On May 26 our Executive Director, Nicholas Chapman (who was visiting the UK at that time) was able to offer a tour of central London focusing on sites of significance for the early history of the Greek Church in England and America. The tour was offered in response to a request from Professor Timothy Patitsas of Hellenic College Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Massachusetts. Professor Patitsas is responsible for the St Helen’s Pilgrimage, the study abroad program of the School.
Mr Chapman guided Professor Patitsas and some twenty students for over two hours from Westminster Abbey to Trafalgar Square. Key sites visited included St Margaret’s Church (that stands between Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament), the Benjamin Franklin house in Craven Street, and Exchange Court, an alley off the Strand.
St Margaret’s Church was the site of an Orthodox funeral service for the Moroccan Ambassador in 1715 that was reported in detail in an early Boston newspaper. Benjamin Franklin was a close friend of his immediate neighbor in Craven Street, Philip Ludwell III of Virginia. When Ludwell was received into the Orthodox Church in 1738 the chapel was located in an upper room off a back alley in Exchange Court. The evening after the tour three of the students participating were able to gain access into the room in which the church had been located and to sing together “Christ is Risen.” Most probably this is the first time Orthodox worship has been conducted in the building since the church moved to a different location in the 1750s!
The tour had also begun and concluded with the singing of “Christ is Risen” with the latter rendition being joined by a lady in a nearby taxi who shouted at the end “Christos Anesti!” to which all the participants responded “Alithos Anesti!”