Overseas Links

Holy Cross Church, Davidson's Mains, Edinburgh, Kondapoga Icons

Icons from the Kondapoga workshop installed at Holy Cross

Holy Cross has built up strong links with individuals and congregations in the Diocese of Tirunelveli in the Church of South India, and The Russian Orthodox Parish of the Dormition of the Mother of God in Kondopoga, in Karelia, Russia.

Kondopoga Parish
Our contact with the Church of the Dormition in remote northern Russia came through a member of our congregation who read about the remarkable work of the church and its equally remarkable re-foundation in the 1990s.

Kondopoga is a mill town of about 50,000 on the shores of Lake Onega, about 600 miles north of St Petersburg. It was expanded from a small village to house the largest paper mill in Russia, and operated as a Gulag town populated by displaced Russians. Kondopoga’s Russian Orthodox priest was executed by Stalin in 1937; until the re-establishment of the parish, there was no Christian presence at all.

When we began our contact the congregation was growing, though in this destitute part of Russia few resources were available. Our support was financial, helping the parish to maintain its large ministry to the homeless and destitute – providing a daily meal to many, training the unskilled, rehabilitating alcoholics and drug addicts, and ministering to children and the elderly.

In June 2011 Holy Cross had an appeal for Kondopoga, raising funds to support the setting up of a tourist centre, giving the parish a regular income to support their work, particularly with children.

The parish of Kondopoga has an icon studio which, under the direction of the Matushka Julia (‘matushka’ is the Russian term for a priest’s wife), produces icons of stunning quality. We at Holy Cross are privileged to have three icons from the workshop in our church.

Holy Trinity Cathedral Tirunelveli

The Church of South India
Our initial contact came in 1996 through Joshua, a priest of the Diocese of Tirunelveli, when he and his family made Holy Cross their church home whilst he was studying for his PhD at New College, University of Edinburgh.

By sheer coincidence, Sally Mair, a member of our congregation, visited Tirunelveli in early 1997 with a group of 25 others from Scotland charged with introducing the Cursillo Movement to that town. A few years ago, she spent six months in Tirunelveli setting up a facility for children with multiple disabilities. She has maintained regular visits to encourage and support the continuing work of the project. Read Sally’s account (.pdf) of her work in India and the establishment of her charitable trust, and part 1 of her updated news in the May 2015 magazine.

By the time Joshua returned to India he and his family had become a central part of our congregation and ministry. To our delight, Rev Sham P Thomas, a priest of the Mar Thoma Church, then came to study at New College. Joshua had encouraged Sham and his family to come to Edinburgh, where they were assured of a warm welcome at Holy Cross. They returned to India in 2007.

Since 1997 a number of members of our congregation have visited India and developed personal links with the church there. Holy Cross has had numerous visitors from Tirunelveli, including two Bishops of the Diocese, two Cathedral Provosts, and a Diocesan Lay Secretary. We have supported a number of different causes over the years, including contributing financially towards a Diocese Mission hospital.

Our links with South India have truly enriched our life as a congregation and widened our experience and knowledge of life in the sub-continent.

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