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. Download an English-language copy of our Autumn (March, April and May) 2020 Schedule of Services in digital format here. A Russian-language copy of the Autumn 2020 Schedule of Services can be downloaded here.
Updated 28 March 2020: The respiratory illness outbreak caused by 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 complying with the directives of the civil authorities including the closure of churches for public services other than weddings or funerals. We encourage our members, regular worshippers, and friends to comply with the advice of the Australian Government Department of Health concerning handwashing, respiratory hygiene, social distancing and self-isolation if unwell. Those of our parishioners who are unwell and wish to receive Holy Communion at home are encouraged to contact our parish rector. Further public health information, some relevant statements from church authorities, a selection of prayers, and links to streamed liturgical services and other related materials are available here.
Updated 28 March 2020: Under Public Health (COVID-19 Places of Social Gathering) Order 2020, places of public worship in New South Wales are closed to members of the public, other than for weddings and funerals, as of 12.00pm on Monday 23 March 2020. This means that there will be no public services in our church until further notice. If weddings or funerals are to be held, they are subject they are subject to further Public Health Orders stipulating that weddings are limited to five people and funerals are limited to ten people, both numbers including the person conducting the service. If the situation changes we will let our parishioners and friends know.
On Wednesday 25 March Bishop George wrote to the clergy of the Australian-New Zealand Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia to advise them that Divine Liturgy could now only be served behind locked doors with only the clergy and a limited number of singers and servers present. To avoid confusion and misunderstanding, in our parish attendance at these services will be limited to our clergy, their spouses, and one child. As of Saturday 28 March it is hoped that our parish rector will be able to serve Divine Liturgy here on Sundays and major feast-days. Commemoration books from our parish and the Wallsend parish will be read alternately. Regrettably, we are unable to accept orders for candles or prosphora. As our services will not be live streamed those wishing to watch services from other parishes in our Diocese can access links here.
On Tuesday 24 March the Parish Council met by teleconference. Reports were heard on parish life and finances. Particular attention was given to the COVID-19 crisis and its impact on parish life. It was agreed that the parish rector would serve Divine Liturgy privately on Sundays and major feast days while the church remained closed for public worship. Arrangements would be made for the commemoration books of all our parishioners to be read at Divine Liturgy, thus ensuring that prayers continued to be offered for all our living and departed relatives, benefactors and friends. In addition, molebens to Saint Panteleimon and Saint Nicholas would be served following Divine Liturgy on alternating Sundays. Other matters discussed included the possibility of the parish rector taking Holy Communion to the faithful in their own homes, preliminary designs for our new iconostasis, and options for cashless transactions when purchasing prosfora and candles or making donations. The Parish Council agreed to meet more often during the present crisis.
Our services during the third week of Great Lent were Great Compline on the evening of Wednesday 18 March and Vespers with the Third Passia on the evening of Sunday 22 March. At Vespers with the Third Passia on Sunday evening chapters 22 and 23 of Saint Luke’s Gospel were read in English. This was our last service before Public Health Orders came into effect significantly limiting public services.
In addition to services on in the evening on Saturday 14 March and in the morning on Sunday 15 March, our services during the second week of Great Lent were Great Compline on the evening of Wednesday 11 March and Vespers with the Second Passia on the evening of Sunday 15 March. At Vespers with the Second Passia on Sunday evening chapters 14 and 15 of Saint Mark’s Gospel were read in English.
On Saturday 14 March and Sunday 15 March we had services for the Second Sunday in Great Lent, the day of commemoration of Saint Gregory Palamas (+1359 AD). As Saturday 14 March was a day of commemoration of the departed a general pannikhida was served prior to the Saturday evening service. In accordance with the instructions of the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia we commemorated their Beatitudes the ever-memorable Metropolitans Anthony and Anastassy; the Metropolitans Philaret, Vitaly and Laurus; our ever-memorable Diocesan hierarchs Archbishops Theodore, Savva, Theodosy, Afanasy, and Paul; all those who for Christ and the Russian Church laboured in divers lands, and the other archpastors, pastors, founders and benefactors of the Russian Diaspora; for the elect sons and daughters of the Church of Russia, who faithfully struggled for her unity, good estate and honour in the realms of piety, blessedness, governance, the protection of the persecuted and the veneration of the New Martyrs and Confessors; and for all our righteous ancestors, and for their peaceful repose and blessed memory. Matins was then served on Saturday evening. At Divine Liturgy on Sunday the Prayer in time of Devastating Epidemic was read. In his sermon our parish rector spoke about Saint Gregory Palamas and the defence of Orthodoxy and reflected on the importance of steadfast faith in the current crisis. Following the service a collection was taken up to benefit the Holy Trinity Orthodox Seminary in Jordanville, New York, raising $190.00. As social distancing was recommended by the civil authorities, no cup of tea was offered after the Sunday service.
This year we commenced our season of repentance on the evening of Monday 2 March with Great Compline and the reading of the Great Canon of Saint Andrew of Crete. Great Compline is a simple, solemn and characteristically Lenten service of psalms and prayers. In accordance with Orthodox custom, Great Compline with further portions of the Great Canon was served on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings. In addition, on the evening of Sunday 8 March we had Vespers with the First Passia. At the Passia chapters 26 and 27 of Saint Matthew's Gospel were read in English.
On Saturday 29 February and Sunday 1 March we had services for Forgiveness Sunday. All-night vigil was served on Saturday evening and Divine Liturgy was served on Sunday morning. On Saturday evening many people took the opportunity to confess in preparation to receive Holy Communion on Sunday. In his sermon at Divine Liturgy the parish rector spoke about Great Lent as a return to Paradise and the importance of fasting as a sign of submission to God’s will. In accordance with the practice of many parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, Vespers with the rite of asking forgiveness was served immediately after Divine Liturgy. During Vespers the church vestments were changed from gold to black and the festive melodies gave way to the penitential Lenten melodies. All present then venerated the Holy Icons and the Gospel and Cross before asking forgiveness of one another. Early in the afternoon a number of our parishioners gathered at Point Clare Cemetery for a memorial service to mark the first anniversary of the death of Reader Paul Douriaguine.
At the December 2019 session of the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) consideration was given to special litanies and other prayerful supplications to mark this year’s centenary of ROCOR’s foundation. It was agreed that at the dismissal of every Divine Liturgy this year the prayers of a number of saints important to ROCOR would be invoked: our Fathers among the saints, Tikhon, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, the new Confessor; the Blessed New-Martyr Peter, Metropolitan of Krutitsia; John, the Archbishop of Shanghai and San Francisco, the Wonderworker; Jonah, the Bishop of Hankow in Manchuria; and the Holy Martyr Alexander of Munich. In our parish, these commemorations began on Saturday 15 February 2020, the Great Feast of the Meeting of the Lord. In addition, instructions were given for the commemoration at all memorial services of their Beatitudes the ever-memorable Metropolitans Anthony and Anastassy; the Metropolitans Philaret, Vitaly and Laurus; all those who for Christ and the Russian Church laboured in divers lands, and the other archpastors, pastors, founders and benefactors of the Russian Diaspora; for the elect sons and daughters of the Church of Russia, who faithfully struggled for her unity, good estate and honour in the realms of piety, blessedness, governance, the protection of the persecuted and the veneration of the New Martyrs and Confessors; for our righteous ancestors, and for their peaceful repose and blessed memory. We will begin this commemoration at our next general pannikhida on Saturday 14 March. A copy of the full Synod Memorandum is available in English here and in Russian here.