What To Expect
Thinking about visiting our church, or another Orthodox church?

An Orthodox church is different from most other churches of today. When you first walk in, you may ask, "What are those pictures on the walls? Where are the electric guitars and drum set? Why does everyone stand so much? Why does the priest not face the people?"

Orthodox worship aims to be traditional, much like the early Christians. Church hymns are sung a cappella (without instrumental accompaniment). The pictures on the walls, known as icons, are "windows to heaven". They are venerated and honored, but they are not worshipped (which would be considered idolatry). Honoring an icon implies the honoring of its prototype (the saint that is depicted on it); again, the saints are not worshipped, but venerated.

The faithful often participate actively in worship – singing, making the sign of the Cross, and bowing, for example. The sign of the Cross is performed by putting the thumb, pointer, and middle finger of the right hand together (to signify the Trinity) and putting the ring finger and pinkie against the palm of the hand (to signify the two natures of Christ), and touching the forehead, stomach, right shoulder, and left shoulder. (In the Western tradition, the faithful cross themselves from left to right). The faithful bow (or make a complete prostration, during weekdays in Lent) 3 times before entering the church, and when venerating icons. On the other hand, talking during the worship service, walking around the building, and personal gestures (handshakes, hugs, etc.) are generally not accepted.

It is customary to stand during the services (rather than sit or kneel). However, you can sit (if necessary) during most parts of the service, with the exception of the Gospel and Epistle readings, any time that the Holy Gifts are outside of the sanctuary, during the Cherubic Hymn, or during the Consecration. During parts of some worship services, the faithful kneel in reverence; however, on Sundays, kneeling is not allowed, because kneeling is a sign of penitence and Sundays are joyous, commemorating the Ressurection. The priest faces in the same direction as the people, because he leads his spiritual flock towards God; if the priest were facing the people, it would imply that he was the center of attention, when God is supposed to be. Church hymns are sung a cappella, that is, without instrumental accompaniment.

Please read the pages on proper church behavior, church attire, and rules for Holy Communion in order to further familiarize yourself with what is expected of you when you visit an Orthodox Church.
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