On Thursday 27 October a reception was held in Earlwood that was attended by members of many of the Eastern Orthodox Churches in Sydney including the Russian, Serbian Greek, Antiochian, Romanian and English converts to raise funds for the Russian Holy Transfiguration Monastery and Presentation Sisterhood. It was attended by a large number of parishioners from the Antiochian Church and with a good representation from the Greek, Russian and Serbian Orthodox communities. The event was organized by Roula Nassour from the Antiochian Orthodox Church, Pandelis Toumbelekis from the Greek Orthodox Church and with some support from Mark Ganin of the Russian Orthodox Church. Metropolitan Hilarion and Bishop George represented the Russian Orthodox Church and there were many clergy from all of the Eastern Orthodox Diocese located in Sydney as well as Branka Kouroushis, the Christian Democrats candidate for the seat of Canterbury.
The dinner started with a heartfelt prayer and featured a Lebanese style of catering. Abbot Sergei from the Holy Transfiguration Monastery spoke of how the Russian Orthodox Church supports Christians in Syria and other Christian minorities and refugees in the middle east. He then spoke of some early personal experiences on Mount Athos and of how the world is changing which makes spiritual life very challenging for Orthodox Christians with atheism and materialism on the rise. He also reminded us that we are the branches and Christ is the vine. To the Arabic and Greek reporters present, Abbot Sergei mentioned that the Monastery started to be built 1982 and now includes eight monks of Russian and Australian heritage. Many people visit the Monastery, which is located in the Bombala region of southern New South Wales, every week to seek spiritual comfort & strength. Abbess Anna of the Presentation Sisterhood and two Nuns attended the evening and had a small store set up where their handiworks and crafted items were for sale. Metropolitan Hilarion spoke of how the Eastern Orthodox Church is made up of people of different nationalities that makes us the One Body of Christ as we share the same faith and that unity for Eastern Orthodoxy is now more important than ever and that the evening reminds him of the strong unity our Apostles had. Throughout the evening there were performances of religious Byzantine chanting in Greek, Arabic and English.
A raffle, organized and run by the Russians, was held with many prizes donated by the faithful.
The raffle raised close to $3,000 and overall close to $9,500 was raised for the Russian monasteries. This Pan Orthodox Dinner was very successful and provided an opportunity for Brothers & Sisters in Christ to meet and get to know each other. The fifth Pan Orthodox Dinner is scheduled for sometime in the second half of 2017. In 2015 the third Pan Orthodox Dinner raised funds for St Raphael's Antiochian Orthodox Mission who feed the homeless every Monday night at Martin Place. In 2017 the dinner will support a different, yet worthy eastern orthodox cause.
Written by Mark Ganin with input from Hani Elturk and Roula Nassour
Photographs are courtesy of Hani Elturk of the El-Telegraph Arabic newspaper