What to expect when you visit
There is a lot of activity. No one sits in a pew waiting for the service to begin. People arrive at different times, cross themselves frequently, kiss icons, and light candles. They are embodying their faith through physical acts of worship. The priest or a deacon comes out from behind the iconostasis (the wooden wall separating the Sanctuary from the Nave) several times and censes the icons and the people; and there is much chanting. This is why Orthodoxy is often described as having all the "smells and bells."
Women cover their heads for worship and prayer. This ancient practice has continued through Orthodoxy; only in recent years has it fallen out of "fashion" in the United States. While not required, we encourage women to veil (or wear a hat) as a sign of respect for the Lord and the Orthodox Tradition. You are welcome to borrow a scarf from the basket in the back of the Nave.
At the end of the Liturgy, people venerate the Hand Cross by walking up to the priest, kissing the Cross, (and the priest's hand if you did not take Communion), and then receiving a piece of blessed bread. This is our final act of worship. The Cross represents Christ, and we honor the priest by kissing his hand because he has touched the Body of Christ during the preparation of the Eucharist.
In the Orthodox tradition, the Faithful stand for nearly the entire service. Standing before God has been the only acceptable way to worship Him since ancient times. "We recognize that a faithful servant would never sit before his master, for all the faithful are servants of the Lord. When we become fatigued during long services, we symbolically become offerings to the very God we worship." (Abbot Tryphon) Never fear: if you find the amount of standing too challenging for any reason or simply need a rest, you are always welcome to take a seat.
There is much singing in Orthodox services. It might be a little overwhelming at first. We have a service guide and weekly inserts with the music included to make participation as easy as possible. The good thing is that much of the music stays the same from week to week, and eventually people learn most of it by heart.
To learn more about the music at All Saints, click here.
Come and see!
We do not practice Open Communion. Only Baptized or Chrismated Orthodox Christians who have prepared by fasting, prayer, and recent Confession may receive Communion. (Orthodox visitors, please speak with Father Elijah before the service if you wish to receive Communion.)
On the bookcase near the back of the Nave, candles are available for purchase (a donation, as you are able). These candles are lit and placed in one of the candle stands in the Nave accompanied by our prayers. The candle is at once both a small offering and a symbol of our lives. The warmth of the flame is our faith casting light on a world darkened by sin. We are consumed and our life here is temporary; thus it is that we must shine brightly with the Uncreated Light of God while the time is given to us.
Come and See
One cannot understand the Orthodox Church simply by reading about it. Just as reading a biography about someone is no substitute for knowing the biography’s subject personally, Orthodox Christianity must be experienced firsthand to be understood. 2000 years of Church history have left us a rich heritage to explore. Come and see!
Orthodox services can be very different and a little overwhelming at first. We invite you to just stand (or sit) back, take it all in, and let the beauty of the Liturgy lead you to an encounter with the Lord. Please feel free to ask questions after the service. We look forward to meeting you!