Pascha in Ennismore Gardens 1980 : A personal reality check

I recall, just as if it were yesterday, the utter shock I had when I 
first visited the Russian Patriarchal Cathedral in Ennismore 
Gardens at Easter in 1980. Previously I had enjoyed a long
summer in Scandinavia – mainly in Finland and I really wanted 
to have chance to thank Metropolitan Anthony personally for 
the special help he gave our group in organising introductions 
to Archbishop Paul in Kuopio and Metropolitan Juvenali in 
what was then Leningrad. As it happened, we spent extra time 
in Finland because we were advised that two of our party – of 
Estonian descent – might not either be allowed into the USSR 
or even worse, allowed back out.

The Easter procession had wound its way from the south door 
at the eastern end of the darkened cathedral towards the 
entrance at the west end. For some reason only the side door 
was used and not the main west doors. As the faithful began to 
arrive in the resplendent light of the New Dawn in the 
Cathedral, there was an almighty crush to get in and to secure 
one’s place once again. In the squash I managed to become 
tangled with an incredibly boot faced woman who incredibly 
angrily bellowed at me and several others to “get out of my 
way, I am in the Choir”. I could not then, judge the stress of 
being a member of a Russian Cathedral Choir. The hours and 
hours which they must have all rehearsed over the last 7 weeks 
never mind all of the days of Holy Week must surely tell on 
anyone’s stamina and tolerance. Everything is sung in church 
and it must be sung “now” and rather than see that a string had 
snapped out of sheer pressure and that for this highly strung 
Russian lady, patience and apology over being in the wrong 
place at the wrong time must never have entered her mind. She 
was entirely focused on the duty she had chosen to adopt in 
order to serve God at the Resurrection of His Son – for the 
benefit of not just those in the cathedral but also those in the 
Soviet Union and in other places where the BBC World Service 
was Broadcasting the service. So when I, venomously, said to 
her “….and I am a Christian” I now believe that I was probably 
no-where near approaching the first tier of charitable 
understanding – and this was well beyond the 11th hour. May 
God forgive me!

Father Christopher