Our parish is a small one. Approximately 30-40 of us attend each Sunday morning Divine Liturgy, sometimes more, sometimes less. There are fewer of us at evening services, which are generally attended by only about 12-15 people.
Although there are a number of young adults many of us are elderly, and we have few young families at this stage in parish life. Children are nevertheless welcome in church. 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 can 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. Men should wear long pants and women should wear skirts. Married women generally – although not always – cover their heads with a scarf.
We use both Slavonic and English in our 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. 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 a light snack, and a chat. We pray together before we eat.
Our background is mixed, with many of us coming from Russia, Belarus, and the Ukraine. Most of us came to Australia from Eastern Europe after WW2, or our parents and grandparents did. Unlike most other Russian Orthodox parishes in Australia, very few of us came from China. Some of us came to Australia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Some of us are not Russian: Orthodox Christians of Macedonian or Greek heritage, and some of us are converts to Orthodox Christianity.
Almost everyone in the parish speaks English fluently. English is the main language used for preaching, announcements, meetings, and general conversation. As one would expect in a Russian Orthodox parish, Russian is also often used.
We live throughout the Hunter Region. Some of us live in close proximity to the church; some closer to the city of Newcastle; some live of the shores of Lake Macquarie; and others live in Maitland.
Our rector, Archpriest James Carles (b. 1969), was appointed to Saint Nicholas' in December 2002. He and his wife, Marie, were received into Orthodoxy at St Mary's Antiochian Orthodox Church, Sydney, on 5 November 1994. They joined the Russian Orthodox parish of Saint Nicholas in Fairfield in 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 the fledgling Russian Orthodox community of Saint Panteleimon, Gosford. He relinquished his appointment to Cabramatta in August 2003 and has, since then, served only in Wallsend and in Gosford. 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. Father James and Matushka Marie have seven children.
Subdeacon Vitaly Lupish, the eldest son of the ever-memorable Archpriest John Lupish, was a founding member of our parish. An indispensible helper to his father in parish life, he has been our choir director and reader, the designer of our church and hall and a participant in both building projects, and an active member of the Parish Council. Tonsured a reader and ordained subdeacon by the ever-memorable Archbishop Paul (Pavlov) in 1984, Vitaly has assisted the many clergymen assigned to serve our parish after Father John's repose in 1977. It is impossible to over-estimate Vitaly's contribution to Saint Nicholas' in the course of more than 60 years. No longer an active member of the Parish Council, Vitaly nevertheless retains an honorary position by virtue of his long and distinguished service to our parish. In October 2017 Vitaly and his wife Irene were awarded the prestigious Diocesan Cross.
Subdeacon Luke Goura is a life-long member of our parish. Tonsured a reader in May 2004, he was ordained subdeacon in May 2009. Luke and his wife Elise were married at Saint Nicholas' in 2006, and have two sons, Daniel and Thomas, born in 2008 and 2012 respectively. Luke is the senior altar server in our parish and also reads the Apostol at Divine Liturgy.