St. John the Baptist Skete (Kentlyn, New South Wales)
|Holy Skete of St. John the Baptist|
|Approx. size||1 monk|
|Location||Kentlyn, New South Wales, Australia|
|Music used||Russian Chant|
|Feastdays celebrated||Aug 29/Sep 11|
|Official website||none advertised|
The Holy Skete of St. John the Baptist is a skete for men under the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, in the Diocese of Australia and New Zealand. The skete is located in Kentlyn, New South Wales, and was established in 1956 under the omophorion of His Grace Archbishop Sava of Sydney by Hieromonk Dimitry (Obuhoff), and re-established in 1999 by Hieromonk Joachim. Currently, the skete has 1 priestmonk in residence.
In 1956, Archbishop Sava of Sydney, Australia and New Zealand commissioned Hieromonk Dimitry (Obuhoff) to establish a monastery at Kentlyn (near Cambelltown, southwest of Sydney), on land donated by Protodeacon Peter Grishaev. To join him, the Archbishop recruited three candidates to test their monastic vocation with Hmk Dimitry. The first Divine Liturgy was celebrated on September 16, 1956.
By March 1959, however, Hmk Dimitry had been transferred to care for the Russian parish in Geelong, Victoria; two of the novices returned to the world, and Michael Sorokhin, the third novice, was left in charge of the diocesan workshop and candle factory in an adjoining rugged and densely timbered sandstone property. This property would later became Saint John the Baptist Skete.
On October 5, 1960, Monk Guri (Demidov) arrived in Australia as a refugee from Harbin, China. He took up residence at St John the Baptist Skete. Living in a small, one room tin hut surrounded by thick bush he became its first, and only, monastic inhabitant. Fr Guri was devoted to prayer and craved solitude, and found both in the 18 hectare grounds of the skete, often attending daily services at the nearby Convent of Our Lady of Kazan.
In imitation of the monastic hermits in Egypt, Judea, Mount Athos and Russia, Fr Guri cleared out a natural cleft in a nearby sandstone rock face, and so made a small, cramped cave where he would spend many hours reading prayers and using his prayer rope. Only God and the holy Angels were witnesses to his prayerful vigils and struggles. This cave has since become a place of pilgrimage.
Fr Guri had an extensive library on the ascetic life and hesychastic prayer, especially the Jesus Prayer. He would often copy excerpts from the writings of the Holy Fathers on the ascetic and spiritual life in small school exercise books. These books, the fruit of his reading and struggles, he would give away as a blessing to those whom he felt would benefit from the wisdom of the Holy Fathers.
Over the succeeding years Father Guri laboured with Michael Sorokhin, together with volunteers from the Russian Orthodox community in Sydney, to erect a small brick building containing six monastic cells surrounding a large central room that was intended to be part of a large monastic church dedicated to Saint John the Baptist. It was not to be completed. He waited alone, praying that others would join him.
Old age eventually forced Father Guri to move from his beloved isolation at the Skete to a small hut in the Convent grounds, and finally to the Saint Sergius Nursing Home, Cabramatta. He died in deep old age at 98 years on the August 23, 1992. This faithful monk is buried in Rookwood Cemetery, Sydney.
|This article forms part of the series|
Orthodoxy in Australia
|Orthodoxy in Australia Timeline |
Statistics of Orthodoxy in Australia
Gk Orthodox Archd. of ANZ
|GOA Aus - Abp Makarios|
Antiochian - Met Basilios
ROCOR - Met Hilarion
Serbian - Bp Siluan
Romanian - Bp Michael
Without local bishop
| Antiochian Orthodox |
Greek Orthodox (Aus)
O.L. of Kazan
|Proph. Elias |
St John Mtn
St Sava (Elaine)
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Without a monastic
While the nearby Diocesan workshop and the candle factory continued to function, the unfinished Skete building was used for a time as a printing facility, finally being abandoned. Uninhabited for over a decade the building fell derelict, a nesting place for birds, a home for possums and vermin, damaged by vandals and in a serious state of disrepair.
In 1999 Hieromonk Joachim received a canonical release from the Serbian Orthodox Church to the ROCOR. He was invited by the current diocesan bishop, Archbishop Hilarion of Sydney (since elevated to First Hierarch of ROCOR), to rebuild the Kentlyn Skete and restore cenobitic monastic life, as well as to provide a base for missionary work amongst anglophonic Australians.
With the help of a very small group of faithful volunteers, the early 2000s saw four and a half years of work to clear the neglected grounds of decades of accumulated rubbish and undergrowth, and the Skete building secured and made temporarily habitable and weatherproof. There is now modest accommodation, an office, dining room and, most importantly, a prayer room or chapel where the monastic labour of the Hours of prayer according to the typicon of the Orthodox Church are said daily.
With the blessing of Abbess Evpraxia, Father Joachim has been permitted the use of the old monastery Church of All Saints in the neighbouring Our Lady of Kazan Monastery. A small congregation from various national backgrounds - Russian, Cypriot, Greek, Palestinian, Serbian, Lebanese and Australian - attend the Divine Liturgy served in English every Sunday and on major feast days.
Father Guri’s small cave, scene of his many hidden vigils and spiritual struggles, has been cleaned of the dirt and rubbish accumulated since his departure. A floor has been laid, overhanging rock walls strengthened, and icons and a burning lampada installed. Sanctified by Father Guri’s prayers and tears, this sandstone cleft, the Skete’s first 'church', has become a place of pilgrimage and quiet prayer for growing numbers of visitors to the Skete.
The first priority when Father Joachim arrived at Kentlyn was to make the Skete habitable, remove tons of accumulated rubbish and clearing the surrounding bush to reduce the threat of bushfires. While cautious and economical expense has been used to make the old building liveable - the main endeavour has always been to raise funds to rebuild.
Mr Nicholas Proskurin of Leda Building Plans P/L has kindly prepared the architectural plans for the rebuilding of the Skete. Development approval has been given by Campbelltown City Council. The proposed scheme incorporates the original structure from Father Guri’s time. Keeping faithful to the spirit of the original plans, the large central room will become the nave of the monastery church dedicated to Saint John the Baptist, with the eastern wall removed to build on an altar area. The walls will be raised to allow a new roof with cupola and a wooden floor will be installed.
Attached to the church and monastic cells will be a new extension comprising an office/library cum reception area, a trapeza (monastic dining room), kitchen, storeroom, laundry and ablution area. The design is modest, practical and economical. With the exception of the Church, the whole area, including the existing small monastic cells, is comparable to a normal suburban house. Even so, building costs make an immediate start impossible - savings of the Skete and the funds raised by a small group of supporters since 1999 have not yet amounted to even 40% (at Jan 2009) of the total required.
An Invitation to Help
Orthodox Christians who value traditional Orthodox monastic life and the vital importance in plays in the life of the church are invited to help Hieromonk Joachim rebuild the Skete, and complete what Father Guri began 48 years ago. If Orthodox monasticism is to grow and flourish in Australia then there must be Orthodox monasteries.
In helping to rebuild Saint John the Baptist Skete, you will also be participating in its missionary endeavours. His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion is convinced of the necessity for Orthodox Christian evangelism in Australia. With his blessing, Saint John the Baptist Skete hopes to provide a place of silence, worship, prayer, pilgrimage, retreat, hospitality and counsel. All Orthodox Christians of good will are asked to generously contribute and support our efforts.
Where Father Guri would record by hand in exercise books the results of his prayerful reading, the Skete now publishes an English language monthly journal - The Voice - using the benefits of contemporary computer technology and desktop publishing. Following Father Guri's example, it is a modest attempt to make the treasures of the Orthodox faith available in English to Australian Orthodox Christians and enquirers. Subscription to The Voice is by voluntary donation (~$20 in Australia).
Along with other plans, the Skete intends to expand its publishing activities.
Schedule of Services
All services in English.
- Sunday, 8:30am: Hours and Divine Liturgy.
- Tuesday, 7.00pm: Molieben and Akathist to the Theotokos.
- Saturday, 5:30pm: Vigil (reader's service) and confessions.
Superiors of the Skete
- Hieromonk Dimitry (Obuhoff), 1956-1959.
- Monk Guri (Demidov), 1960-~1990
- Hieromonk Joachim (Ross), 1999-present.
Visitors to the Skete and Father Guri’s cave are always welcome. Please phone ahead of your arrival.
- Superior: Hieromonk Joachim.
- Phone: 02 4626 3945
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Church: Church of All Saints, 32 Smith Street, Kentlyn (southwest of Sydney, near Campbelltown).
- Postal Address: PO Box 321X, Leumeah, NSW, 2560
|Orthodoxy in Australia: Monasteries|
|Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia|
| Male: Pantanassa | St George | St John |
Female: Gorgoepikoos | Holy Cross
|Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia|
| Male: Holy Transfiguration | Archangel Michael |
Proph. Elias | St John the Baptist | Holy Trinity
Female: Our Lady of Kazan | Presentation
| Male: New Kalenic (Serbian) | St Sava (Serbian) |
Female: St Anna (Antiochian) | Nativity Skete (Serbian)