately for at least seven days, and NOT attend the Divine Liturgy. You should ONLY seek medical advice if the symptoms grow worse. In that case DO NOT go to your GP but telephone the NHS on 111. To prevent the spread of the virus, again, we should all follow common-sense practices.
These include the thorough and frequent washing of hands and being sure to cover any cough and sneeze. Any tissues that we use should be disposed of quickly and personal items should not be shared. There is nothing difficult in this and, of course, such behaviour is appropriate and necessary at any time.
We shall, as ever, follow common-sense measures at church. All items frequently used, such as icons or the blessing cross will, as ever be thoroughly cleaned.
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