The Normal Parish By-Laws of the Russian Orthodox Church outside Russia (ROCOR) ("the By-Laws") provide for a Parish Council consisting of the rector and other assigned clergy, and such lay members as are elected at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the parish. The By-Laws indicate that five lay members of the Parish Council in should be elected, addition to a Warden and a Head Sister.
The rules governing parish membership are set out in the By-Laws. A person may become a member of a ROCOR parish if they are an Orthodox Christian, have reached the age of 18 years, pay the established membership dues, make their confession and take Holy Communion not less than once a year, and tend to the moral and economic welfare of the parish.
Parish membership has its roots in decisions of the All-Russian Church Council of 1917. This Council, the first of its kind in over 200 years, introduced many important changes with a view to invigorating the life of the Russian Orthodox Church. The Normal Parish By-Laws are an important part of this legacy.
Parish membership is something quite distinct from church attendance, or even participation in the sacramental life of the church. Membership makes it possible for a person to be involved in formal parish decision-making at various levels. A person cannot serve on the Parish Council, for example, without first becoming a parish member.
There is no obligation upon any person to become a parish member. A person might regularly attend one or more parishes in our Diocese and participate in the sacramental life of the church and yet feel no desire to seek formal parish membership. This is entirely a decision for each individual. There are certainly no adverse consequences for not seeking parish membership. Pastorally, no distinction is made between members and non-members.
It is nevertheless the policy of this parish to encourage all regular worshippers and friends of the parish to consider membership. The reason for this is that it helps ensure that parish decision-making is representative of the broadest range of people who attend and take an interest in the welfare of the church. It also increases the pool of people from which a Parish Council can be drawn.
As of February 2014, the annual membership fee in our parish is $30.00. Membership is granted for a calendar year; that is, from January to December. New members gain the right to vote only after 6 months of membership. Those new members who transfer membership from another ROCOR parish may vote immediately.
Paragraph 12 of the By-Laws requires any person wishing to become a member of a parish to make a written application to the Parish Council. To make this easier for everyone, our parish has developed an ‘Application for Parish Membership’ form. A copy of the membership form can be viewed or downloaded here.
If required, pre-printed copies of the form are available from the candle-desk at church. Parish members are also asked to complete the ‘Application for Parish Membership’ form upon annual renewal of membership. This helps ensure that parish records are up-to-date, that personal details remain correct, and that the conditions for membership continue to be met. Any questions or concerns regarding formal parish membership should be raised with the parish rector or with a member of the Parish Council. Completed membership forms may be handed in at the candle desk.
The only clergyman assigned to our parish is Priest James Carles, the rector. Father James was appointed to our parish in December 2002. The Warden, elected in 2017 for a fourth three-year term, is Nikolai Goura. The lay members of the Parish Council elected at the AGM convened in October 2017 are Anna Morhun, Irene Lupish, Olga Martin, Lucy Szabunia, Anu Kinnunen and Dean Crawford. Mrs Morhun stood down from the Parish Council early in 2018 after many decades of service.
By virtue of his long and significant association with the parish Subdeacon Vitaly Lupish holds an honorary position on the Parish Council. For some years, Subdeacon Vitaly has been prevented by illness from participating in the work of the Parish Council.
There is at present no formal Ladies’ Auxiliary in our parish. The work of the Ladies’ Auxiliary is undertaken informally under the direction of the Parish Council.
Our parish is registered as a charity with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) under the name St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church Wallsend. Our Australian Business Number (ABN) is 71 384 615 722.
Our parish is an unincorporated body and as such cannot hold in its own name property the title to which must be registered, such as real estate. Such property must be held in trust for the parish by a trustee. In New South Wales (NSW), the common trustee for all real estate belonging the Australian and New Zealand Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church outside Russia (“the Diocese”) and its parishes is the Russian Orthodox Church (NSW) Property Trust (“the Trust”). Established by the Russian Orthodox Church (NSW) Property Trust Act 1991 (“the Act”), the Trust is a legal entity for the ownership of Diocesan and parish property in a manner consistent with the ecclesiology and the canonical norms of the Orthodox Church. The Board of Directors of the Trust is the Diocesan Council. The Trust has held the title to the land on which our church and hall are built since formal transfer of the title in March 2014. Prior to this, our property was nominally held in trust by elected trustees. The election of trustees for the holding in trust of property, provided for in the By-Laws, was the established practice of NSW parishes of the Diocese prior to the passage of the Act.