RUSSIAN CHURCH OUTSIDE RUSSIA – DIOCESE OF SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND
On June 21, 2010, His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, officiated at divine services at the Archbishop’s Chapel at the headquarters of the Diocese of Sydney, Australia and New Zealand in Croydon, NSW.
After Divine Liturgy, the priests and parishioners performed a procession of the cross. This was followed by a festive reception attended by over 400 people. Vladyka Hilarion congratulated everyone on this holiday and recounted the history of the Archbishop’s Chapel:
I greet you on the feast day of the Church of All Russian Saints, which coincides with the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of this church and its consecration. This event gathers us together, warms our hearts, and leads us to Christian fraternity. We recall with love and gratitude the efforts and podvigi of our predecessors, the pastors, spiritual fathers and guides, brothers and sisters in faith and piety, who founded this blossoming church and parish.
The year 1959 was important in the life of the Diocese of Australia and New Zealand. Thanks to the selfless generosity of good people, the diocese acquired a house in Croydon where the church was established. The neighboring house was set up as the residence of the ruling bishop, who at the time was Archbishop Savva, and for episcopal offices and the episcopal chapel.
A great deal of creative initiative and resources were needed. An appeal sent by Vladyka Savva drew vigorous response by the faithful, and soon, in 1960, divine services began in the new church, and continue regularly to this day. Parish life was always vibrant. With time, as the number of parishioners grew, the premises needed to be expanded. The church continues to be worked on even today through the efforts of our administration and dedicated parishioners, especially the church sisterhood, over recent decades.
Let us raise our prayers of gratitude today for the reposed archpastors, Archbishop Savva, Archbishop Theodosius, Archbishop Paul, the many who labored for the good of the Diocese and the well-being of this parish. Let us express our profound thanks to all the pastors—the priests and deacons, the departed and those still among us, laboring in the harvest-fields of Christ over the last 50 years. Serving at this church longer than anyone is Protopriest Michael Boikov. We wish that the Lord God grants him health and salvation. Also to all those who served and prayed today, to the saintly Protopriest Michael Li, who today celebrates his 60th anniversary as a clergyman, to the deacons, clergymen, altar boys, warden, members of the parish council, the choir and sisterhood, the donors and all volunteer workers and parishioners. I express my earnest and heartfelt thanks to you all. Many good years to you! I invoke God’s blessing to you on this anniversary!
The choir director, Elena Kudrina, a parishioner of this church since its founding, then rose to say:
I attended the first service of the Archbishop’s Church in February 1960. It was held despite the fact that the church was not quite ready. I remember this was a Saturday night. Parishioners gathered, a small choir sang led by Fr Nikolai Golubev, his matushka and I sang. Fr Philip Osipov from St Vladimir Church performed the service.
Parishioner Elena Zapevalova later talked about the celebration:
This was an unusual celebration, there were many mixed emotions: at once joyful and sad. First of all, Fr Michael Boikov was not with us, who for the last 20 years (1989-2009) was our Parish Rector.
Taking into consideration the fact that I came into the Church through this parish, beginning in 1995, it is easy to see what a great sense of emptiness I feel from the absence of a person whose counsel, or whose well-timed words from a sermon on a given day, helped me to find the needed direction and to progress on the spiritual path.
Beginning in November 2009, Fr Michael left the parish due to family circumstances and at the present time is in America. That is why it was so touching that the first message read at the celebrations was that sent by Fr Michael the day before.
Another profoundly touching moment was how simply and lovingly Fr Michael Li was honored. Vladyka Hilarion first told us his life story as photographs were projected onto a screen. How attentively, with bated breath, the four hundred parishioners listened to his astounding biography, the twenty years he spent in Chinese prison camps just for being an Orthodox priest. Among these 400 attendees were two children of Fr Michael who came to attend the celebrations from China: Paul and Olga. This was all so touching. At the moment when Fr Michael talked about being in the choir as a child at the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Peking, and suddenly started singing “Let my prayer rise like a censer,” I couldn’t bear it and burst out in tears.
In April, Metropolitan Hilarion awarded the Diocesan Medal to the outgoing members of the sisterhood, who had labored endlessly for the benefit of the church for many years; in particular, Galina Nikolaevna Strekalovskaya and Vera Ivanovna Valiukevich, who each worked for over 30 years.
This great 50th-anniversary celebration, with over 400 attendees, was quite a test for the new sisterhood, led by Elena Engel. There were many sleepless nights spent in preparation, and everything was very well organized. There were even more people here than expected, and the hall on Berwood Road was filled beyond capacity. But as they say, “cramped but not offended.”