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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 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 will have services for the Great Feast of the Exaltation of the Life-Giving Cross of the Lord. As this is a Great Feast of the Lord the usual Resurrection service is set aside. All-night Vigil with the blessing of wheat, wine, oil and five loaves and the bringing out of the Cross 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 27-28 August, the Great Feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God - 28/08/2020
On Thursday 27 August and Friday 28 August we had services for the Great Feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God. All-night Vigil with the blessing of wheat, wine, oil and five loaves was served on Thursday evening and Divine Liturgy was served on Friday morning. As it was 71 years to the day since the first Russian Orthodox services in the Hunter Valley, served in the Anglican Chapel at the Greta Migrant Camp by Archpriest John Lupish, a prayer of thanksgiving was offered at Divine Liturgy. Placed in our church for veneration at these services was a very old hand-painted copy of the wonderworking Smolensk Icon of the Mother of God. This copy, painted in Russia and later taken to China before coming to Australia, was badly burned many years ago but has since, through the grace of God, wondrously restored. The icon belongs to the Erzikoff family who, in an act of great kindness, permitted us to have it in our parish on this day.
Services on 22-23 August, the Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost - 23/08/2020
On Saturday 22 August and Sunday 23 August we had services for the Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost and in honour of the Holy Archdeacon and Martyr Lawrence (+258 AD). 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 there was a blessing of honey that was afterwards distributed to those present. In his sermon the parish rector spoke about the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant (Matthew 18:23-25, the appointed reading from the Holy Gospel) and the importance of showing to others the same generous mercy we have received from God.
A memorial service at Greta Cemetery on the seventy-first anniversary of the first Orthodox burial there - 22/08/2020
On 23 August 1949, just four days after his arrival in Australia, Archpriest John Lupish served the funeral of one year-old Irene Solomko. She was then laid to rest in the Greta Cemetery together with a number of other infants who died in an epidemic of measles that swept through the Greta Migrant Camp at that time. Father John would preside at five more burials at Greta: Wsewolod (Vsevelod) Shipilow (+1949, a boy of 18 months), Larisa Klebakin (+1950), Lydia Elagin (+1956), Alexander Melnik (+1970) and Ivan Elagin (+1977). Since 2015 a general memorial service has been held in the Greta Cemetery each year on the Saturday closest to the anniversary of that first burial. This year’s memorial service was held on Saturday 22 August. Joining our parish rector for the service on a cold and windy morning were Alek Schulha, author of ‘Beneath the Shadows of Mount Molly Morgan: History and Stories of Greta Camp 1939-1960’; Alek’s wife, Lee Schulha; George Solomko, one of the younger brothers of Irene; George’s daughter Lara Sullivan; Volodymyr Udovenko; Anna Katonin; and John Armstrong. Prayers were offered for the repose of the ever-memorable Archpriest John (+1977), his matushka Maria (+1979), for the child Irene, and all those Orthodox Christians buried in the Greta Cemetery. May their memory be eternal!
Our Spring 2020 Schedule of Services - 18/08/2020
Our Spring 2020 Schedule of Services - covering September, October and November - is now available in PDF format. Services of note during this period include those for Saints Peter and Fevronia on 12-13 September, for the Great Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross on 26-27 September, and on the anniversary of the repose of our parish founder, the ever-memorable Archpriest John Lupish, on 21-22 November. A copy of the English-language Spring 2020 Schedule of Services is available here, and a copy of the Russian-language Spring 2020 Schedule of Services is available here. NOTE: As of 1 June 2020, the number of people able to be present at all services in our church is restricted by New South Wales Government public health orders to thirty (30). In view of this, attendance at Sunday services will be by invitation only. As attendance at evening services is generally low these services are 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 1-2 August, the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost - 02/08/2020
On Saturday 1 August and Sunday 2 August we had services for the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost and in honour of the Holy Prophet Elias (+9th Century BC). 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. In his sermon the parish rector spoke about the instructions given by the Apostles Paul and James in the two appointed readings (1 Corinthians 1:10-18 and James 5:10-20): avoiding division in the life of the Church, being patient in suffering, praying in times of trouble, seeking anointing when sick, and confessing one’s sins.
Useful information about when weddings can be celebrated, together with a list of available dates in 2020, 2021 and 2022 - 01/08/2020
In conjunction with Saint Panteleimon Russian Orthodox Church, Gosford, our parish has developed and published an explanation of the reasons why weddings cannot be celebrated on certain days and dates and during certain seasons. It incorporates a list of Sundays and Fridays on which weddings can be celebrated that has now been updated to include Sundays and Fridays in 2021 and 2022. This information, which can be accessed either here or via our Needs page under Weddings, has been prepared to help our parishioners and friends when planning weddings in parishes of the Australian-New Zealand Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia. Should anyone have any questions about this information, please contact us.