For fourteen years the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies in Cambridge has brought its academic expertise to the Orthodox Church and to Christianity at large, yet never has it been more blessed and accomplished than it is now! The Institute has just acquired its own building in Cambridge - to which we have given the name ‘Palamas House’ in honour of St Gregory Palamas. Now with the formal approval and blessing of the Pan-Orthodox Episcopal Assembly for Great Britain and Ireland, and thanks to an extraordinary surge of support from its friends in recent years, the Institute now looks towards a new era of Orthodox participation in the unique academic, inter-cultural and ecumenical environment of Cambridge.
Our Institute is the sole Christian Orthodox institution for higher education in the United Kingdom, gathering together Christians from all the historical Orthodox Churches in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Russia and Greece, but also from the various Orthodox jurisdictions in the UK and the Western world. It is also a full member of the Cambridge Theological Federation. We aim to reach out to meet the needs of the developing Orthodox parishes in the United Kingdom, while simultaneoulsy, through the internet, conveying the message by distance learning to the furthest corners of the world. Having moved for the first time into our own building, the Institute is now poised to fulfil our founders’ aim of placing learning in the context of continuing worship in the Orthodox tradition, with a chapel and seminar rooms of its own.
The Orthodox Church is one of the fastest-growing churches in the UK and its newly established Pan-Orthodox Assembly of Bishops provides a focus for unity and cooperation among the branches of Orthodoxy. The Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies has been ahead of its time in being pan-Orthodox and is now poised to be one centre for those educational activities to be coordinated by the Assembly of Bishops. Established in an ecumenical context, it trains Orthodox clergy and laity to cooperate, dialogue with and share with other Churches in propagating the Christian message to an increasingly secular and pluralist world, while at the same time offering to their western contemporaries the riches of the Orthodox tradition.
When our Building and Development Appeal went out last year, things were far from ideal. Our previous hosting college in Cambridge could no longer accommodate other institutions beyond the end of this year. Furthermore, our activities had been expanding to such a degree that we came to need space to provide facilities appropriate to the only institution in Europe that teaches, in English, all aspects of the Orthodox faith at pre-university, undergraduate and graduate level. However, our Appeal brought an encouraging sense of community and solidarity, and a number of benefactors offered us interest-free loans totalling £560,000, others made substantial donations; so that, within the year, the Institute has succeeded in raising £800,000 for the purchase of the new building. The loans must be paid back within five years, during which our Institute’s efforts in fund-raising will need to intensify. In the current economic climate, however, to be able to acquire a sizeable property for a Christian charity is nothing short of miraculous.
This may the end of the first crucial stage in the development of our Institute, but it is also the beginning of another stage of the Orthodox journey in Cambridge, and you can be a part of it! The Institute needs to become an appropriate centre of Orthodox heritage, scholarship and prayer. By helping the Institute develop its centre in Cambridge, for its missionary and liturgical service to the Church, you will be joining our liturgical community of founders and benefactors who are always remembered in our services. You might like to sponsor one of the rooms of the Institute (lecture room, library, common room etc) which would bear your name or the name of your foundation, family member, friend or mentor, or Patron Saint, keeping you a permanent member of our community but also as an example of Christian solidarity and generosity for the generations to come.