By Stuart Mann
An Anglican-Orthodox group that hasn’t been active since the 1960s is starting up again.
The Toronto chapter of the Fellowship of St. Alban and St. Sergius is having its first gathering in decades on Jan. 25, when it will host a talk by renowned Orthodox theologian Edith Humphrey on the works of C.S. Lewis.
The event, called “Further Up and Further In: Anglicans and Orthodox in Conversation with C.S. Lewis,” will take place at 7 p.m. at the convent of the Sisterhood of St. John the Divine, 233 Cummer Ave., Toronto. Joining Dr. Humphrey in conversation will be Professor John Bowen, the former director of the Institute of Evangelism at Wycliffe College.
The Fellowship of St. Alban and St. Sergius, named after two English and Russian saints, is an international society of Anglicans and Orthodox Christians that grew out of Oxford, England in the late 1920s. It publishes a journal, and local chapters meet to share papers, discuss issues of mutual concern and build rapport and relations between the two communions.
The Toronto chapter was active in the 1950s and ’60s and included such luminaries as the Rev. Canon Eugene Fairweather and Bishop Henry Hill before fading into obscurity. It has recently been revived by two Anglican and Orthodox priests – the Rev. Canon Philip Hobson, OGS, incumbent of St. Martin in-the-Fields, Toronto and the Diocesan Ecumenical Officer, and the Very Rev. Fr. Geoffrey Ready, program co-director of the Orthodox School of Theology at Trinity College, Toronto.
The two men are hoping the Jan. 25 event will drum up interest in the chapter. “It has just been resurrected in name and idea up until now,” explains Fr. Ready. “This is the first event and we’ll see from that if people want to formally sign on.”
While membership is available in the worldwide fellowship, which anyone can join and comes with a subscription to the journal, there are no plans for the Toronto chapter to have formal membership and fees. Rather, Canon Hobson and Fr. Ready are hoping that members will stay in touch through email and a webpage and help out with and attend speaking events and get-togethers from time to time.
Fr. Ready says the Anglican Communion and the Orthodox Church have had a close relationship over the centuries, and the Toronto chapter is a local expression of that friendship. (Similar to the Anglican Communion, the Orthodox Church is a worldwide confederation of 14 self-governing churches that are in communion with each other. There are about one million Orthodox Christians in Canada, mainly belonging to the Greek, Russian and Ukrainian traditions.)
“There is just a sincere interest in getting to know people within the local Toronto community who are either Anglican or Orthodox who want to get together and share fellowship and discuss issues of common concern,” says Fr. Ready, adding that several Orthodox congregations in Toronto started meeting in Anglican churches.
He says the Jan. 25 gathering is a good way to kick off the chapter’s new life. C.S. Lewis, who died in 1963, was an Anglican author much beloved by Orthodox Christians. “I often joke that he is the most quoted of the Church Fathers by Orthodox,” he says.
Even if the chapter isn’t at the top of everyone’s mind on Jan. 25, it will be a good opportunity for people from both churches to get together, he says. “It’s another opportunity to strengthen each other and to share. With the very complex world that we live in, it’s good to have friends, and it’s good to have the opportunity to explore each other’s traditions.”
For more information, visit the Toronto chapter of the Fellowship of St. Alban and St. Sergius.
The Jan. 25 event will be held during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which will take place Jan. 18-25. The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is an annual ecumenical celebration that invites Christians around the world to pray for the unity of all Christians, reflect on scripture together, participate in ecumenical services and share fellowship. The theme for 2018 comes from the Caribbean region: “Your right hand, O Lord, glorious in power” (Exodus 15:6). Resources for churches are available on the Week of Prayer website, including worship service templates, hymn suggestions, children’s resources, Bible study questions, bulletin inserts and poster templates.