Our headlines

Further to the below announcement, the Atlanta Group and Markerstudy merger has now completed. Read more at Ardonagh.com.

Atlanta Group reaches milestone in latest chapter of our growth story

In what is set to be a transformational deal, Atlanta will be joining forces with Markerstudy to create a major new player that will deliver an enhanced proposition for millions of new and existing customers.

Priesthood with Cyprian Astley

Meet Cyprian Astley, Customer Service Representative in the Live Chat team based at Embankment, Manchester. We sat down with him to learn more about him being a priest in the Western Orthodox Church.


Priesthood with Cyprian Astley


What's an interest you're passionate about outside of your work at Atlanta Group?

I'm a priest in the Western Orthodox Church. If you've heard of the Greek, Russian, or Coptic Orthodox churches, we have the same faith as those, but if you come through our doors, you'll find that the worship and culture has a Western flavour especially in terms of music.

It gives me experiences and brings me into contact with people I would probably never meet otherwise, and although it can be a difficult balancing act at times, I don't think I'd have it any other way.


Priesthood with Cyprian Astley


Can you share with us where your interest began?

I've been an Orthodox Christian since 2005, and started working my way up through the orders of the clergy since about 2009, and that was in churches that were grounded in Eastern European traditions.

I loved my experience being surrounded by people from different cultures and learning Orthodoxy from them, especially when we had celebrations and people brought yummy foods from their homelands.

But I always had a passion to start a Western Orthodox mission, to show local people that they and their heritage are also treasured and valued by the Orthodox Church, and that mince pies, hot cross buns, and Gregorian chant are just as Orthodox as anything Mediterranean. Eventually, in 2022, I was ordained as a priest to serve our little parish in Manchester.

Are there any specific achievements or milestones related to being a priest that you're proud of?

Orthodox Christianity isn't big in the UK, so most parishes have been started from scratch. There are no ready-made congregations, hardly any buildings of our own, usually no clergy pay, and no room for taking anything for granted. So I've been really pleased to have started my own parish. We began in late 2018 with just 4 of us worshipping on the landing at the top of my stairs, and we began to grow from there. We've survived a number of disappointments, a long closure over a pandemic, and a number of doors closed to us when we tried to find a new place to worship, with all the COVID restrictions, but we've come out on the sunny side of it.

Now we have a small but steady community, we're beginning to form a small choir, and we've begun to do some youth outreach in our local town. We've also done a few other exciting things. We blessed the Manchester Ship Canal in 2022 and did a memorial service for the various people who have lost their lives in the canal. In 2023 we got involved in The Big Feed, which was a project with other churches in our part of Manchester to put on social events with free food, to help people who might be struggling to have enough food for themselves and their families.


Priesthood with Cyprian Astley


How does your faith contribute to your overall wellbeing?

I know belief in God isn't everyone's cup of tea but for me my Orthodox Christian faith has been my grounding in good times and bad.

Since I've been a priest, though, I've found people relate to me differently. It's been a reminder for me of the responsibility I now carry to be a presence of the Church wherever I am. People who might not actually go through the doors of a church, might just want a prayer, or a conversation, or comfort in sickness or difficult times and I’m pleased that I can be there for them.

I find that rewarding in its own way as it's a reminder to me that there's something bigger and more important that will outlast the daily, mundane things that we all grumble about, both inside and outside of work.


Priesthood with Cyprian Astley


Are there any interesting stories or experiences related to your priesthood that you'd like to share?

Yes! At my old parish one Sunday, we had a visiting family who had brought their baby to be baptised. In the Orthodox Church, we don't just "wet the baby's head"; the whole baby goes into the water three times.

It turns out this was also the Sunday the water supply was shut off for maintenance work and nobody had told the church. So we had no water to fill the font. A bunch of us hightailed it to Tesco, but all the bottled water had been bought by the local residents (it turns out they knew something we didn't).

We found a little shop selling plenty of cultural goodies from Poland, and were relieved to find bottled water, clearly labelled in Polish. So we bought as many bottles as we could and took them back to church.

When we opened them to fill up the font, and heard the "shhhhhh" as we turned the lids, we realised what we'd bought, and there was an unspoken agreement to keep quiet about the fact that we were about to baptise a baby in a font full of tonic water.


Priesthood with Cyprian Astley

How do you find time to pursue your priesthood amidst your professional responsibilities?

It's a real challenge. Our services are entirely sung, and being the first English-speaking parish, everything needs translating from French, plus arranging the music – a constant, hefty task. Add to that the youth sessions and pastoral care for our people, and I have to admit I struggle to keep on top of everything sometimes, but my parishioners are understanding, and they know their priest has a full-time job to earn his bread.


Priesthood with Cyprian Astley


Do you see any connections between being a priest and your role at Atlanta?

Absolutely. One of my parishioners is a former Atlanta employee, and Embankment has been the venue for some of my ministry before now.

One year I did an Ash Wednesday service in the prayer room, which a few people attended, and on another occasion I was asked to pray for and anoint someone for healing, in the stairwell, of all places!

There are no contractual hours on priesthood - I am a priest when people need a priest.

Are there any other interests you're looking forward to exploring in the future?

Not so much a new one, but an old one I'd love to have back. I've spent all my life singing in various choirs and choral societies. Until I started the parish, I used to sing in the Manchester Chorale, and we did concerts around the Northwest, with a few at the Bridgewater Hall and other smart venues. I loved it. The 2-hour rehearsal every Tuesday night was the one time in the week I got to do something that was just for me - no responsibility, no obligation: just a good bit of fun with good music and friends, and the occasional performance in a dinner jacket. I couldn't sustain it when I started the parish so I had to give it up but I really do miss it.


Priesthood with Cyprian Astley


How do your colleagues at Atlanta support your priesthood?

My work colleagues have always been great. A few people from Atlanta have taken an interest and some have visited my church for services. The church sends a few volunteers every year to help at the Manchester Marathon, as the organisers throw us a few pounds for every volunteer we send. We're a small community so it really helps us, and every year work colleagues have come to support us. It's usually a fun day out with people from two parts of my life.


Priesthood with Cyprian Astley


If you could encourage your colleagues to try one thing related to the Western Orthodox faith, what would it be?

Join my church and explore your inner-geek through our unique blend of ancient Gregorian chants with quirky 20th-century French harmonies. Singers from Atlanta, reach out if you want to join us in making this musical experience available in English.

My parish is hosted by St Luke's Anglican Church in Wythenshawe. Services are held on Sundays at 1pm, find out more at their site.

Atlanta Group thrives with the individuality of our people. Have an interesting hobby outside of work? Share your story or nominate a colleague by emailing us.