We look forward to meeting you, whether you are a one-time visitor, or looking for a home parish. On this page we have made an effort to answer some of the most frequently asked questions about visiting.
Please contact the church office for suggestions regarding group visits. This may include a visit for educational purposes. Please let us know if you would like to meet with someone to ask questions about the Orthodox Faith.
You are welcome to come to any service. Our services are in English. On a typical weekend we have Great Vespers on Saturday at 6:00 p.m. (5:00 p.m. during Winter months… check the Schedule); and on Sunday, Orthros at 8:45 a.m. and Divine Liturgy at 10:00 a.m. In Orthodox tradition the liturgical day begins at sunset. Thus, our celebration of the Resurrection begins on Saturday evening, continues Sunday morning and culminates in the celebration of the Eucharist during Divine Liturgy.
Great Vespers is about 45-60 minutes long. Vespers consists of reading and chanting psalms, chanting hymns about Christ’s Resurrection and the saints commemorated on that day, praying for ourselves and the whole world, and a beautiful 2nd century hymn lauding Christ as the Light of the world.
Orthros is the Greek word for “matins” or morning service. Like Vespers, there are psalms, hymns and prayers, plus a reading from the Gospel. A lot of theology is beautifully expressed in the hymns of Orthros. If you come for Orthros, we encourage you to stay for Liturgy since one service naturally flows into the other.
Divine Liturgy starts at 10:00 a.m. on Sundays. Liturgy means “work of the people.” Almost all the Liturgy hymns are the same each week, so you will notice that the congregation participates in singing most of the service. There is a bulletin available each week for the parts of the service that change, including Scripture readings. The Divine Liturgy includes a sermon. This is the Eucharistic service, when Orthodox Christians take Holy Communion. Everyone, including visitors, are invited to receive the blessed bread at the end of the service.
There are service books available for Vespers, Divine Liturgy and many of the other services in the narthex. Also in the narthex, you will have the opportunity to light a candle, ask questions about the service and sign our guest book. If this is your first visit to an Orthodox church, there are a few things you’ll notice:
We stand for much of the service. In the beginning, Christians stood rather than sat, because it is considered the most attentive posture for prayer. You are welcome to sit when you need to, though there are key moments at which only the elderly or ill sit: during the recitation of the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer, during the Small and Great Entrances, the Scripture readings and the Consecration of the Gifts (in Greek, the Anaphora), which is the high point of the Divine Liturgy. We do not expect visitors to be able to recognize all of these elements of the service, so we simply encourage you to follow the lead of others around you.
The Sign of the Cross
Orthodox Christians make the sign of the cross frequently. Although a person may cross themselves at any time, in any place, as a silent prayer, it is also traditional to do so during specific prayers. Some of these are the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer and whenever the Trinity (The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) or the Theotokos (The Mother of God) are mentioned. People also make the sign of the cross before or after venerating (kissing) an icon.
The kiss is another action firmly rooted in Orthodoxy. Before entering the church, we venerate or kiss the icon near the door. This shows love and respect to the person or feast depicted. You may also see the faithful kiss the priest’s right hand when they receive a blessing. The people are venerating the High Priesthood of Christ, of which the parish priest is simply a participant. None of this kissing or veneration should be confused with worship. Orthodox Christians worship only God.
Worship in the Orthodox Church is an active, sensorially rich experience. We stand, make the cross, venerate. We fill the walls of the church with beautiful icons to remind us of the spiritual reality of the feasts and the lives of the saints. Our services include censing with sweet-smelling incense, lighting candles, bowing or prostrating, anointing with oil, partaking of the Eucharist and chanting hymns.
Our parish primarily uses Byzantine music. These hymns have been written over the course of many centuries, with some hymns dating to the early days of the Church (for example, the “O Gladsome Light” hymn we sing at Vespers). We have a very rich musical and liturgical tradition, which you can get a taste of from St. Anthony the Great Monastery’s Divine Music Project site. The role of the choir and chanters is to lead the congregation in worship; the people are encouraged to sing. There are, however, some more intricate or less common hymns that the congregation may not know and these are sung by the choir or chanters alone. By the end of the service, some of the responses will be familiar enough for you to join in.
All non-Orthodox visitors to our parish are welcome and may receive the blessed bread at the end of the Divine Liturgy. To receive Holy Communion, you must be baptized and confirmed in the Orthodox Church. You must also have prepared under the spiritual direction of your Father Confessor, which presumes participation in the Sacrament of Confession. Before approaching the Communion Chalice, we should not have any foreign matter in or on our mouths; this includes food, gum, lipstick, etc. Please come up the middle aisle with reverence and humility. When receiving, please place the cloth under your chin, wipe your mouth and then hand the cloth to the next person.
Attire for Church
Many visitors have asked if we have a dress code. While there is no enforced dress code, women generally wear modest skirts or dresses and men usually wear dress shirts and trousers. Visitors will likely feel most comfortable in similar attire. We strive to dress in a way that is fitting for celebrating the Resurrection, which we celebrate every Sunday, and in a manner that does not distract others from prayer.
Questions While Visiting?
During your visit to our church you are sure to come up with a question that we have not anticipated here. Please feel free to ask whatever questions you may have. Be sure to join us in the fellowship hall after the service. On Sundays, we have coffee hour, but even on Saturdays and other evenings, people like to stay and socialize for a while. We regularly have visitors, so do not be surprised if people introduce themselves and ask where you are from. We look forward to meeting you at our church.
- 12 Things I Wish I had Known Before My First Visit to An Orthodox Church, by Frederica Matthews-Green
- Various introductory pamphlets available at our Welcome Table and inside Logos Bookstore
- Our parish’s page about Becoming Orthodox
- An Introduction to Books About Orthodox Christianity, by Chad M.