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 16 May 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 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, as services resume we will mark places on the floor in church to help worshippers maintain appropriate distance from one another. 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 27 June 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. If anyone is unwell or 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 25-26 July, the Seventh Sunday after Pentecost - 26/07/2020
On Saturday 25 July and Sunday 26 July, we will have services for the Seventh Sunday after Pentecost and in honour of the Holy Fathers of the First Six Ecumenical Councils. Matins will be served at 6.00pm on Saturday and Divine Liturgy will be served at 9.00am on Sunday. 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.
Services on 11-12 July, the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost - 12/07/2020
On Saturday 11 July and Sunday 12 July we had services for the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost and in honour of the Holy Preёminent Apostles Peter and Paul. All-night vigil with the blessing of wheat, wine, oil and five loaves was served on Saturday evening and Divine Liturgy was served on Sunday morning. At Divine Liturgy the Prayer in Time of Epidemic was offered. Attendance at both services was restricted by public health regulations to thirty people.
Services on 27-28 June, the Third Sunday after Pentecost - 28/06/2020
On Saturday 27 June and Sunday 28 June we had services for the Third Sunday after Pentecost and in honour of Saint Jonah, Metropolitan of Moscow and Wonderworker of All Russia (+1461 AD). Matins was served on Saturday evening and Divine Liturgy was served on Sunday morning. At Divine Liturgy the Prayer in Time of Epidemic was offered and the Archpastoral Epistle of Metropolitan Hilarion to the Clergy and Flock of the Dioceses of Eastern American and Australia & New Zealand was read in place of a sermon. Attendance at both services was restricted by public health regulations to thirty people.
Services on 13-14 June, the First Sunday after Pentecost - 14/06/2020
On Saturday 13 June and Sunday 14 June we had services for the First Sunday after Pentecost, the day of commemoration of All Saints. Matins was served on Saturday evening and Divine Liturgy was served on Sunday morning. At Divine Liturgy the Prayer in Time of Epidemic was offered. Attendance at both services was restricted by public health regulations to thirty people.
Our Winter 2020 Schedule of Services - 01/06/2020
Our Winter 2020 Schedule of Services - covering June, July and August - is now available in PDF format. Services of note during this period include those for Saints Peter and Paul on 11-12 July and the Dormition of the Mother of God on 27-28 August. A copy of the English-language Winter 2020 Schedule of Services is available here, and a copy of the Russian-language Winter 2020 Schedule of Services is available here. Printed copies in both languages will be available in church as of 13-14 June. 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. Those wishing to attend specific weekday Divine Liturgies should express interest in doing so by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. As attendance at evening services is generally low these services are open to all who wish to attend.