Former NATO Soldier Clive Fairclough Embraces Role as Moscow Anglican Priest
david at virtueonline.org
Fri Dec 5 13:06:31 EST 2014
Former NATO Soldier Clive Fairclough Embraces Role as Moscow Anglican
St. Andrew's Anglican Church was used as a recording studio during the
time of the Soviets
By Howard Amos
Nov. 30 2014
When Clive Fairclough is asked whether he had any connection with the
Slavic world before he arrived in Moscow earlier this year as the most
senior Anglican cleric in Russia, he pauses for several seconds.
"The opposite way around, actually, because I spent 20 years of my life
in NATO," he answers eventually.
It is an unlikely transformation -- from British army officer in the
North Atlantic Treaty Organization devising military strategies to
checkmate the Soviet Union, to Anglican chaplain in Moscow. But
Fairclough, who is taking courses about the Orthodox Church and planning
to learn Russian, drew out a common thread.
"In my entire career I have been a peacemaker," he said in a recent
interview in the parsonage next to St. Andrew's Anglican Church in
"I really believe I had a peacekeeping role as an operational soldier,
and as a soldier in NATO it was all about keeping the peace. Despite all
its history, NATO has actually kept world peace."
Fairclough, who came to Moscow for the first time in March, said he has
been overwhelmed but is determined to make the most of new
"I consider it a great privilege to be a guest in this wonderful
country," he said. "I am taking it slowly because I want to get it
The Moscow position is more multilayered than Fairclough's previous post
as a parish priest in rural England: It combines the role of
priest-in-residence at St. Andrew's, the Archbishop of Canterbury's
official representative to the patriarch and chaplain to the British
"This job uses all my skills," he said.
Like his predecessor, who served in the position for 14 years,
Fairclough has a diplomatic passport -- the only Anglican priest in the
world with such a status.
Fairclough left the army with the rank of major after more than 20
years, including two tours of duty in Northern Ireland. He then worked
as a fundraiser for British charities before the experience that set him
on the path to the priesthood.
The life-changing event took place in 1997 at a Catholic service in the
Ampleforth cathedral in northern England.
"I knelt down and venerated the cross and it became the real cross of
Christ and I washed his feet with my tears, they became the real feet of
Christ and I could smell the sweat ... and the call was I want you to be
ordained," he said.
"These things happen, don't they? Not as dramatic for some, but as an
extrovert I probably needed a fairly big wake-up call." Fairclough was
ordained seven years later, in 2004.
While he plays down the political elements of his position in Moscow,
Fairclough has a prominent role in mediating relations between the
Anglican and Orthodox Churches. Current ties between the two faiths are
good, and the Orthodox Church does not perceive Anglicanism as a threat,
according to Fairclough.
"The Anglican Church has to appreciate that we are a much younger church
than the Orthodox Church, they go right back to the Greek Orthodox
Church," he said. "The Third Rome is how they see it in terms of their
faith," he said, referring to the idea that the Orthodox Church is the
successor to the Christianity of the Romans, transmitted via the
The red-brick 19th-century St. Andrew's Church, where Fairclough is
based, is the only Anglican place of worship in Moscow. Returned to the
Anglicans in 1991, under the Soviet Union the church was used variously
as a warehouse, hostel and recording studio for artists including Dmitry
Shostakovich and cellist Mstislav Rostropovich.
With a mainly foreign congregation, Fairclough said turnover is quite
high -- but the average age is much lower than most parishes in the
United Kingdom. Rising tensions between Russia and the West over Ukraine
have had a noticeable impact, with people being moved away from Moscow
by their companies, Fairclough said.
As a priest, isolation is one of the issues Fairclough has to deal with
most often -- both at the British Embassy and among his congregation.
"We're all quite isolated here. We're expats, we come from a different
tradition ... and those things have an effect on the mind," he said.
Looking to shake up routines at St. Andrew's, Fairclough said the church
would be hosting a number of new events this winter, including Scottish
While Fairclough has six children, they are all grown-up and in Britain.
He lives with his second wife, Jo, in the church's parsonage. Both are
keen horse riders, but they sold all their horses before moving to
"For me this is a bit like a posting: an extremely unusual posting," he
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