Visiting an Orthodox Church, for many people, is a new and exciting experience. For those who are unfamiliar with the Orthodox Christian faith it may sometimes be difficult to understand what is happening, and we are sensitive to that. Below are a few questions you may have if you are unfamiliar with our faith. If you have additional questions during your visit, please speak to an usher.
- Is your Church open to everyone?
- What is Orthodox worship like?
- What service should I come to?
- When should I arrive?
- Is there a dress code?
- Are services in English?
- May I light a candle?
- What are the pictures?
- Helpful Links
This page concerns Orthodox worship practices. If you are interested in our beliefs, please see this page.
Is your Church open to everyone?
Yes! The Church of Jesus Christ is a house of prayer for all people, and we welcome anyone who is interested in worshiping the Holy Trinity with us.
What is Orthodox worship like?
Orthodox worship is something that happens outside of the normal realms of time and space. We believe that when we pray in Church, we are mysteriously entering into the never-ending worship that is happening in heaven. We are spiritually taken into Heaven, into the very throne room of God. We join our voices to those of the angels, the saints, and all Orthodox Christians everywhere.
Our worship engages all five senses. There are things to see, hear, touch, smell, and taste. The services are mostly sung or chanted, and consist largely of Biblical quotes and references, along with elements that have been present since the very early days of the Christian Church.
Most people stand for much of the service, out of respect. We understand that this may be difficult for some people, so you may sit or stand as you are comfortable. There are a few times when everyone should stand (during blessings, entrances, censings, and the Gospel reading). Take your cues from the other members of the congregation and the service book. Please also refrain from crossing your arms and legs, out of respect.
What if I get lost?
The service books are helpful, but only up to a point. Orthodox divine services are assembled from different resources according to the Church calendar and ancient traditions; service books can only accommodate this reality to a point. For your first few visits, you may consider simply watching the service and not worrying about following along. Do your best to take it all in. When you have a feel for the services, the books will be more helpful.
What service should I come to?
If it is your first time visiting an Orthodox Church, you may want to come to Great Vespers on a Saturday evening at 5:00. This is a shorter service, around 40 minutes in length, and consists of evening prayers, hymns, and readings from the Psalms. Vespers is a calm and prayerful way to end the day and prepare for Sunday services.
Sunday services begin at 9:00am with Orthros, also called Matins. The service emphasizes the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ in its prayers, hymns, and readings. Orthros lasts around one hour and is immediately followed by the Divine Liturgy around 10:00am.
The Divine Liturgy is the main worship service of the Orthodox Church. The first half centers on worship and teaching. It includes prayers, hymns, readings from the Epistles and Gospels, and a sermon. The second half centers on the Eucharist and Holy Communion. The Divine Liturgy lasts around 75 minutes. You are welcome to stay for coffee hour afterwards.
Check the Parish Calendar for changes in the service schedule.
May I take Holy Communion?
Because the Eucharist is one of the Sacred Mysteries of the Orthodox Church, only baptized and chrismated Orthodox Christians who have prepared themselves through prayer and fasting may come forward.
Everyone is welcome to a piece of the blessed bread (antidoron). If someone gives you a piece, you may eat it. You are also free to come forward at the end of the service for a personal blessing.
When should I arrive?
It is best to arrive a few minutes early, so you can settle into a seat and bring yourself into a prayerful state of mind before the service begins.
It has become a tradition, or rather a bad habit, for people in the Orthodox Church to arrive late to services. It is not the ideal, but it does happen. Be aware that there may be some light commotion at the beginning of services.
Is there a dress code?
We ask that people dress decently and respectfully. Since we come to Church to worship the God of the Universe, we should offer him our best. Avoid shorts and sandals, and in a spirit of kindness and charity, we should also avoid clothes that may distract others.
Are services in English?
Yes, all services are in English. In honor of the Christian Church’s Greek heritage and the Syrian heritage of our parish you will occasionally hear some Greek and Arabic, but everything is repeated in English.
May I light a candle?
Yes! Everyone is welcome to light a candle in prayer in the narthex (entry area). Please limit yourself to one so there are enough for everybody, and we ask for a small donation so we can cover the cost of providing candles.
What are the pictures?
The pictures are called holy icons. They are paintings of Jesus Christ and the saints who are alive in heaven with God, yet still present with us. You will see people kiss and bow to (venerate) the icons as a sign of respect. While Jesus Christ, the saints, and the angels are all around us (Hebrews 12:1), we cannot see them. The icons are a way for us to honor them. You can learn more about holy icons here.
You do not have to venerate the icons if you are uncomfortable doing so. If you do, out of respect for others please be sure your lips are clean (no lipstick, please).
- 12 Things I Wish I’d Known: First Visit to an Orthodox Church by Frederica Mathewes-Green
- 10 Things I Wish I Knew by Deacon Michael Hyatt (audio)