Information for Visitors

We invite you to visit our parish…

Are non-Orthodox visitors welcome? 

Yes! We are a community comprised of members from many ethnic backgrounds: Serbian, Russian, Ukrainian, Arabic, Romanian, and American from all walks of life.  We have many converts to the Orthodox Church, and are very comfortable with newcomers, inquirers and visitors. We come from all racial, age, ethnic, and economic backgrounds. Every sincere lover or seeker of Christ, or inquirer is welcome.  We can probably anticipate many of your questions about the Orthodox Christian faith.

When you enter our church you will first enter the church narthex. If you visit on a Sunday, a greeter will welcome you, hand you a bulletin, and help you navigate your way around.  We have a Divine Liturgy service book at each pew.  Our normal Sunday service is the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom. You may follow the service text, or, if you prefer, simply enter into the Church’s beautiful worship of God. Following the Sunday Divine Liturgy, you are invited to join us next door in the social hall for a “coffee hour” which is a good time to get to know our parish members and meet our priest and deacons.  We also have a playground behind the social hall for children of all ages. If you are not interested in social interaction at first, that’s fine, You are always welcome to follow your own pace and level of interest.

Our small bookstore, which is located in the hall, has books and pamphlets that can help answer a variety of questions. Subjects include Christian church history, theology, catechism, Orthodox spirituality, inspiration, prayer, the lives of the Saints, and stories about others who have journeyed to the Orthodox Faith.

How long are the services? 

Vespers (Evening prayers – Saturday nights at 5:00 P.M.) are usually 35-40 minutes in length. Divine Liturgy (Sunday – 9:30 A.M.) runs about ninety minutes. We think that when you have participated in an Orthodox service you will feel like – as one visitor put it – “you have truly worshipped the living God!”

Is there a dress code?

The general rule for men and women is to dress appropriately, modestly and respectfully, as before the living God. Visitors wear everything from jeans to suits, long dresses to skirts, tee shirts to shirts with ties, dress shoes to sneakers. We ask, however, that you not wear shorts, mini-skirts, tank tops, low-cut or strapless dresses (unless covered by a sweater, etc.). Some Orthodox women wear head coverings, but this is not required. Men are asked not to wear head coverings (baseball caps, etc.).

Is childcare provided?

Parents are responsible to take care of their child. We encourage children to be present in Church for the services. This participation is part of a child’s spiritual formation. However, if your baby or child gets fussy, talkative, or has a meltdown, please take him or her to the narthex until he or she is ready to return quietly.

 Is Sunday School for children available?

On Sundays from September to June, we provide Sunday School in small groups for children in grades pre-school through twelve. Sunday school is held following Holy Communion. Generally we like children to be registered for Sunday school; but if your child is a guest of a family whose child attends the Saint Peter church school program, your child is invited to join the class as a visitor.

 Standing or sitting?

The traditional posture for prayer and worship in the Orthodox Church is to stand, as before the King of the universe! In the Orthodox “old countries” there are typically no pews in the churches. In North America we tend to build our churches with pews or chairs. So you are free to sit. However, it is appropriate to stand during the Gospel reading, the Little and Great Entrances, the distribution of Holy Communion, when the priest gives a blessing, and at the Dismissal.  If unsure of what to do, just follow the congregation.

Lighting candles?

Lighting candles is an important part of Orthodox worship and piety. We light candles as we pray, making an offering to accompany our prayers. Orthodox typically light candles when coming into the church, but there are times when candles should not be lit. Candles should not be lit during the Epistle or Gospel readings, during the Little Entrance, and during the sermon. By the way, you do not have to be an Orthodox Christian to light a candle and pray in an Orthodox church.

Can non-Orthodox receive the Holy Eucharist?

Orthodox priests may only serve the Holy Eucharist to baptized members in good standing of the canonical Orthodox Church, who have recently confessed, and fasted before partaking of the Holy Eucharist. This is the ancient tradition of the Holy Church for the 2,000 years of its history. The Orthodox Church understands the Holy Eucharist as a mystery of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, not simply as a memorial, or merely in a spiritual sense, as many other non-Orthodox Christians do.  Rather than trying to accommodate to often varying “interpretations” or revisions of this and other doctrines of the ancient faith, we simply ask that you respect the ancient, apostolic tradition and join us in receiving the Fellowship bread at the veneration of the cross, at the end of the Divine Liturgy.

What is Orthodox worship music like?

Close to seventy-five percent of an Orthodox service is congregational singing. Traditionally, Orthodox do not use instruments. Usually a choir leads the people in acapella harmony, with the level of congregational response varying from parish to parish. The style of music varies as well, from very traditional Byzantine-sounding chant in some parishes, to more Western-sounding four-part harmony in a Russian church, with lots of variation in between. The music is solemn, prayerful and intended to lead the faithful to worship the living God.

New visitors will find there are many new things to experience in an Orthodox Christian Church service. Feel free to go at your own pace, ask any questions you want, and know you are most welcome to “come and see”!