The Community of Sts Constantine and Helen is the longest established Orthodox community worshiping in York. We are a parish within the Oecumenical Patriarchate’s Archdiocese of Thyateira & Great Britain.
Our community was founded in 1993 by Orthodox Christians who found it hard to travel to the nearest Orthodox church, The Church of the Three Hierarchs [in Leeds] every Sunday. Although most of the founding congregation were English, the church quickly became home to Russian and Greek residents of York who also found it hard to get to an Orthodox church on a Sunday – especially on restricted public transport systems. We first began to meet in the Anglican church of All Saints on North Street, but moved into the Anglican church of St Mary’s, Bishophill Junior the following year as this was a more suitable building. The tower of St Mary’s certainly pre-dates the Great Schism of 1054 and may well date from the time of St.Constantine himself, and other parts of the building were probably built in the 12th century, so we think it is a very appropriate building for Orthodox worship!
Our first Priest was Archimandrite Ephrem Lash, who translated the English version of the Divine Liturgies and other services which we use today. But we don’t use this translation simply because we revere Fr Ephrem’s memory! It is widely recognised as an extremely accurate translation, while at the same time sensitive to the needs of singers (who have to make the words fit a tune) and people whose first language is English. Many very direct translations ignore the real purpose of Liturgy, which needs to be easily sung and understood, and lose the sense of the words by using an exact substitute for a word or phrase which does not mean the same in English as it does in the original Greek. Fr Ephrem’s translation is authorised for use in the Oecumenical Patriarchate, particularly in our Archdiocese of Thyateira & Great Britain and has a forward written by our Archbishop Gregorios.
When Fr Ephrem moved home, the parish was ably served for a time by the then priest of The Church of the Three Hierarchs, Leeds, Fr Samuel. The community was subsequently served by the current priest, Fr David, who was at that time also based at the Three Hierarchs. It is now served by the clergy of the church of St Nicholas, Manchester, after Fr David was attached to that Parish. The rest of the community has somewhat evolved since its early days. From four or five English people, we now have a mix of regular and itinerant members of all sorts of nationalities who are permanently or temporarily resident in Yorkshire.