If you have never, or rarely, visited an Orthodox church it can seem “foreign” and confusing at first. Please keep in mind:
- We are very happy to have you worship with us!
- You may participate as much or as little as is comfortable for you.
- Many of us were once visitors ourselves. We know how confusing, awe-inspiring, perplexing, and spiritually “thirst-quenching” it can be.
Below is information that we hope will answer questions you might have prior to a visit to St Timothy. The sections are in "chronological order," from getting ready to come to church, being in the service, and then attending the agape meal.
Preparing to Visit
How long do the services last?
Vespers on Saturday evening, and Orthros on Sunday morning, each last about 60 minutes. Divine Liturgy on Sunday mornings lasts about 90 minutes. It begins when Orthros ends, at about 10:00 am. There is no break or pause between the two services. Other services, such as evening services for a Feast Day or services during Great Lent, vary in length.
How do people dress?
Modest and fashionable sums up style at St Timothy! You will feel comfortable if you follow these simple guidelines.
- Ladies, your outfit's neckline and length should not be extreme. Slacks are acceptable. If your top is sleeveless, wear a short-sleeve or long-sleeve sweater or jacket while in the church. Some of our women wear headscarves, but most do not.
- Men wear suits, or a shirt-and-tie or sport shirt with slacks. Clean, pressed jeans are acceptable.
- Children should follow guidelines similar to adults, although slightly more informal is acceptable.
- Please do not wear gym clothes, torn jeans, or t-shirts with bold slogans, or shorts (except on little kids).
Parking and Entering the Church
St Timothy has a parking lot as well as ample street parking. There are three entrance doors:
- The door facing Central Avenue leads directly into the narthex and nave.
- The door facing Link Road leads into the administrative area. Classrooms, choir room, bookstore and Father's office are in this part of the church, and the hallway toward the parish hall and nave.
- The side of the church opposite to Link Road has a door into the parish hall. When you enter, you’ll see a door on the left-hand wall; this goes directly into the narthex and nave.
When in church...
What is "on time"?
Do not be alarmed if you arrive a few minutes before the 10:00 am Divine Liturgy and find people already in church, already praying. You are not late! You’re just arriving during Orthros, and you aren’t the only one. Divine Liturgy begins immediately at the end of Orthros; there is no break or pause between them.
Every Orthros service has its minor variations, so it might end at 10:00, or 10:05, or as late as 10:15. The priest chanting “Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit!” marks the beginning of Divine Liturgy.
Orthodox typically light candles on arriving at church as a visible symbol of prayer. You may light candles if you wish.
You will see many of us venerate the saints by kissing their icons. This is not worship of the icons or the saint depicted. Rather, it is respectful veneration of that saint, who always points us to Christ. As a visitor, you are not expected to kiss icons but you are welcome to do so if you wish. Ladies, please blot off your lipstick first.
Standing and Sitting
Standing is the traditional posture for prayer and worship in the Orthodox Church. We do have some seats, for those who are older or infirm—or just tired of standing. Everyone (including visitors) stands up:
- At the Little Entrance
- During the Gospel reading
- At the Great Entrance
- During the Anaphora and the distribution of Holy Communion
We have copies of the service of the Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom if you would find it beneficial to read along during the service. If you would rather observe instead of reading, there is much benefit in that, too.
The Sign of the Cross
During any service, you’ll see people bless themselves with the sign of the cross. Different people bless themselves at different times and even a different number of times. It is a matter of personal piety, not of dogma.
Orthodox bless themselves this way: We place our thumb and first two fingers together (to represent one God in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) while folding our last two fingers into our palm (to represent the two natures of Christ, both human and divine). We touch fingers to forehead, chest, right shoulder, then left shoulder.
As a visitor, please do what feels comfortable to you: Nothing at all, or left-shoulder-to-right shoulder if that’s what you’re used to.
Christ welcomed the little children and so do we. But we know kids grow restless. We have an Infants Room if your little one needs a break. The Infants Room has toys, a crib, a changing table, and a rocking chair for mom or dad. Just ask anyone with a child; they’ll be happy to show you the way. Also, we have two restrooms in the parish hall, to the left of the kitchen.
During the Eucharist
Only those baptized and chrismated in the Holy Orthodox Church receive Communion. If you are an Orthodox Christian and are prepared by recent confession, prayer, and fasting, you are welcome to approach the Holy Mysteries.
In Orthodoxy, to receive a sacrament is to declare one’s commitment to the Orthodox Faith. Before approaching for Communion, you will want to wait until such time as you have accepted the Orthodox teachings on the mystery of the Eucharist, and have been received into Christ’s Holy Orthodox Church.
After taking Holy Communion (and also at the end of the liturgy), we Orthodox eat a piece of bread called antidoron. This bread is blessed but is not Holy Communion. If a parishioner offers you a piece of this bread, please, accept and eat it! This bread, having been blessed, should be eaten respectfully, dropping as few crumbs as possible.
Kissing the Cross, the Gospel, and the Priest’s Hand
At the end of Divine Liturgy, we all come forward to kiss the cross and receive a final piece of antidoron. Similarly, at the end of Vespers, and during Orthros, we come forward to kiss the Gospel book.
We also at these times kiss the hand of the priest. After all, he offers the Holy Gifts of Christ's Body and Blood on our behalf. We do not expect non-Orthodox visitors to kiss the priest’s hand.
You may kiss the cross or Gospels if you wish. Please do come forward to receive antidoron and exchange a ”Good morning!” with Father John.
After the Service
At the end of Divine Liturgy, we all head for the parish hall for our agape meal. Please join us! Our luncheon is prepared by the team-of-the-week, who bring food "pot luck." There is never any cost, to parishioners or guests, to enjoy the meal.
During this time of fellowship, expect to be greeted and welcomed by many of us. We always look forward to getting to know new friends and brothers and sisters in Christ. If any of us cannot answer a question you have, we will be able to introduce you to someone who can.
After lunch, any of us will be pleased to take you on a tour around the building, on a visit to the Bookstore, or to show your youngsters where the toys are.