Holy Annunciation Orthodox Church has been in existence for over 45 years. During that time, our parish has been pastored by 8 parish priests, and made history by being the first Orthodox parish in Australia to celebrate services primarily in the English language.
The OCA Years
Holy Annunciation Orthodox Church was founded in April 1972 as a parish of the Orthodox Church of America (OCA) by Archpriest Gregory Malisheff and other Russian migrants who had been received into the OCA from the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) – meeting the needs of the parishioners of the time, the languages used in the parish were Church Slavonic (for services) and Russian. Even before he founded Holy Annunciation Orthodox Church, Fr Gregory Malisheff was noted as an industrious and popular pastor. In 1974, a house was purchased and converted into a church – this is the church we serve in today. However, having suffered for some time from cancer, Fr Gregory reposed in the Lord on Great and Holy Friday in 1976, having served the Matins of the Twelve Passion Gospels the previous evening at the parish he established.
The parish was devastated in losing their beloved pastor. For a time, the spiritual needs of the parish were served by the other OCA priests in Australia, Archimandrite Benjamin (Garshin) and Archpriest Theodore Michaluk, who undertook pastoral visits from Sydney. Priests from the Serbian Orthodox Church also held regular services at the church. Hegumen Dimitry (Obuhoff), previously the rector of Blessed Virgin of Vladimir Parish, Rocklea, was appointed rector of the Holy Annunciation Church; he continued in this position from 1976 until 1980, and reposed in 1982.
Soon thereafter, Metropolitan Theodosius appointed Fr John Jillions as rector. He arrived from North America and conducted his first service on the Feast of the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos, 1984. In March 1986, Fr John led the parish council in declaring Holy Annunciation to be devoted to serving in the English language, a declaration that put into place over the course of that year, and caused Holy Annunciation to be the first Orthodox parish in Australia to serve all services in the English language. Although a significant number of founding Russian parishioners left the parish (due to a combination of the change of language and a less traditional pastoral approach), other parishioners – particularly young Greek Orthodox people who had been tending to leave the Church under the influence of evangelical protestantism – came to join the parish. Fr John served until his return to the United States in October 1987.
Fr John Bartholomew was sent by the OCA to serve at the parish and in his brief stint as rector over 1987-88, his focus was on re-enforcing traditional Russian Orthodox practices, including frequent Confession as part of the preparation for Communion. Although his sojourn in Australia was quite short, Fr John Bartholomew’s legacy is still remembered in the parish to this day, as is his emphasis on traditional practices of exerting ascetic effort as a key vehicle for the acquisition of salvific grace.
Additionally, prior to Fr John Jillion’s departure, the OCA hierarchy invited the parishes in Australia to consider a transfer to one of the canonical jurisdictions based in Australia. Moving the parish into the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate was discussed at length, but ultimately decided against at a meeting after Fr John Bartholomew’s departure. In 1989, at the request of Metropolitan Theodosius, Bishop Gibran (of the Antiochian Orthodox Diocese) ordained to the priesthood Fr Ian Bojko. Previously assisting Hegumen Dimitry as subdeacon and deacon at Fr Dimitry’s parochial assignments in Geelong and Rocklea; Fr Ian was assigned to be rector of the parish, a ministry he continued while working a secular job as a railway porter and into his secular retirement. Fr Ian served until ill-health forced his retirement in 2005. Fr Ian remains the longest-serving priest of Holy Annunciation Orthodox Church, having served there for approximately 16 years.
The ROCOR Years
The parishioners approached His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad and Archbishop of Sydney, Australia and New Zealand, with the request to be accepted under his omophorion (jurisdiction) as a missionary parish serving in English. Metropolitan Hilarion agreed to this and, after His Beatitude Metropolitan Jonah granted a canonical release from the OCA to this end in May 2009, received the parish into the Diocese of Australia and New Zealand (within the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia). Fr John Weir, originally ordained as the English-language assistant priest at St Nicholas Cathedral in Woolloongabba, was appointed rector by Metropolitan Hilarion. Fr John led the community in reinvigorating the parish.
In early 2010, Fr John requested to be relieved from the rectorate of the parish for personal reasons. Metropolitan Hilarion appointed the Dean of Queensland, Archpriest Michael Klebansky, as interim rector until a more permanent rector could be found. Services continued 2-3 times a month at the parish under his direction, served by Fr John Weir, Fr Alexander Borodin and Hieromonk John (Macpherson).
Having returned to his native Brisbane in December 2009 after serving in Brisbane, Canberra and Wollongong, Fr Alexander Borodin was appointed rector of the parish in July 2010. Fr Alexander’s rectorate was marked by the steady growth and development of our parish, doubling its attendance within his first three years.
In February 2012, the parish experienced its first diaconal ordination, with Metropolitan Hilarion ordaining Subdeacon Andrew Smith to the diaconate. Deacon Andrew’s ordination took place before the visiting relics of St Innocent of Irkutsk, who was a missionary to Siberia, Mongolia and China, as well as the first bishop of Irkutsk. 2012 also saw a public catechism course, and the development and beautification of our church building and grounds.
2013 also saw the expansion of our parish building to accommodate the growth of our parish, providing an office, storage space and disability ramp, and laying new floors in the existing part of the church, in addition to a Bible overview course. All who have seen the interior of our building before and after have been amazed at how the renovations have made our church much more beautiful and prayerful.
We celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Lesser Consecration of our church building in 2014. In May, Metropolitan Hilarion celebrated the Hierarchal Divine Liturgy, awarding Fr Alexander the kamilavka and ordaining Fr Andrew to the priesthood, assigned as assistant priest at the parish. At the luncheon following the service, Fr Alexander delivered a speech capping the past 40 years of our parish and looking forward to the future. The celebrations continued with a 40th Anniversary Dinner in October, which included our vision for the future as a missionary parish for Brisbane and anyone in Queensland who wants our help to follow Christ.
A major expansion to our church happened in 2015 when we began services for a small community of Orthodox Christians living in Toowoomba (a city west of Brisbane). In addition, we received a visit from the miracle-working Kursk Root Icon of the Mother of God in March, a visit from our First Hierarch for our Patronal Feastday (on Holy Tuesday) and held our second public catechism series (‘Foundations of Orthodox Christianity’). We also took the step of serving memorial services near ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day for those who had fallen on the field of battle.
Our Faith Education Program began in 2016 with two Bible Study series’ – on the Ephesians and on the Psalms used in weekly worship – before continuing our now-annual ‘Foundations in Orthodox Christianity’ course, finishing the year with another Bible Study on the Gospel of Matthew. We used the results of a large fundraising program to replace the windows at our church, as well as restoring the cupola’s on our church (damaged in a hail storm). We welcomed Bishop George for our parish feastday, and concelebrated for the 50th Anniversary of the repose of St John of Shanghai and San Francisco.
The middle of 2016 brought two defining moments for our parish: the repose of Fr Michael Klebansky (our Dean and, formerly, our interim rector), which prompted the appointment of Fr Alexander as rector of the Vladimir Icon parish, in addition to being rector of Holy Annunciation, with services and pastoral work primarily undertaken by Fr Andrew; and, the ordination to the diaconate of Fr Matthew White, who faithfully serves at our parish. Other events included a fundraising dinner at St Nicholas Cathedral Hall on 2 October, cupboards installed in the choir room, receiving free-standing candles, welcoming visiting clergy, and once again uploading educational videos to YouTube. We also began our charity ministry by raising funds for Movember, and we finished off the year by welcoming Metropolitan Jonah (Paffhausen) to our parish.
February 2017 saw our Deanery welcome the Myrrh-Streaming Icon of the Mother of God, where it was hosted by each of our parishes, and the first Unction service served at our parish in its history. Our Charity Ministry combined efforts with the other ROCOR parishes in Brisbane to collect donations for the Homeless Ministry of St Paul’s Antiochian Orthodox Church; then, in the Apostles’ Fast, our parish collected money towards the ROCOR Mission in the Philippines. Building works at our parish saw our windows replaced in February, and, the kitchen and sitting room gyprocked in March. Our Adult Education continued with our Bible Study on the Gospel of Mark through the first half of the year, and we began a revamped 10-week ‘Foundations in Orthodox Christianity’ course in April. We also started a podcast, began our monthly newsletter, organised a fundraising dinner, and welcomed visiting priests to serve with us.
After a significant period of time pastoring the community, during the weekend of our ‘Winter Warmer’ Fundraising Dinner in mid-August, Fr Andrew was appointed rector of Holy Annunciation.
The parish is currently the only full-time English-language Orthodox parish in Queensland, and one of only a handful in Australia.
We welcome those who have yet to experience Orthodox Christianity to come and see the riches of authentic Christianity; and we welcome those Orthodox Christians who wish to experience and explore the beauty of our faith in the English language.
Would you like to read more details about major events in our parish history? You can read more on these pages: