Saint Nicholas' is an Orthodox Christian parish of Russian tradition serving Newcastle and the Hunter Valley. We are a parish of the Australian and New Zealand Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church outside Russia, a self-governing part of the Russian Orthodox Church. Established in 1952, our parish is the oldest continuously-functioning Orthodox parish in the Hunter Valley.
Parish life and COVID-19
Updated 8 August 2020: The spread of the coronavirus COVID-19 and the public health measures implemented to manage it are having a profound impact on social interaction around the world. Our Holy Orthodox Church is not exempt from this. Our parish takes this public health risk seriously and is strictly complying with the directives of the civil authorities in this country including limits on the number of people present at services and registration of attendance. We have also introduced sanitary measures including the provision of hand sanitiser at the entry to the church; discouraging people from kissing the Holy Gospel, the icons, the chalice, the Cross, and the hand of the priest; cleaning icons regularly with methylated spirits; anointing the faithful with disposable cotton swabs rather than a single brush; the provision of disposable napkins for use when receiving Holy Communion; the provision of disposable cups from which to receive the warm water and wine (“zapivka”) after Holy Communion; and the cancellation of our usual “cup of tea” after services. In addition, we have marked places on the floor in church to help worshippers maintain appropriate distance from one another and note that the NSW Department of Health recommends the wearing of face masks in places of religious worship. We have registered as a COVID-safe place of worship. Our parish COVID-19 Safety Plan, relevant statements from church authorities, public health information, a selection of prayers, and links to streamed liturgical services from other parishes are available here.
Attendance at church services
Updated 8 August 2020: It is important to understand that our church is not yet fully open for public services. New South Wales law limits the number of people who can be in our church for services to 30. This is because the total area of our church and choir loft is just under 130 squares metres, and there must be four square metres per person for social distancing to be maintained. We do not anticipate this changing before the end of 2020.
In our parish approximately 50 people attend Sunday services regularly – that is, at least once every two months. Some of these people – our priest and choir conductor – must be present at every service. Others are also required at morning services – singers, servers, and those who sell candles and maintain cleanliness and order in the church. Our parishioners with experience in these roles have been organised into two alternating teams of three singers, two servers and two helpers. As we have fortnightly services, these people will have the opportunity to be in church on one Sunday morning each month.
The rest of our parishioners and regular worshippers have now been divided into three teams of approximately twenty people. The initial arrangements were for two teams, but this proved inadequate. Those assigned to one of the three teams will have the opportunity to be in church on one Sunday morning every six weeks.
It is understood that this is extremely limiting and that most of our parishioners will have much less opportunity to be in church than they would like. In addition, those who are in church and who generally sing in the choir may not be able to do so, the number of places in the choir being limited to four.
Matushka Marie is managing our attendance arrangements. Early in the week before each Sunday service, she will send an invitation to the members of the team that is scheduled to attend. Those invited will be asked to confirm their attendance. To the extent possible, any vacancies that arise will be allocated to others who have expressed an interest in attending on that day.
For the parish to be compliant with Government requirements, all those attending will need to be in good health, maintain distancing in church, and agree to have their attendance recorded. The NSW Department of Health recommendation concerning the wearing of face masks in places of religious worship should be noted. A person will not be considered be in good health if they are suffering from a fever, cough, a sore or "scratchy" throat, loss of smell or taste, a runny nose, loss of appetite, headache, nausea, diarrhoea, vomiting, or recent unexplained onset of shortness of breath, muscle pain or joint pain. Those who have recently travelled overseas or interstate or who may have had contact with known cases of COVID-19 should comply with public health directives concerning testing and self-isolation. If anyone is unwilling to comply with these requirements, they should not accept an invitation to attend.
Those wishing to receive Holy Communion are asked to attend the service on the preceding evening and to take the opportunity to confess then rather than immediately before Divine Liturgy when the time of the parish priest is extremely limited. Exceptions will be made for those who have a significant distance to travel or who have no means of getting to church in the evening.
There will be a sheet at the candle-desk on which to record attendance and contact details. Care should be taken to sign in upon arrival at church. The completed attendance sheets will be stored securely, retained for four weeks, and only released to the NSW Chief Health Officer if required for the purpose of contact-tracing should there be an instance of community transmission of COVID-19.
As attendance at evening services is generally low, these services are open to all who wish to attend. Similarly, as attendance at weekday services is also low, places are expected to be available to all who register in advance.
If you attend services less frequently than once every two months or if we do not have your contact details, you may not have been placed in a team. This can be rectified.
To find out which team you are in, to express interest in filling a vacancy at a Sunday service, or to register attendance at a weekday service, please email email@example.com. We ask that questions about attendance not be directed to Father James personally, but that this email address be used. We also ask for your continued patience and understanding as we try and facilitate church attendance on Sundays for as many of our parishioners and friends as possible.
Supporting our parish
Many people have asked how they can continue to materially support our parish during the period of church closures. Donations may be made directly to our bank account:
St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church
BSB: 032-509 Account number: 281104
May the Lord bless you!
Forthcoming services and activities
Services on 24-25 October, the Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost - 25/10/2020
On Saturday 24 October and Sunday 25 October we will have services for the Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost and in honour of the Holy Fathers of the Seventh Ecumenical Council. Matins will be served at 6.00pm on Saturday evening and Divine Liturgy will be served at 9.00am on Sunday morning. It is important to note that attendance at Divine Liturgy on Sunday is by invitation only. Provided that numbers do not exceed 30, attendance at the Saturday evening service is open to all who wish to attend. The NSW Department of Health recommendation that face masks be worn in places of religious worship should be noted.
Services on 10-11 October, the Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost - 11/10/2020
On Saturday 10 October and Sunday 11 October we had services for the Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost and in honour of Saint Chariton the Confessor (+c.350 AD). Matins was served on Saturday evening and Divine Liturgy was served on Sunday morning. Attendance at both services was restricted by public health regulations to thirty people. In anticipation of the feast of the Protection of the Mother of God on Wednesday 14 October, Divine Liturgy was preceded by the Lesser Blessing of Water and followed by a moleben to the Mother of God. The moleben was served before our new icon of the Mother of God, after which prayers of blessing were read over the icon and new white vestments for the Divine Table, the Table of Oblation, and the icon stands. The parish rector then congratulated Matushka Marie with the approach of her name-day (12 October, Saint Mary of Palestine), thanking her for her work conducting the choir, baking prosphora, and organising attendance in both our parish and the Gosford parish. Many Years was sung for her, and Head Sister Irene Lupish presented her with a beautiful bouquet of flowers. Updated 16 October 2020: Following the service, local historian Alek Schulha, a dear friend of our parish, drew the winning ticket in a fundraising raffle organised by the parish Ladies' Auxiliary that raised over $2000.00.
Services on 26-27 September, the Great Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross - 27/09/2020
On Saturday 26 September and Sunday 27 September, the Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost, we had services for the Great Feast of the Exaltation of the Life-Giving Cross of the Lord. All-night Vigil with the blessing of wheat, wine, oil and five loaves and the bringing out of the Cross was served on Saturday evening and Divine Liturgy was served on Sunday morning. Attendance at the services remained restricted by public health regulations to a total of thirty people.
Services on 12-13 September, the Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost - 13/09/2020
On Saturday 12 September and Sunday 13 September we had services for the Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost and in honour of the Right-believing Prince Peter and Princess Febronia (+1228 AD), Wonderworkers of Murom, and exemplars of love, faithfulness and family life. Matins was served on Saturday evening and Divine Liturgy was served at on Sunday morning. Attendance at both services was restricted by public health regulations to thirty people. At Divine Liturgy the Prayer in Time of Epidemic was offered. Following the Prayer before the Amvon a moleben to Saints Peter and Febronia was served at which all the married couples in our parish were commemorated by name. In his sermon the parish rector spoke about the lives of these saints, their example of love and faithfulness, and the help given through their prayers.
Church & Community Life
Now available - the September 2020 issue of "Word of the Church" ("Церковное Слово") - 30/11/2020
The September 2020 issue of “Word of the Church” (“Церковное Слово”), the official journal of the Australian-New Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, has recently become available in our parishes. As usual, it contains a number of interesting articles in both Russian and English. This issue includes the Russian-language text of the Epistle of Metropolitan Hilarion on the fiftieth anniversary of the canonisation of Saint Herman of Alaska; the Russian and English texts of the Epistle of Metropolitan Hilarion to Participants in ROCOR Centenary celebrations in Sydney in July 2020 organised by the Two-Headed Eagle Society; the text of episcopal circulars and decrees; a ‘Homily on the Veneration of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross’ by Saint Theodore the Studite; a moving article by Matushka Karen Baker reflecting on the coronavirus pandemic and on the death of her husband in a motor vehicle accident, leaving her a young widow with six children; and others. Copies are $5.00.