Russian Arch-priest Michael Gogolev travels over 50,000 kilometres every year to serve communities in 3 big UK cities. One of these is the Russian community in Birmingham, now worshipping in a Catholic chapel, after years in back door halls.
Each Saturday in Birmingham, each Sunday in Bristol and once a month in Portsmouth, father Michael Gogolev dedicates his time to priesthood. The Russian priest explains:
My car is an essential piece of my pastoral work. Without a car, there is no more father Michael
Birmingham Russians meet in a chapel
In Birmingham, the Russian church started by meeting 4 years ago in halls they could find available. Then the Catholic Oratory offered them a vacant chapel where they currently hold the weekly service.
Father Gogolev (middle) talks about the history of this young church in Birmingham.
The community meets on Saturdays for liturgy. After the service they also have lunch together, in the old tradition of the Agape shared feast.
Russians in Bristol plan to buy a church
The story of the Russian church migrating around the city is common in the UK. In Bristol, the parishioners meet in a small chapel outside the city centre.
Now they plan to get a place of worship of their own. A fund raising campaign has been started to purchase a vacant Methodist church in the centre of the city. So far, they raised over £35,000 since July 2015.
Father Michael has been interviewed twice by the local BBC Radio about this campaign. He says it has been a success with the wide community. The building was empty, and it will be shared with a nursery and a library as well.
Other priests hold a different day job
Since he became a pensioner, father Michael can afford to travel across the country. Other Russian church officials hold a day job to support themselves and their families, as the he says:
If you are full time working, it is very difficult to be a priest in charge of a parish. Father Gregory in Nottingham is working as a civil servant. Father Sergey, who works full time at the University, is only a deacon, because it is not too much responsibility.
Father Michael himself professed for years as an engineer. Then he became the regional director in the oil and gas industry, for an Anglo-Swedish company called AGA Gas Petroleum. His life history took him around Europe, from Nice, where he was born, to Moscow.
The Russian priest (middle) talks about his wide high education. Has has 5 other degrees, besides the one in Theology, which he studied for in France, Poland and Russia.
Listen to father Michael talk about his whole life history and the city of Nice.
He also tells the history of the Russian Orthodox Church in the UK, started in 1956 by Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh in London. He was also a French national and a surgeon by profession.
Home to more Eastern churches
Birmingham hosts other Eastern Orthodox communities as well:
- 2 Greek churches;
- the Serbian church of Lazarica, with their building, purpose built;
- a Romanian church, hosted in different places around the city.
These communities gather together for big celebrations. In December, such a gathering was held in one of the Greek churches, as father Michael says:
500 people came from all over the deanery to venerate the holy relics of the right hand of St John the Baptist, brought from a monastery in Patras.
On Sunday, March 20, all the Orthodox churches celebrate the Triumph of Orthodoxy. The Russian archpriest explains what this means:
It isn’t that we think we are better than everybody else. It celebrates the restoration of religious icons in our churches.
To celebrate it, the leaders of these Christian communities have invited the members of their churches for the Vespers at 6:30 pm, in the church of Lazarica.