Their countries may be locked in bitter fighting but in Wisbech the Russian and Ukrainian communities have set up a shrine for peace
PUBLISHED: 11:13 17 April 2015 | UPDATED: 11:13 17 April 2015
Two faiths have joined forces for a common goal of peace at a Wisbech town centre church in what has been described as “one of the best things I’ve done in my life.”
The unusual move has seen Father Paul West at St Peter and St Paul’s offer the hand of friendship to the Orthodox community by providing a special space within the church for worship.
In what makes the move even more special the shrine was a team idea of women from the Russian and Ukrainian community whose countries are currently locked in a bitter crisis in the Ukraine.
Father Paul said: “The church is for all faiths and none. It is for everybody. The women approached me and I thought it was a lovely story. These women coming together having faith as a common goal and asking for a place where they could pray for peace.
“We held a special service of dedication attended by around 80 people, it was incredibly moving. This is one of the best things I’ve done in my life.
“There is a strong Orthodox faith locally and it is great that they now have a place of their own surrounded by their icons. The latest art residency is on icons so the children will be able to come into the church and see how icons are used as part of Orthodox worship.”
An area near the Lady Chapel has been specially laid out with icons of worship traditionally used by the Orthodox church, which is the main religion in countries such as Russia, Ukraine, Greece and other former Soviet states like Latvia and Lithuania, where people can go to pray.
The area was officially blessed during a service this week headed up by Orthodox priest Father Vitaly from London.
Russian Valerie Robins, who helped set up the project, said: “Father Paul gave us personal gifts of traditional Orthodox icons, including images of our important saints and our long candles, he has put a lot of effort into this and we are very grateful. It’s our own little place where we can go to say prayers.”
Zoya Skok, of the Ukraine, said: “It is wonderful that we have this. Church is very important to us especially at times like Christmas and Easter and now we have some where we can come.”
Churchwarden Angie Manning, said: “The dedication was overwhelming and very emotional especially considering what those two countries are going through at the moment.
“It is important we can join faiths in this way. Such a simple idea but very effective and it is fair to say our church members have all been supportive all the way along.”
Members of St Peter and St Paul’s Church contacted Bishop Stephen at the Ely Diocese to get the go ahead for the team approach and, now blessed, anybody can go to worship at the dedicated altar.
Orthodox services will be held occasionally whenever Father Vitaly of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad in London, can travel to the Fens and church members will meet regularly for prayers.
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