The Orthodox parish of St Cuthbert and St Bede in Durham began in the autumn of 1996 as an initiative led by students and academic staff at Durham University. At that time, the nearest Orthodox parishes were in Newcastle and Middlesbrough, with services conducted almost entirely in Greek. Moreover, neither of these parishes had a permanent priest and, as a result, their liturgical schedule was occasional. The Divine Liturgy was infrequently celebrated by the late Archimandrite Ephrem (Lash), then the chaplain of the Monastery of the Assumption at Normanby (near Whitby) and the famous translator and liturgist.
Orthodox Christians in Durham and the surrounding area who did not speak Greek, who found it difficult to travel outside Durham City, and who sought weekly services in English began to come together and try to find a place of worship for regular services on Sunday mornings. At the request of the then layman Prof Andrew Louth, the late Archbishop Gregorios of Thyateira and Great Britain gave his hierarchical blessing for the establishment of a little English-speaking mission which was to serve all Orthodox in the North-East. At first, the community met in the ‘Norman Chapel’, a small space in the Castle (the University College, Durham University), with monthly Liturgies led by Fr Ephrem. Early in January 2002, Andrey Kordochkin, one of Professor Louth’s doctoral students at Durham University, returned to Durham having been ordained priest on the Feast of the Nativity of the Lord by Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk (now Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all Rus′) and, with the blessing of Archbishop Gregorios, became the priest of the parish, inaugurating weekly services.
At the completion of Fr Andrey’s studies, Prof Andrew Louth, the professor of Patristics and Byzantine Studies at Durham University, was suggested by Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev for ordination on behalf of the Durham parish. Subsequently, Fr Andrew was ordained to the priesthood on 19 July 2003 by Bishop Basil Osborne (acting for Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh), and has been serving as the rector of the parish for nearly 20 years. The parish has grown over the years and, in 2015, Fr Andrew suggested the appointment of someone to join him in the pastoral care. Dr Justin Mihoc was proposed as candidate consequently being ordained deacon on the Feast of Pentecost 2017 (by Bishop Ignatie Trif), and priest on 13 October 2018 by Metropolitan Iosif, the Romanian Orthodox Archbishop of Western Europe. In February 2022, Fr Andrew retired as rector of the parish (with Fr Justin being appointed in his stead) but remains an active rector emeritus, concelebrating with Fr Justin most weeks.
At present, the community worships in the church of St Oswald’s. For the past five years, the Orthodox Parish of St Cuthbert and St Bede has been looking for a more permanent home in Durham. A small, disused chapel inside the graveyard of the Parish of St Nicholas’, on Providence Row (The Sands) will become in the near future an Orthodox Church and function as the parish church (more about this project can be found here).
In addition to serving the local population of Durham County and the surrounding areas, the community also serves as Orthodox chaplaincy for students and staff at Durham University. Its weekly services are held in English and open to all, regardless of religious affiliation. Since its inception, the Orthodox community has served as a meeting place for Orthodox Christians of all ethnicities, as well as a representative for the Orthodox tradition in the multi-denominational context of Durham, engaging in and fostering ecumenical dialogue and having a special relationship with the Anglican Diocese of Durham.
A charitable organisation has been set up in 2018 to oversee and manage the renovation works of the new church. It has been entered into the Register of Charities as The Orthodox Church of St Cuthbert and St Bede, Durham, with the Registered Charity Number 1181914.