New Church in Gosford

This year in Australia, as the church continued in its 40-day celebration of the glorious Resurrection of Christ, something of significance took place for the whole Diocese: the blessing Ė for the first time in many years Ė of a new church, dedicated to the Holy Great-Martyr and Healer Panteleimon.

Located in Gosford, an hourís drive to the north of Sydney, the newest parish of the Australia and New Zealand Diocese was formed with the blessing of His Eminence Archbishop Hilarion, Ruling bishop of the Russian Orthodox Diocese of Sydney, Australia and New Zealand, in the late 1990ís.

Although the community had regular Divine Services over the first 3-4 years, it was without a permanent home. Until March 2004, the Divine Services were conducted in the Narara Community Centre, a hall leased from the municipal authorities. This required a great effort from the community, including the transport of all items necessary for the celebration of the Divine Services.

From early in 2002, community leaders were actively seeking a permanent home for the church. Efforts were for some time directed towards the lease or purchase of unused or rarely used church properties belonging to other denominations. For various reasons, these pursuits were unfruitful. In view of this, other options were discussed, including the use of light industrial space.

On 28th August 2003, a number of community members inspected a new industrial unit (a small warehouse) in West Gosford. This unit was large enough to house a church, hall, kitchen, storage space, and (in time) an office and classrooms under a single roof. Council zoning was appropriate, and it was felt that it would allow the parish to build community life, invest funds raised, and obtain a parish centre while continuing to save to build a permanent church. A parish council meeting that evening and an Extraordinary Parish Meeting convened with Archbishop Hilarionís blessing on September 7, 2003, decided unanimously in favor of purchase. Finance was negotiated and the sale completed in December 2003. Many members and friends of the parish began to donate money to assist the community.

In January 2003, work began to make the unit suitable for the needs of the parish. Under the direction of V.N. Golovin, a beautiful church was built, together with a hall, kitchen, and upstairs storage facilities. The church was adorned with icons and other church items generously donated by individuals and by other parishes within the diocese. New icon stands were built, and the Ladiesí Committee labored to sew new church vestments for Holy Week and the Paschal season. Adequate room above the hall remains for the building of classrooms and a parish office. The first service Ė vigil for the feast of the Entry of the Lord into Jerusalem -- was held, with Vladyka Hilarionís blessing, on 3 April 2004. A number of Holy Week services were then held, and on Pascha itself the parish had the great joy of serving, for the first time, Paschal Matins and the Divine Liturgy, with approximately 100 of the faithful in attendance.

On Saturday May 15, vigil was served by the Rector of the church, Priest James Carles, and by Protodeacon German Polorotov. On May 16, 2004, the Sunday of the Blind Man, Fathers James and German served a lesser blessing of waters at 8.00 am. Archbishop Hilarion was welcomed at 9.00 am by the parish children with flowers, and by the warden, A.N.Yakimov, with the traditional bread and salt. Having been vested, Vladyka Hilarion proceeded to perform a lesser blessing of the church. Assisting, and later concelebrating at the divine liturgy, were Archpriest Nikita Chemodakov, Priest James Carles, Hieromonk John (MacPherson), Priest Alexander Korjenevski, Protodeacons Basil Hadarin, Basil Yakimov, Basil Kozulin, German Polorotov and Deacon Christopher Henderson. At the Small Entrance, Father James was awarded the right to wear the nabedrennik. Priest Daniel Metlenko arrived shortly before the end of the service, having driven all the way from Sydney after serving Divine Liturgy in his own parish! A short moleben of thanksgiving was served at the end of the Divine Liturgy, after which gramatas were presented to the warden and parish founder, A.N. Yakimov, and the church builder, V.N. Golovin. Over 300 of the faithful from Gosford, Sydney and Newcastle were present, with buses having come from the parishes of Saint Nicholas, Fairfield; Saint Vladimirís, Centennial Park; and Saint Nicholasí, Newcastle. As they approached the cross at the end of the service, all present were sprinkled with holy water, blessed and presented with a specially-printed icon of the Great-Martyr Panteleimon, and given a commemorative postcard with a interior view of the new church.

All the clergy and a great many of the faithful then attended a festive banquet at the Narara Community Centre, at which speeches of thanks and congratulations were given. Oleg Pavlovich Kolokolow, the starosta of the church of Saint Nicholas, Newcastle, one of Australiaís oldest parishes, presented the Gosford parish with a beautiful icon of Saint Seraphim of Sarov. All present on the day agreed that the blessing of this new church was a wonderful event in the life of our Russian Orthodox Church in Australia, and rejoiced that a new parish had arisen. Glory to God for all things!