The Church in Britain
The original tradition of the Church, preserved in Orthodox ecclesiology and spirituality has long been eclipsed in the West by the ascendancy of the Roman church and of the Reformation churches which grew out of it. In Scotland, however, the ancient Orthodox legacy has never been entirely lost. Even today the sacred geography of Scotland from Iona to St. Andrews and from Whithorn to Kirkwall tells of a very different allegiance the names of the Celtic Saints which are preserved in innumerable towns and villages witness to a Church which is gathered around its local bishop, priest or missionary founder rather than a hierarchical organisation. The Lives of the Saints reveal a spirituality which draws on all the riches of Eastern Christianity. Recurrent themes are the love of creation as a path to the Creator and the reconciliation of the whole of creation in Christ and His Saints. So close was the relationship to Egyptian monastic traditions that the Scottish "Culdee" communities were described as "sons of the Egyptians". The Celtic Cross and the Iconography of the illuminated manuscripts also point unambiguously to the East. St Andrew, the patron Saint of Constantinople, became the patron Saint of Scotland with his cross the Saltire.
The Orthodox Church in Scotland Today
The Orthodox Church in Scotland is organised as part of the Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain which was founded 80 years ago in 1922 by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople to serve Orthodox Christians living in Britain. The first parishes in Scotland were set up in Edinburgh and Glasgow. The Edinburgh parish started life as a chaplaincy mainly for Polish servicemen during the Second World War and initially the liturgical language used was Slavonic. The Glasgow parish was established about the same time to serve a predominantly Cypriot community, and accordingly the liturgical language used was Greek. As the years have passed, however, the original "ethnic" composition of the parishes has become less important than their identity as the presence of the universal Orthodox Church in Scotland. The embrace extends to all who wish to discover the Great Tradition of the Christian Church and not least the Great Tradition of Christianity in Scotland. There are now Orthodox communities worshipping throughout Scotland with a membership transcending the boundaries of national identity.
Although English is now very widely used in the services, Greek (the language of the Gospels, of the Septuagint, and of the entire early Christian world, and the vehicle for some of the greatest Church poetry and music ever written) is still retained as a treasure to be cherished. Similarly, Slavonic, which is the bearer of a thousand-year-old spiritual and musical tradition, is assured of a continuing place in the liturgical life of the church.
Last updated: 07/04/2004