Embassy, Emigrants, and Englishmen

Embassy, Emigrants, and Englishmen

The Three Hundred Year History of a Russian Orthodox Church in London

Category: History
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Paperback, 755 pages
Oct 15, 2014
6 in x 9 in
16 grams
Hardback, 755 pages
Oct 15, 2014
6 in x 9 in
16 grams
EPUB, 755 pages
Oct 13, 2014
Kindle, 755 pages
Oct 13, 2014

— About the Book —

The unlikely history of a centuries old church located at the heart of one of the world’s greatest cities. 
Founded in the early eighteenth century by a Greek Archbishop from Alexandria in Egypt, the church was aided by the nascent Russian Empire of Tsar Peter the Great and joined by Englishmen finding in it the Apostolic faith. It became a key centre of Orthodox Church life for Western Europe and America until the Bolshevik revolution and ultimately proved to be a haven for the many refugees of that calamity. In turn it became a spiritual home for those who escaped the upheavals following World War II or who sought economic opportunities in the West after the fall of communism in Russia. For much of this time the parish was a focal point for Anglican-Orthodox relations and Orthodox missionary endeavours from Japan to the Americas.
This is a history of the Orthodox Church in the West, of the Russian emigration to Europe, and of major world events through the prism of a particular local community. We become acquainted with the stories of an array of persons, from archbishops to members of Parliament and imperial diplomats to post-war refugees. Their lives and the constantly changing mosaic of global political and economic realities provide the background for the struggle to create and sustain the London church through time.

To read the introduction, browse the complete index, and view a selection of photographs from the book click here.

— Author Biography —

Christopher Birchall, an Englishman living in Vancouver, is a deacon in the Russian Orthodox Church. He was educated at The Royal College of St. Peter in Westminster, London, received a Bachelors of Theology from the State University of New York, and earned an M.A. in Russian Language & Literature from Norwich University in Vermont. He has previously publications include two translations from Russian: one on St Maximus the Confessor and one on confession in the Orthodox Church.

— Contents —




1. 1713–1725: The Delegation from Alexandria

  • The Archives
  • Metropolitan Arsenius and the Non-Jurors
  • Russian Support for the Church in London


2. 1725–1780: The Beginning of Orthodox Church Life in London

  • The Graeco-Russian Church at York Buildings
  • First Russian Clergy: Father Stephen Ivanovsky and the Move to Clifford Street
  • The Ludwell and Paradise Families
  • Archpriest Andrew Samborsky


3. 1780–1840: Archpriest James Smirnove

  • A Priest and a Diplomat
  • The Russian Church Community in London
  • The Earl of Guilford: An Extraordinary Convert
  • Woronzow, Paradise, Father Smirnove, and the Crisis of 1791
  • The “Priest of Many Parts”
  • The New Church at Welbeck Street
  • Blindness and Death of Father James Smirnove


4. 1842–1875: Father Eugene Popoff, Pastor of the Embassy Church

  • The Priest and People of the Embassy Church
  • The Crimean War Prisoners
  • Rebuilding the Church at Welbeck Street
  • The New Chapel of the Russian Embassy


5. 1842–1875: Father Eugene Popoff, Pastor to English-Speaking Converts

  • The Anglican Movement Toward Orthodoxy
  • Stephen Hatherly and the Missionary Plans of Counts Alexander and Dimitry Tolstoy
  • Dr Joseph Overbeck and Plans for Western Rite Orthodoxy
  • Death of Father Eugene Popoff: Father Basil Popoff as Rector


6. 1877–1919: Archpriest Eugene Smirnoff

  • The Embassy Church and Its People
  • Contact with Orthodox in Other Countries
  • A ssistance to Orthodox Missions in the Americas,  India, and Spain
  • Contact with Anglicans
  • World War I


7. 1919–1922: The Church in Exile

  • The Revolution and Civil War
  • The Formation of the Parish in London
  • The Beginning of Parish Life
  • The Evacuation of Southern Russia and the Beginning of the Church Abroad
  • The Arrival of Father John Lelioukhin
  • The Parish and the Church Hierarchy
  • St Philip’s Church


8. 1923–1927: St Philip’s Church

  • Parish Life: 1923–1925
  • The 1,600th Anniversary of the Council of Nicaea
  • A Definitive Statement on Anglican–Orthodox Relations
  • Archbishop Seraphim of Finland
  • The Schism in Western Europe


9. 1928–1932: Bishop Nicholas (Karpoff)

  • The Arrival of Archimandrite Nicholas
  • Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky): Impressions of  Abbess Elisabeth
  • The Consecration of Bishop Nicholas
  • Parish Life Under the Leadership of Bishop Nicholas
  • Bishop Nicholas: A Spiritual Portrait
  • The Death and Testament of Bishop Nicholas


10. 1933–1938: Archpriest Boris Molchanoff

  • A New Rector Comes from France
  • Visits from Archbishop Seraphim of Western Europe
  • A Closer Acquaintanceship with Father Boris Through His Writings
  • Visit of Archbishop Nestor and Arrival of Father Nicholas Gibbes
  • Miraculously Renewed Icons of St Savva and St Nicholas
  • Departure of Father Boris Molchanoff


11. 1938–1948: Archpriest Michael Polsky

  • Recollections of Melvin Mansur
  • Father Michael’s Life in Russia
  • Father Michael in London
  • World War II
  • In Memory of Father Michael Polsky


12. 1945–1950: The Second Wave of Emigrants

  • The Great Betrayal
  • The Fischbeck Displaced Persons Camp
  • Soviet Interference in the Life of Russian Churches Outside Russia


13. 1948–1951: Archimandrite Vitaly (Oustinow)

  • Departure of Father Michael Polsky
  • Pastor of Displaced Persons
  • Recollections of Paul Uspensky
  • The Orthodox Review
  • Visit by Metropolitan Anastassy and the Miraculous Kursk Icon
  • Consecration as Bishop and Departure for Brazil


14. 1951–1959: Archbishop Nikodem: The Preston Diocese

  • Bishop Nathaniel of Preston and The Hague
  • A rchimandrite Nikodem: Life Before Coming to England
  • Development of the Parish and Diocese Under Archimandrite Nikodem
  • Russian London in the 1950s
  • I mpressions of a Visit to St Philip’s by Timothy Ware
  • A rrival of the Nuns from Palestine
  • A rchbishop John (Maximovitch) in England
  • Consecration of Archimandrite Nikodem as Bishop of Preston
  • Wanderings in the Wilderness


15. 1959–1976: Archbishop Nikodem: Emperor’s Gate

  • Opening of the New Church at Emperor’s Gate
  • Development of Parish Life at Emperor’s Gate
  • Establishment of the Convent of the Annunciation in Willesden
  • Ecumenism and Mission
  • Archbishop Nikon’s Visit to England
  • Galina von Meck
  • Gerald Palmer
  • Father George Cheremetieff as Convent Priest
  • The Last Years of Archbishop Nikodem


16. 1976–1989: The Last Years at Emperor’s Gate

  • Archimandrite Alexis as Diocesan Administrator
  • Bishop Constantine
  • The Russian Dissident Movement
  • Bishop Mark of Berlin, Germany, and Great Britain
  • Leaving Emperor’s Gate


17. 1990–2009: Building the New Cathedral at Harvard Road

  • Moving to Harvard Road
  • Architectural Design and Fund-Raising
  • Building the New Church
  • Convent of the Annunciation: Repose of Abbesses Elisabeth and Seraphima
  • Water Damage and Interior Finishing of the Lower Church
  • Reconciliation with the Moscow Patriarchate
  • Finishing the Upper Church: Installing the New Iconostasis


Appendix 1 Guidance from Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow Regarding English Converts to Orthodoxy

Appendix 2  Individuals Glorified as Saints

Appendix 3  List of Bishops and Priests of the London Russian Orthodox Church

Appendix 4   Ecclesiastical Ranks in the Orthodox Church





— Reviews —

...the definitive history of Russian Orthodox presence in London…Birchall’s approach of structuring the book around the key figures of Russian religious life in London makes the book much more personal and engaging than it could have otherwise been. One could call it an iconic approach to history...Every parish should be so lucky to have such an outstanding chronicle of its memorable figures, transformations, struggles, and triumphs.

Christopher D.L. Johnson, PhD
Associate Professor of Religious Studies
University of Wisconsin-Fond du Lac
Read the full review

...well-researched, eminently readable and authoritative...Father Christopher’s book is a model of how such histories should be written and it is not only to be hoped that he will turn his attention to other areas of British Orthodox history but will encourage others to emulate his meticulous and scholarly work.

Glastonbury Review
Issue 126, Feb 2015

...a long anticipated treatise which fills a large gap in historical and ecclesiastical studies concerning the Orthodox presence and activity in the West
...both ecclesiastical and secular historians will be grateful ... for this extensive presentation.

Archbishop of Berlin, Germany and Great Britain
Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia