Ukrainians in the United Kingdom
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Churches and religion – Ukrainian churches and other religious organisations in the United Kingdom, and the participation of Ukrainians in church life.

To 1945

Before the Second World War the Graeco-Catholic community of Ukrainians in Manchester was occasionally served by the Rev. Louis Van den Bossche from Belgium and, subquently, the Rev. Jacques Perridon from France. During the war, Ukrainians in the Canadian armed forces based in the UK were served by Graeco-Catholic and Orthodox military chaplains from Canada.

1945-1991

In the immediate post-war years, the spiritual needs of the Ukrainians in the Polish armed forces under British command and of the former soldiers of the Galicia Division were met by Graeco-Catholic and Orthodox military chaplains. In 1947 initial steps were taken towards the organisation of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Great Britain (UCC-GB) and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church in Great Britain (UAOC-GB). The great majority of the post-war immigrants took part in the activities of one or other of these churches. The UCC-GB became the larger of the two, since the majority of the immigrants to the UK originated from those parts of Western Ukraine where the Graeco-Catholic denomination was predominant. In 1950 a section of the UAOC-GB membership left the church and formed the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (Conciliar) in Great Britain, which remained active until 1987, when it re-united with the UAOC-GB. The Ukrainian Evangelical Baptist Fellowship, which attracted approximately 150 followers in four locations, was formed in 1948 but is no longer active. From 1972 a small community of followers of the Native Ukrainian National Faith was active in London.

In addition to the churches, a number of other religion-based organisations were active at various times. These include the Brotherhood of Saint Michael the Archangel (1948-1950); the London-based Obnova Ukrainian Catholic Students’ Society, subsequently Obnova Ukrainian Catholic Graduates’ Society (1948 to the 1970s); and the UK branch of the Ukrainian Christian Movement (1956 to the 1980s). A number of organisations were formed in the UK as a result of the emergence of the issue of patriarchal status for the worldwide Ukrainian Graeco-Catholic Church: the Committee for a Ukrainian Catholic Patriarchate, subsequently Central Committee for a Ukrainian Catholic Patriarchate and Ukrainian Catholic Patriarchate Lay Association (1971-2005); and the Committee for the Defence of Law and Order in the Ukrainian Catholic Church (1975-1989). The Ukrainian Religious Society of Saint Sophia was founded in 1977 and remains active to this day.

Relations between followers of different beliefs were generally cordial, and did not adversely influence community life. Significant examples of cooperation between Graeco-Catholic and Orthodox Ukrainians include the 1983 erection, in the grounds of the UAOC-GB cathedral in London, of a monument in memory of the victims of the Holodomor famine of 1932-33, and the 1988 millennial commemoration of the adoption of Christianity in Kyivan Rus.

The generation of post-war Ukrainian immigrants to the United Kingdom was fairly active in church life. Their descendants, however, were significantly less so. Although parents generally aimed to give their children a religious upbringing, the latter were also influenced by the growing secularisation of British society. As a result, the number of regular churchgoers in most parishes gradually declined.

Since 1991

After 1991, both the UCC-GB and the UAOC-GB experienced a revival as a result of the influx of new immigrants from independent Ukraine. Overall attendance at church services grew considerably, though the increase has been largely limited to the parishes in London, where most of the new immigrants have settled or stayed temporarily. In other parts of the country some parishes have become inactive. Since 1991 it has also been possible for both churches to invite priests from Ukraine (and also nuns, in the case of the UCC-GB) to serve in the UK.

Roman Krawec