There is more that unites us than divides us

Russian Orthodox service in progress in the churchyard of St Peters Church, Hayling Island for Princess Catherine Yurievsky
Russian Orthodox service in progress in the churchyard of St Peters Church, Hayling Island for Princess Catherine Yurievsky
Tents in the Isambard Brunel car park in Portsmouth

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Our columnist Rev Jenny Gaffin is vicar of St Mary’s, St Andrew’s and St Peter’s Churches, Hayling Island. Here she looks at how the island’s denominations work alongside each other.

ON Hayling Island, Christians of all denominations take pride in working together.  

Members of the different churches join forces to run Open The Book in primary schools, in which they act Biblical stories during school assemblies. We also organise social events to fundraise for good causes, and at the moment we have plans afoot for Christmas events involving knitted nativity figures.

At St Andrew’s the Anglican Church enjoys a particularly close relationship with the Baptist Church.

We share the same building and participate in events together, and our ministers preach at each other’s services.  

It’s great to benefit from the gifts of others and to celebrate the richness of the whole of God’s church.  

At St Peter’s Church in Northney earlier this month, we were privileged to enjoy a particularly poignant encounter with the Russian Orthodox Church.

Leaders performed a service at the grave of Princess Catherine Yourievsky, who spent her final years on Hayling Island.  

Princess Catherine was the daughter of Tsar Alexander II of Russia.

In the political turmoil of the time, she left Russia and eventually became a professional singer.

She died in 1959 and was buried in the churchyard at St Peter’s Church.  

Recently, Portsmouth’s Russian Orthodox Community have cleaned and straightened her grave.

And on October 2, they held a Panikhida service of remembrance for her life, which was led by two Russian Orthodox priests and a deacon.

We were pleased to welcome the Very Rev Archpriest Fr Michael Gogoleff, dean and rector of the Russian Orthodox parish of Portsmouth, assisted by the Very Rev Archpriest Fr Maxim Nikolsky, from the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of the Dormition, London, and the Rev Deacon Fr Alexander Haig.

The graveside service was sung in Russian and English.

A personal touch was added by a lady who brought Princess Catherine’s scrapbook of newspaper cuttings documenting her life and singing career.

It was a moving occasion, made all the more special by taking place in glorious sunshine.

The event gave us an opportunity to come together in worship and to build friendships, and reminded us that on Hayling Island we are part of a global community.

There is definitely more that unites the Christian churches here than divides us.