Saint Panteleimon's is an Orthodox Christian parish of Russian tradition serving the New South Wales Central Coast and the northern suburbs of Sydney. 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 2000, our parish is one of the newest in our Diocese.
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 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 Saftey 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.
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, hall 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 80 people attend Sunday services regularly – that is, at least once every two months. Some of these people – our priest, deacon, 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 four singers, two servers and four 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 six teams of approximately eighteen people. The initial arrangements were for four teams, but this proved inadequate. Those assigned to one of the six teams will have the opportunity to be in church on one Sunday morning every three months.
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 that face masks be worn 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 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.
Updated 13 May 2020: Many people have asked how they can continue to materially support our parish during the period of restricted church attendance. Donations may be made directly to our bank account:
St Panteleimon Russian Orthodox Community of Gosford
BSB: 032-596 Account number: 140923
May the Lord bless you!
On Thursday 13 August and Friday 14 August we will have services for the feast of the Procession of the Precious Wood of the Life-giving Cross of the Lord. On 14 August, the first day of the two-week Dormition Fast, the Orthodox Church also remembers the Holy Maccabean Martyrs (+166 BC). Matins with the bringing out of the Cross will be served at 6.00pm on Thursday and Divine Liturgy will be served at 8.00am on Friday. Divine Liturgy on Friday will be followed by the Lesser Blessing of Water and, in accordance with the practice of the Russian Orthodox Church, a blessing of honey. This year we have been given a quantity of honey that will be blessed on this day and shared amongst our parishioners and friends in memory of the departed handmaidens of God Anna, Olga and Olga. Provided that numbers do not exceed 30, attendance at the Thursday evening service is open to all who wish to attend. Those wishing to attend Divine Liturgy on Friday should register by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. The NSW Department of Health recommendation that face masks be worn in places of religious worship should be noted.
On Saturday 8 August and Sunday 9 August we had services for the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost and in honour of Great Martyr Panteleimon (+305 AD), the heavenly patron of our parish. 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. As it was also the fiftieth anniversary of the glorification of Saint Herman of Alaska, the magnification to that saint was sung on Saturday evening and Metropolitan Hilarion’s epistle marking this occasion was read in place of a sermon on Sunday morning. The customary blessing of water was served early on Sunday, outside and before the church doors. A moleben to Saint Panteleimon was served immediately after Divine Liturgy, following which the usual prayers were offered for the Patriarch and the hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church, the Australian and Russian lands, parish clergy and office-bearers, the people present, and for our departed parishioners. Attendance at the services was restricted by public health regulations to a total of thirty people. As a festive meal was not possible, the Ladies’ Auxiliary prepared and packaged piroshki and cake for those present to eat at home afterwards.
In conjunction with Saint Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, Wallsend, 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.
On Saturday 18 July and Sunday 19 July we had services for the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost and in honour of Saint Sisoes the Great (+429 AD). All-night vigil was served on Saturday evening and Divine Liturgy was served on Sunday morning. Prior to the evening service on Saturday the Office at the Departure of the Soul from the Body was served for the newly-reposed handmaiden of God Olga Petroff. In his sermon on Sunday the parish rector spoke about the Letter of the Apostle Paul to the Romans, the rules for Christian living set out in the appointed reading from that letter (12:6-14), and the importance of "rejoicing in hope, [being] patient in tribulation, and continuing steadfastly in prayer". Attendance at the services was restricted by public health regulations to a total of thirty people.
On Saturday 4 July and Sunday 5 July we had services for the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost and in honour of Saint John, the Wonderworker of Shanghai and San Francisco (+1966 AD). All-night vigil was served on Saturday evening and Divine Liturgy was served on Sunday morning. At All-night vigil, the faithful were anointed with oil from the lampada that burns at the relics of Saint John, enshrined in the Holy Virgin Cathedral in San Francisco, USA. Attendance at the services was restricted by public health regulations to a total of thirty people.