Approximately 50-60 of us attend each Sunday morning Divine Liturgy. There are fewer of us at Saturday evening services, which are generally attended by less than ten people.
There are many young families and children in our parish. We have no separate Sunday school or children’s services. Our children are baptised and participate fully in the liturgical and sacramental life of the Church, receiving Holy Communion from their infancy.
All people of goodwill are welcome at our services, although only baptised Orthodox Christians may participate fully in the sacramental life of the Church. Visitors may be surprised to find very few seats in our church; this is because we generally stand throughout the Divine Services. Our parishioners are encouraged to dress modestly and in such a way as to avoid drawing attention to themselves. Men should wear long pants and women should wear skirts. Married women generally – although not always – cover their heads with a scarf.
From the very beginning our parish has used both Slavonic and English in its services. The evening services are usually between one and a half and two hours in length. These services are largely made up of alternating readings and short hymns. There is generally no preaching or teaching at evening services as the prayers, hymns and reading from Sacred Scripture themselves provide the best instruction. All who attend are welcome to assist with the reading and singing at evening services.
Morning services are generally between two and two and a half hours in length. Readings from the Epistles and the Holy Gospel take place about one-third of the way through the service. The reception of Holy Communion and preaching occur close to the end.
After morning services a number of us stay for a cup of tea or coffee, a light snack prepared by our Ladies’ Auxiliary, and a chat. We pray together before we eat.
Our background is predominantly Russian. Of the Russian people amongst us, many came to Australia from China, or their parents and grandparents did. Others amongst us came from Eastern Europe after WW2, and still others – an increasing number – came to Australia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. A number of us are not Russian: Orthodox Christians of Middle Eastern, Romanian and Serbian background, or Anglo-Australian converts to Orthodox Christianity.
As one would expect in a Russian Orthodox parish, the main language used is Russian. For preaching, announcements, and meetings, English is used.
We live throughout the Central Coast and in Sydney’s northernmost suburbs. Some of us live on the Woy Woy Peninsula and around Brisbane Water; some in the Narara Valley and Ourimbah; some along the coast between McMasters Beach and The Entrance; and others around Tuggerah Lakes. A large number of us live in the Hornsby Shire.
Archpriest James Carles (b. 1969) was appointed to our parish upon ordination to the priesthood in 2001. He and his wife, Marie, were received into Orthodoxy at Saint Mary's Antiochian Orthodox Church, Sydney, on 5 November 1994. They joined the Russian Orthodox parish of Saint Nicholas in Fairfield in early 1996. Tonsured a reader in May 1997, Father James was ordained deacon in November 1998. In September 2001 he was ordained priest and assigned to the parish of the Intercession of the Holy Virgin in Cabramatta, Sydney, with the additional responsibility of serving what was then the small Russian Orthodox community of Saint Panteleimon, Gosford. In December 2002 he was appointed to also serve the parish of Saint Nicholas, Wallsend. He relinquished his appointment to Cabramatta in August 2003 and has, since then, served only in Gosford and in Wallsend. In July 2013 Father James was awarded the gold pectoral cross for his service to the Church. In December 2013 he was elected to the Australian-New Zealand Diocesan Council for a three-year term, serving as Secretary for the final year of his term. In October 2015 Father James participated in a delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia accompanying the Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God to the Yekaterinburg and Ufa Metropolitanates of the Russian Orthodox Church. In November 2016 he was raised to the rank of archpriest. In May 2021 he retired from the Australian Public Service after 32 years' service and in August 2021 he commenced full-time tertiary study in law and theology. Father James and Matushka Marie have seven children.
Protodeacon Martin Naef (b. 1964) was born in Switzerland and raised in Europe and South America. He was received into the Orthodox Church in 1997 in Geneva. After moving to Australia in 1997, he and his wife Tatiana joined the parish of All Saints of Russia in Croydon, NSW. Tonsured a reader and ordained subdeacon in February 2007, Father Martin was ordained to the diaconate and assigned to our parish in January 2008. In November 2011 he was awarded the double orarion for his faithful service to the Church. Work commitments obliged Father Martin and his family to relocate to France in July 2012 where he served in the parish of Saint John the Russian in Lyons before returning to Australia - and to our parish - in July 2014. In November 2016 he was raised to the rank of protodeacon. Father Martin and Matushka Tatiana have three children.
Reader George Karmadonoff (b. 1971) was raised in the Intercession of the Holy Virgin parish in Cabramatta, serving there as an altar-server under Archimandrite Alexis (Rosentool) and Archpriest Peter Sheko. In 1990 he was tonsured a reader by the ever-memorable Metropolitan (then Archbishop) Laurus (Skurla) in the Church of Saint Mary Magdalene in Gethsemane, Jerusalem. George has been active in the life of our parish, participating in the building of the church, serving on the Parish Council, and organising fundraising activities. George is married to Alla and they have two children.
Reader Christopher Dowling (b. 1985) was born in Sydney and raised on the Central Coast. He studied the Russian and Ukrainian languages at Macquarie University, graduating with Honours. After attending services for approximately twelve months he was received into Orthodoxy in our parish on Lazarus Saturday in 2007. Christopher established our parish bookstore, stocking it with interesting titles in Russian and English. Relocating to Canberra for work, he was tonsured a reader on Sunday 5 July 2009, the occasion of Metropolitan Hilarion’s visit to observe the feast of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, the patronal feast of the Canberra parish. Reader Christopher was assigned to serve both the Canberra parish and ours. Although he returned to the Central Coast for a time in 2011-12, he is now again based in Canberra, assisting us whenever he visits our parish.
Reader Paul Douriaguine (1975-2019) was born in Russia, growing up and undertaking his studies in the city of Kazan. In 1998, soon after graduation, he moved to Australia. Coming to the Orthodox faith as an adult, he was baptised in Saint Petersburg in 2002. He and his wife Elena were parishioners of the Moscow Patriarchate Holy Protection Russian Orthodox Church in Blacktown, NSW, and also active in the life of Saint Andrew's Russian School there. Joining our parish in 2008, Paul served on the Auditing Committee and the Parish Council and was a senior altar-server. A founder and the Principal of the Saint Seraphim Community Russian School in Hornsby, he was tonsured a reader in 2013 at the patronal feast of Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral, Strathfield, by then Bishop George of Mayfield. Paul and Elena had four children. To the great sorrow of all who knew him, Paul departed this life suddenly and unexpectedly on 26 February 2019. His funeral was served in our parish on 7 March 2019. May God grant him eternal rest!
From 2000 until 2015 our choir director was Olga Ivanovna Itsikson. Olga Ivanovna was born in Mukden, China, and undertook secondary and further study in the city of Harbin. Coming to Australia in 1957, she graduated from the Sydney Conservatorium of Music in 1965, working as a music teacher in New South Wales secondary schools for over 20 years. Olga Ivanovna also taught music at the parish Russian schools in Cabramatta and Strathfield for over 35 years. In 1980 she became the conductor of the church choir in the parish of Saint Vladimir, Centennial Park, and in 2000 she became the choir conductor in our parish. Olga Ivanovna has been a steadfast servant of the Russian Orthodox Church and the wider Russian community for many years. In 1998 she received the Diocesan Jubilee Medal and in August 2015 she received the prestigious Diocesan Cross. In October 2015 Olga Ivanovna retired due to ill-health. Our current conductor is Matushka Marie Carles.
Our parish has a bookstore named in honour of the great Russian Orthodox hierarch, spiritual writer and teacher, Saint Tikhon of Zadonsk. Managed by Anna Kourbatov, it offers a wide range of books, DVDs, and CDs in both Russian and English, together with icons, baptismal crosses, jewellery and other devotional items. The bookstore is usually open before and after services, and can also be opened at other other times by arrangement. Anya can be contacted through our contacts page or by email at email@example.com.