ST NICHOLAS ANTIOCHIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH
This article provides an overview of the history of St Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Church in Melbourne, Australia from its beginnings to its mportant role in Orthodoxy today. It records the service of St Nicholas over the years to the early Lebanese (then known as Syrian) immigrant families; to refugees from Russia and other Slavonic Orthodox communities; to immigrants from Lebanon in the post-war years and during the Civil War in Lebanon; and its role in introducing Orthodoxy to members of the wider Christian and Australian communities.
The Early Years
The first Lebanese (then known as Syrian) immigrants began arriving in Australia in the 1880s and 1890s. All of the early families engaged in hawking or peddling in the country areas of the eastern states of Australia. By the early years of the twentieth century, a small colony of Lebanese had settled in Melbourne. These families had maintained contact with each other since their arrival in Melbourne. They often worked together as hawkers, shopkeepers or wholesalers and shared social activities such as visiting each other and meeting on Sundays in the Exhibition Gardens.
The Orthodox among them helped to establish the first Greek Orthodox Church in Melbourne: the Holy Annunciation in East Melbourne in 1902. The services were conducted by an Arabicspeaking priest in both Greek and Arabic. There was also chanting in Arabic as well as Greek and the altar boys included the sons of Lebanese immigrants. Lebanese donated some of the icons and provided the first churchwarden. However, by the 1920s, Holy Annunciation became a predominantly Greek church with a Greek-only speaking priest.
The Lebanese continued to attend the Greek Orthodox Church for special services such as weddings, baptisms and funerals. Some young Orthodox Lebanese would attend Sunday schools at Protestant churches, where they enjoyed the social and sporting activities. However, neither attendance at the Greek Church nor participation in social activities at Protestant churches fully met the spiritual and social needs of the small group of Lebanese families in Melbourne. Despite the fact that these families had been living in Australia without their own place of worship for up to forty years, the desire to establish their own church did not fade over time. By the late 1920s, most families had become established in business and their children were either attending school or had commenced work. Now seemed the right time to found their own Orthodox Church. Read more….