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 [[Monastery of Our Lady of Kazan (Kentlyn, Australia)|Convent of Our Lady of Kazan]].
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====Father Guri’s Cave====
In his search for silence, and in imitation of the monastic hermits of the Egyptian and Judean deserts, the Holy Mount Athos and the vast forests of Russia, Father Guri cleared out a natural cleft in a nearby sandstone rock face, making a small, cramped cave in which he would spend many hours reading prayers and using his prayer rope. This was his favourite retreat after communing at the Divine Liturgy. Only God and the holy Angels were witnesses to his prayerful vigils and struggles.
====His Love of the Holy Fathers==== Father Guri was reputed to have had an extensive library on the ascetic life and hesychastic prayer (the use of the Jesus Prayer - also called the Prayer of the Heart - ’Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner’ - the foundation of Orthodox Christian ascetic prayer).He would often laboriously copy excerpts from the writings of the Holy Fathers on the ascetic and spiritual life in small school exercise books. These anthologies, the fruit of his prayerful reading and spiritual struggles, he would give away as a blessing to those whom he felt would benefit from the wisdom of the Holy Fathers.
====Father Guri’s Solitary Labours and Repose====
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 23rd of August 1992. This faithful monk is buried in Rookwood Cemetery, Sydney.
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.
A New Beginning===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, to rebuild the Kentlyn Skete and restore coenobitic monastic life, as well as providing a base for missionary work amongst English speaking Australians.
With the help of a very small group of faithful volunteers, the
past four and a half years have seen the neglected grounds cleared of decades of rubbish and undergrowth, 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.
====Worshipping in English====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 converts - attend the Divine Liturgy served in English every Sunday and on major feast days.
====Father Guri’s Cave Renewed====
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.
==Following Father Guri’s Example==== 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. ====Our Goal - Rebuilding 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.
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 46 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 its missionary endeavours. His Grace Archbishop 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.
There are plans to expand the Skete’s publishing activities. Currently the Skete publishes 'The Voice', a monthly Orthodox journal, costing $18/year.
All services are in English. Visitors to the Skete and Father Guri’s cave are always welcome. Please phone ahead of your arrival. Orthodox Christians of good will are asked to generously contribute and support our efforts.
==Schedule of Services==
*Sunday, 8:30am: Hours and Divine Liturgy.
*Tuesday, 6:30pm: Molieben and Akathist to the Theotokos.
*Saturday, 8:30am: Panikhida (Memorial service)
*Saturday, 5:30pm: Vigil (reader's service) and confessions.
*Superior: Hieromonk Joachim (Ross).
*Phone: 02 4626 3945