HISTORY OF CHRISTMINSTER
From Mount Royal to Christminster
Founded as a Benedictine monastic community in 1910, Mount Royal’s mission and work continued as an independent body until 1962. In that year the community was received into the patriarchal Russian Orthodox Church by its American exarch, Bishop Dositheus (Ivanchenko) of New York. For several years, the monks of Mount Royal staffed a western-rite chapel in the Russian Cathedral of Saint Nicholas in Manhattan, later moving to Woodstock, New York. Bishop Dositheus’ successor, Archbishop John (Wendland), blessed and confirmed the western-rite observance and mission of Mount Royal and the leadership of its Abbot, the Right Reverend Dom Augustine (Whitfield).
In 1975, under Abbot Augustine, Mount Royal was received into the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia by His Eminence, Archbishop Nikon (Rklitzsky), who again authorized and blessed its mission and observances. In 1993, the former Prior of Mount Royal, Dom James (Deschene) founded Christminster in Rhode Island with the blessing of His Grace Bishop Hilarion of Manhattan to carry on the work of western-rite Orthodoxy in ROCOR.
From its beginnings, this work and mission have been guided by the spirit of Saint Benedict and his Holy Rule- the sixth-century foundation document of Orthodox monasticism in the west. It was the vision of Mount Royal’s founders a vision firmly adhered to under Abbot Augustine and lovingly maintained at Christminster to preserve the contemplative and eremitical dimensions of the monastic life as much as possible.
From Rhode Island to Ontario
In its home in Rhode Island, Christminster had no room to grow. In fact, as it was, the monks could not live together under one roof and there was no space available for developing a monastic industry that would enable the monastery to be self-supporting. The monks all worked outside the monastery in order to support themselves.
Meanwhile, in Ontario, a small group of people were hoping for the establishment of a Western Rite Orthodox mission the first of its kind in the Dominion of Canada. Led by Reader Polycarp Sherwood, this group converted two adjacent buildings in the City of Hamilton (a beauty parlor/caf‚ and an auto body paint shop) into an Oratory, fellowship hall, and residence.
After the group’s initial approach towards another jurisdiction failed to bear fruit, Reader Polycarp invited Dom James to consider moving Christminster to this facility and undertaking monastic life and the pastoral care of the mission on behalf of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia. With the blessing of His Eminence, Metropolitan Hilarion, the help of God, and the generosity of a benefactor, the monks of Christminster were able to accept this unexpected offer and with its new opportunities for growth as a community and English-language, Western Rite Orthodox mission.
Dom James arrived in Hamilton to take up residence in April of 2008. Dom Joseph, who had remained behind in Rhode Island to complete medical treatments, rejoined Dom James in December of that year.
On Sunday, 1 March/16 February 2009, notice was received from Metropolitan Hilarion of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, that the monastery of Christminster and Our Lady of Glastonbury Orthodox Church, in Hamilton, Ontario, would henceforth be directly under the archpastoral oversight of the Metropolitan himself, assisted by his Vicar Bishop Jerome of Manhattan. His Grace Bishop Jerome, the former Father John Shaw, is a longtime friend of Christminster and a scholar deeply learned in western-rite liturgics.
From Hamilton, Ontario to Niagara Falls, New York
Upon the sudden death in 2011 of our benefactor, Deacon Robert (Polycarp) Sherwood, his widow chose to reclaim the building for her personal use and required the monks to leave. At the gracious invitation of Archbishop Peter Goodrich, Primate of the Independent Anglican Church of Canada, the monks moved into his cathedral rectory in Niagara Falls, New York, moving in on 1 June 2013. Archbishop Peter, who lives in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada, extended to the monks the regular use of his cathedral for the Orthodox services.