We are a small, friendly Orthodox community located on the north-eastern edge of the Ardnamurchan Peninsula at the end of the River Shiel, a beautiful land associated with many saints and the beginnings of Christianity in Scotland.


Monday, 12 December 2011

Dunblane 13 November

L to R: Hieromonk Stephen, Archbishop Gabriel, Archimandrite Raphael and Hieromonk David.

In Dunblane for the ordination of Dcn Christopher Wallace to the priesthood, Mark McBeth to the diaconate and the elevation of Fr Alexander Williams to Archpriest.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Father Stephen Robson's obituary for Abbess Thekla is available here on the Deanery site.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Visit from Fr John

We were once again blessed to welcome Father John from Edinburgh into our home for a 10 days in August. Father John served Matins and Vespers each day and a Liturgy on Sunday 28th August when friends from Glasgow and new acquaintances from Mull joined the community.

At one time Father John served the monastery of the Assumption near Whitby. Mother Thekla was very fond of Father John and spoke highly of him and always remembered to have her love sent to Father John when we visited her at the Infirmary in Whitby.

The ikon Fr John holds was bought in an antique shop near Fatima in Portugal about 30 years ago. Mother Thekla and Mother Katherine looked after the ikon where she hung on the wall in the refectory of the Monastery for many years.

Mother Thekla translated the inscription the reverse and apparently this Kazanskaya was given to a Captain in the Russian Army and suggests that one day it might be returned to Stravropol.

Friday, 12 August 2011

An Obituary for Mother Thekla

Mother Thekla
Russia 1918 - England 2011

“Mass – up hill” the blown-over sign announced. Being a simple minded over focused spotty-faced spike I decided that I needed to be at church on August 15th 1974. Having escaped from Whitby YHA where I was working during a vacation from University, I had ventured to Robin Hood’s Bay on a beautiful but windy North Yorkshire day.

I was greeted by Mother Katherine who told me that they were staying in Saint Bede’s House until their monastery was finished. Mother Maria was resting upstairs and Mother Thekla was digging potatoes at the Monastery a few miles away. But you aren’t Anglicans nor Romans are you? No – we are Orthodox.

A few days later I met with Mother Maria and Mother Thekla. The three of them sang “It is meet to call Thee Blessed………” before a wonderful potato based lunch of huge proportions.

Many of us found out eventually Mother Thekla loved digging potatoes, cleaning the goat shed, tending the graves because this meant she had her very own space and it wasn’t invaded or taken over; even to the end Mother Thekla was incredibly shy.

My love of Orthodoxy was confirmed on that day in Robin Hood’s Bay yet in the desert of Northern England struggled to get anywhere with the Orthodox Church which did not involve learning a special church form of either Greek or Russian. Mother Thekla suggested that a few important things could be learned in Greek or Russian but as we lived and worked in the UK then services would surely all be in English one day. Well, they certainly were at the Monastery where translations were in full swing and wonderful exploration “ Holy God, Holy Strong, Holy Deathless have mercy on us.”

From that day on I saw the progression of The Monastery’s ikon corner from “up hill” to the stable in a remote farm which was converted into a beautiful church, a printing works, a goat herders paradise with the cleanest goat shed this side of Whipsnade Zoo and Goat Cheese manufacturing.

Mother Thekla always said that Babinka (Katherine) was my favourite. Mother Thekla so loved to tease. The monastery’s baby was what I was called after my reception into the newly formed Greek Church in Middlesbrough; I was aged 21. John Tavener was another late-orthodox-onset monastery-adoption baby. This is exactly how Mother T saw the few of us who managed to brave the storms to get there; children, for we were there to be protected, nurtured and educated.

Putting aside her shyness, Mother T would feel free to ask favours. Do you know anyone who wants to buy a Printing Press? Can you drive us to Oxford for Easter? Do come for the liturgy at Christmas – we have bought sausages. Chris dear – you simply must come a help us deal with Fr---- a Roman priest – do you think he will be daft enough to ask us what time we get up in the mornings? (he did). She may have been shy but she also had a mischievous twinkle of the eye and an ability to make those around her guffaw while she remained quiet and aloofly calm.

I think that Mother Thekla would agree that I am faced with a simple paradox; how can one write an obituary for someone who remains so real.

One does not have to travel very far through Mother Thekla’s words to be hit by the constant reality of her faithful life. God is real of course and therefore so are the mysteries and therefore so is faith and prayer. The reality of the Orthodox faith was exactly that at the Monastery and Mother Maria, Mother Katherine and Mother Thekla latterly, worked tirelessly to present this in English to the faithful.

Mother Thekla could be stern and occasionally quite blunt in her dealings with people who simply did not grasp what it is meant, for example, to be natural in church. I was constantly called an idiot and marched into Mother Maria’s room for a lesson - usually ending up in them telling me how to stroke Nimmy, the wondercat, without getting scratched and where the the Monastery was in relation to Whitby Abbey and the Paraclete – a wonderful geographic-theologic triangle for debate, though the north window.

Hell was a reality for Mother. She once tearfully confided that she felt that the most frightening thing which ever happened to her was being incarcerated after a medical misdiagnosis. The loss of her Monastery and many treasured possessions, including her little dog Kip, was a dreadful trial for her. Mother had it in her heart to forgive and forgive she did. “Who am I to look at the crucified Christ on Holy Friday and not forgive?”

Who – indeed?

Marina Scharf was born during the revolution in Russia the day after Nicholas II, and the royal family was murdered. Baptised as “a horrid sight” ( her brother Andrew claimed ) in a flower vase, the family escaped to London eventually but without her father. He miraculously appeared to them again many months later after jumping onto a coal barge bound for Newcastle from France.

Educated at City of London School for girls, Marina rather fancied a stage life. She auditioned for RADA but decided on teaching after graduating from Cambridge with an MA in English and Russian. During the war years she worked for Bletchley Park – on Enigma. She then worked for the Ministry of Education and Senior English Mistress at Kettering Girls High School. Influenced by God she became a “secret” nun visiting Mother Maria in St Mary’s West Malling where Mother Katherine was the Anglican Novice Mistress. Mother Maria with Thekla and Katherine appealed to Archbishop Anthony to set up a convent and he thought that the life would be too hard. Appealing to Archbishop Athenagoras they won their first Monastic home near Milton Keynes before being chased away by a developing and expanding golf course. They moved to Normanby near Whitby in sight of the ruined great Abbey in 1974. There were irregular liturgies when Fr Kallistos, Fr Simeon (Ephrem), Fr Wladimir could get to the Monastery. Later in the Monastery’s history Father Ephrem lived, for a few years, in a separate part of the buildings and services then were far more regular.

In her final years at the Infirmary of the Order of the Holy Paraclete in Whitby she saw many visitors and old friends. She was cared for by a team who loved her and teased just as much as she did them. She taught them some Russian words in exchange for her learning some Whitspeak. She was often tired and occasionally frail but she loved to be at the Liturgy in Saint Anne’s House in York. Father Stephen visited her each week and shared with Ann taking Mother to and from the York church. She loved them both dearly and “didn’t know where she would be without them.” In many ways these were perhaps the most settled part of her life. It was very comforting for us all to know that she was safe.

Mother Thekla will now re-join her two desert sisters at Saint Hilda’s Priory – a truly tangible reality. Also in reality Mother has gone from this life to the life which knows no age and yet will still be there for us when we need her. She leaves us not just a wonderful legacy of Orthodox wisdom in words; many of us have been and will continue to be influenced by Mother Thekla’s stunning intellect and devout practicality. A truly inspirational figure, may she always be for us an anchor on the other side.

I can now however imagine her twinkling, “Is this all I am worth – not even three pages of A4?

Really! – I ask you.”

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Memory Eternal, Mother Thekla!

The beginning of a feast never again to end...

On Sunday 7th August, Mother Thekla of the Monastery of the Assumption at Normanby, passed from death to life everlasting.

The monastic life is a vocation to the centre, to enter into the centre and remain in the centre. When he is led to his profession, the monk of the Eastern rite sings: open wide thy arms, O Father, to me. The profession signifies his taking up into being-loved of God and consciously now he experiences this as the beginning of a feast never again to end. The cantor sings, as if he is witness, what happens in heaven, how the coming home is being feasted at the Father's hearth.

Mother Maria (Gysi), founder of the Monastery of the Assumption.
from 'Sceptrum Regale, Life towards the Transcendent.'

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Pascha 2011

Christ is Risen!

Kristus nousi Kuolleista!

Kristos Anesti! 

Kristos Voskresse!

From the Wednesday in Holy Week Deacon Christopher and Diaconissa Elizabeth were in Finland with the blessing of Archbishop Gabriel, attending services in Helsinki.

We were able to attend The Washing of Feet with Metropolitan Ambrose in Uspensky Cathedral, the service of the Twelve Gospels in Holy Trinity Church in Helsinki and the Good Friday Procession of the Shroud in Helsinki. The Finns certainly live Orthodoxy and the services were very well attended. They also sing like angels.

The celebration of the Divine Liturgy for the children of the Helsinki parish, in Uspensky cathedral, was a wonderful highlight. Over a thousand children each day of Bright week arrive attend. The Tuesday service we attended was a noisy, yet beautiful occasion and it was delightful to see the children in long lines, arms crossed and smiling faces coming to receive Holy Communion.

Thanks to our friends Irene and Aleksi Usano we were able to see much of the Finnish country side around Helsinki as well as partake of some exquisite Easter fare.

Friday, 11 February 2011

New ikons

New ikons of Christ All-mighty and the Mother of God. They were painted by the late Father John Ross and recently gifted to the Community by Nan Ross.