Your First Visit
First off– we’re so glad you’re considering a visit! Please know that you are truly welcome!
As a church of converts, we know how awkward, confusing, and overwhelming it can be to visit a new church; especially one that is likely very different from any you have experienced before. We want you to feel comfortable so we’ve prepared this brief guide to help you understand what a typical Sunday morning looks like for us.
You’re not late, we promise
You may arrive a few minutes early, hoping to slip in before the service starts, only to be surprised that people are already standing and someone is chanting the psalms! You haven’t forgotten about daylight savings time or misread our service schedule. We really do “start” at 10:00 AM but we spend a few minutes before the service proper in quiet prayer as we prepare for the liturgy.
The first thing you are likely to notice when entering our church is all of the beautiful icons (depictions of Christ and the saints). Orthodox Christians believe that icons are not merely religious art, but that they connect us to Christ and the saints as “windows into heaven”. We honor the saints that have gone before us by bowing before and even kissing their icons because we recognize how Christ has worked in and through them.
We Stand to Pray
A few minutes in, you may realize the priest has "forgotten" to invite the congregation to be seated. We believe Christ is present in a special and real way when His people gather, so we stand in expectation and reverence. Standing also helps keep us attentive and reminds us that, whether singing, reading, or silently praying, we are all actively participating in worship. It's not a rule, but rather a posture of prayer that helps us keep an attentive and respectful posture of the heart. If you get tired, need to pacify a wiggly youngster, or are otherwise unable to stand you are more than welcome to make use of the pews!
The Sign of the Cross
Orthodox worship involves the whole person: the mind, the heart, the senses, the entire body. When making the sign of the cross we touch our head, chest, and both shoulders to remind us to dedicate our mind, heart, and strength (all of us!) to God. It's a small way for us to publicly confess that Christ has saved us by defeating death by death and that we belong to Him.
Structure of the Service
Our Sunday service begins with this declaration: “Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit now and ever and unto ages of ages.” These words remind us that in the Divine Liturgy the Church becomes a real manifestation of God’s Kingdom on earth.
The first part of the Liturgy was partially designed to help inquirers and new converts learn the faith. Here we sing selections from the psalms, the beatitudes, and other hymns. We pray throughout the service; for our leaders, for each other, for those who are suffering, and especially for peace for the world. Each Sunday also has designated readings from the Epistles and the Gospels, which are followed by a sermon-- usually about 20 minutes long.
The second part of the Liturgy is entirely focused on Holy Communion. We repeat our intercessions for the spiritual welfare of the city, the nation, the Church and each other. We sing the Lord’s prayer, the Creed, and receive the Holy Body and Precious Blood of Christ in the Eucharist. The service ends shortly after Holy Communion.
Orthodox Christians view Holy Communion as deeply, awesomely holy, and are mindful of St. Paul’s words, “whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.” (1 Cor 11:27-28) We know that it is not our own efforts but only God’s grace that can make us worthy of Communion with Him. But to prepare and “examine ourselves” before coming for Communion we fast, pray, examine our hearts and our actions and repent and confess our sins, seeking absolution from God. All are called to God’s table, but please respect this ancient and venerable Christian practice. Do not come up for Communion without speaking to our priest before the service begins about appropriate preparation. Those who are not Orthodox Christians may approach the chalice for a blessing, but should not commune.
After the Service
At the end of the service, a few final prayers will be read as congregants begin lining up to receive a blessing from the priest. You are welcome to join the line, kiss the cross, and eat the non-consecrated bread while the prayers are being read.
When the prayers are finished we pick up and cross the street to share a potluck meal. Please join us for conversation and coffee or a bite to eat so we can get to know each other and answer any questions you may have!
Children are very welcome in God’s house! “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.” (Mk 10:14) If children become so restless or loud that they are disturbing others’ prayer and worship, their parents may opt to give them a break. We do not want our worship to be a burden for our youngest members! It is perfectly acceptable for parents to lovingly escort small children out, briefly, and return when they are able to do so. We have a basket of children’s books in the back of the church near the bathroom. Children are also welcome to use the outside playground.
If you have any unanswered questions after reading this article, please feel free to contact us. We hope to see you soon!