Archpriest Andrew Phillips was born in 1956 in a non-practising family that has lived for centuries in the countryside of the Essex-Suffolk border. In childhood he became interested in the history of early England, especially in the local figure of Saint Edmund but also in King Alfred the Great.
At the age of twelve, he began teaching himself Russian and at the same time read for the first time the New Testament. He was struck especially by two phrases: ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you’ (Matt. 6,33) and, ‘the foolishness of God is wiser than men’ (1 Cor. 1,25).
Following religious experiences at this time which were confirmed by reading, at the age of fourteen he conceived the desire to be received into the Russian Orthodox Church. This finally came about in 1975. From the very beginning, he wished to make English this Orthodox Tradition, without in any way watering down the Orthodox Faith with cultural excuses.
After staying in Russia, he gained an M.A. in Russian at Oxford. Here he also studied theology, history and literature. He then went to work in Greece for a year, next going on to study theology full-time at the Orthodox Theological Institute in Paris. Here he was ordained deacon in the Russian Orthodox Church in 1985 and priest in 1991. In all he spent sixteen years living outside England, in Greece, Russia, France and Portugal. In France he worked as a lecturer at the ESSEC Graduate School of Management outside Paris and in Portugal he set up the first ever Russian Orthodox parish in that country. In 1988 he wrote a first book called ‘Orthodox Christianity and the Old English Church’, followed in 1992 by a gazetteer of the English Saints, ‘The Hallowing of England’. This in turn was followed in 1995 first by an anthology of 100 articles written for Orthodox journals over the previous twenty years, entitled ‘Orthodox Christianity and the English Tradition’, and then by a study of the 19th century visionary William Barnes, called ‘The Rebirth of England and English’. A fifth work, ‘The Lighted Way’ appeared at the end of 1999, providing Orthodox Christian perspectives for the Third Millennium. This was followed by a sixth work concerning the Apostle of East Anglia, St Felix, who came to England as a missionary from France.
Leaving his Russian Orthodox parish in the Paris suburbs, he and his family returned to England to carry out missionary work in 1997. He is now the priest of St John’s Orthodox church in his native town of Colchester, Essex. Here he writes prolifically for the Orthodox England website. He lives at Seekings House with his wife, six children and their grandparents, three generations of Orthodox Christians.