The Orthodox Church of St Nicholas of Japan began as a English speaking multi-ethnic Orthodox missionary community in Johannesburg in 1987. An objective was to make non-Orthodox people aware of Orthodoxy. St Nicholas the Enlightener of Japan evangelized Japan in the late 19th century. He was the first priest in Japan and subsequently went on to become the first Archbishop of Japan as this church grew. It was because of the similar situation that the founders of the then new parish found themselves in and therefore decided to choose St. Nicholas of Japan was as the patron saint of the church. Initially, services were held in various church halls and chapels until the community finally moved to its current premises in 1990.
This Orthodox parish, under the authority of the Patriarchate of Alexandria, is not aligned to any particular ethnic community and parishioners and visitors to the church are drawn from all geographical areas, many even traveling considerable distances to attend the services.
Testimony of the parish’s outreach and missionary work in South Africa is that a number of our parishioners have over the years joined the clergy and been ordained priests, deacons, and nuns. These include: Father Iakovos van der Riet, Father Zacharias van Wyk, Father Jonathan Procter, Father Andrey Kashinsky, Father Deacon Stephen Hayes, Father Deacon Irinaeos McDonald, Father Paul Vermaak, Father Constantinos Couvas, Sister Paisia D’Amico, Father Deacon Anastasios Noel Barham, of blessed memory and Father Deacon Pascal Mukuna.
The services have always been conducted primarily in English. However, a little Greek, Romanian, Slavonic, Afrikaans and other languages are also used as the occasion requires.
The musical tradition of the church is mostly in 4-part harmony and is always unaccompanied. It draws its material mainly from the Orthodox Church in America, which is Russian in style, and occasionally uses Byzantine chant. The choir director is Georgia Jammine.
The Icons in the church are mainly the work of parishioners of St Nicholas, in particular that of Diaconissa Cathy McDonald, but including the works of Carol Hamman, Lynn Katsoulis and Danie Steyn.
Parish priests that have served over the years in a permanent role were Fr. Chrysostom Frank, Fr. Iakovos Olechnowicz, Fr. Michai Corpedean, Rev. Fr. Athanasius Akunda and presently Fr. Elias Palmos.