The Holy Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain traces its origin back to 1922, when it was established in the tragic and uncertain wake of the “Asia Minor Catastrophe”. It was at this time that the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate decided to organize the religious life of the growing Greek population in Great Britain and Europe. Under the leadership of the late Ecumenical Patriarch Meletios Metaxakis, the Metropolis of Central and Western Europe was formed to serve the diaspora of the continent, with headquarters in London. Thus, a new see was created and officially named “The Holy Metropolis of Thyateira and Great Britain”.
It was a significant decision to bestow the name of the biblical city of Thyateira on the newly established diocese. Symbolically, it serves as a living memorial, an unbroken continuation of the life and spirit of the first Christian communities into the future, regardless of geography or political boundaries.
What had been lost?
The political turmoil and after-effects of the Greco-Turkish War brought a definitive end to Christian communities throughout Asia Minor that had been worshipping in the name of the Holy Trinity since Apostolic times. Communities that had thrived with the rise of the Eastern Roman Empire, endured its fall and then continued generation after generation under Ottoman rule. Suddenly, after so many centuries, all of these communities were uprooted and transplanted to new lands in Greece. Thyateira was one such place, which, even though it had become known as the Turkish city of Akhisar, was still recognized by Christians as one of the seven churches mentioned in the Book of Revelation and as the home of Lydia, the first European convert to Christianity, who was baptized by the Apostle Paul in Philippi.
The Archdiocese in 2022
Fast forwarding to today, a snapshot of our Archdiocese shows that the torchbearers’ of this cherished inheritance have not been idle: our Archdiocese has grown to 120 parishes and nearly 700,000 adherents of diverse backgrounds throughout the United Kingdom. Naturally, the highest concentration of Orthodox Christians can be found in London, where parishes worship in a variety of languages: Greek, English, Ukrainian, Russian, Slovak, and Romanian, reflecting the cosmopolitan make-up of this global city.
Many of the recent initiatives of the Archdiocese were kickstarted by its current leader and CTE Orthodox President, Archbishop Nikitas, since his arrival in 2019. These include: the “Olive Branch Aid” Archdiocesan foodbank, which provides support to nearly 7,000 individuals each month; weekly online catechetical courses for adults and children; the “Enlightened Evenings” networking ministry for young adults; inter-religious conferences addressing the topic of modern slavery and human trafficking; grass-roots ecumenical gatherings to promote dialogue and solidarity amongst lay and ordained members of different faith communities; and an upcoming inter-disciplinary publication on pastoral aspects of dealing with cancer.
A visit from Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholemew
The high-point of the centenary celebrations of the Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain is the visit this October of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew—spiritual head of the world’s 320 million Orthodox Christians (Eastern).
During the Patriarch’s time in London, Archbishop Nikitas will accompany His All-Holiness to visit and celebrate with many of our local parish communities and to share first-hand the vibrant life of our Archdiocese. Another special event will be the ecumenical prayer breakfast hosted by the Archdiocese in honour of the Ecumenical Patriarch, where he will be introduced to church leaders from around London.
The centenary celebrations mark a significant milestone in the history of Orthodox Christians in the United Kingdom, but more so, highlight the transformative and enduring power of Christian community—from Jerusalem to Thyateira to London. This perseveres with its perennial spirit of solidarity, patience, compassion, understanding through dialogue and the audacious conviction that hope in Christ is the road best travelled for a better world, and a better tomorrow.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate has been one of CTE’s national Member Churches since our formation in 1990.