We look forward to meeting you, whether you are a one-time visitor, or looking for a home parish.
Please contact the churchoffice [at] stjohngoc [dot] org (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.
Helpful Information Before You Visit
The services that we offer on a typical weekend are Great Vespers at 6:00 p.m. Saturday and on Sunday, Orthros at 8:45 a.m. and Divine Liturgy at 10 a.m. Our celebration of the Resurrection begins on Saturday evening and then continues Sunday morning and culminates in the celebration of the Eucharist during Divine Liturgy. You are welcome to come to any of these services. If you come for Orthros, we encourage you to stay for Liturgy since one service naturally flows into the other.
If you visit on a Sunday morning, a member of the parish will greet you. They can provide you with a Liturgy book, the weekly bulletin and help you find a place to sit. Feel free to ask them questions about the service. Also consider signing our guest book. If this is your first visit to an Orthodox church, there are a few things you'll notice:
Orthodox worship is considered relatively long. The original Liturgy was said to have lasted over five hours. Today, the Divine Liturgy will last about an hour and a half. Before the Liturgy, however, is Orthros and before that, the priest must prepare the "Lamb" (from the special bread that is baked and offered for the Eucharist) and his service of preparation also includes prayers while putting on his vestments.
First, we stand throughout 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 Anaphora. 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.
As you can see, worship in the Orthodox Church is an active, sensorialy-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, annointing with oil, partaking of the Eucharist and chanting hymns.
Our parish primarily uses Byzantine music. These hymns have come down virtually unaltered since the beginning of Christianity. 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 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.
Only baptized and Chrismated Orthodox Christians may participate in the sacrament of Holy Communion, and then only with proper preparation.
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.
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 during coffee hour after the service and stop by the Greeters' table, where you will find several informative pamphlets and a parishioner who can answer questions. We look forward to meeting you at our church.
First-time visitors interested in learning about Orthodoxy may select an appropriate complimentary book at our parish bookstore, Logos Bookstore. Inquire inside the bookstore about this offer!
12 Things I wish I had Known Before My First Visit to An Orthodox Church
Various Informational pamphlets available at the Greeters' Table
Our parish's page about Becoming Orthodox
* Most, if not all, recommended reading selections on our website can be purchased at our parish's Logos Bookstore