I've searched for this topic, and for information on this topic, without finding it.
I am not Orthodox, but I feel very strongly that I would like to know more about Orthodox worship. I'd be very glad if you could put yourselves in my position for a minute and think how I should act in church, and what things I might experience.
I am really the most ignorant person you could imagine, so a very simple account of Orthodox worship (I think I will go to the Sunday service), would help. Of course, I would not try to participate in the Communion itself. But I don't even know what is the polite thing to do when you enter an Orthodox church. Could you give me this very basic information? I know this all sounds very pragmatic but I do feel worried about it all, so tell me:
Do I just walk into the church and sit down?
What do I do to start the service? We usually pray and then sit quietly - would that be ok?
Must I cross myself (I am dyslexic and don't find these movements easy)?
Should I join in with the words the rest of the congregation says?
What do I do after the service? Is it rude to stay? Should I mention that I am there because my partner is Orthodox, or is that rude?
How do the Orthodox share the sign of the peace, and should I join in?
I would like to know not only the answers to these questions, but also how any parts of the service might work for someone like me.
My dear Liz, you're so sweet for asking these questions!
First, don't worry. Nothing is expected of you.
When you enter the church, there may be a candle stand there or someone selling candles. If you want to (you don't have to) you can purchase a candle and light it in the candle stand. (The cost is usually just enough to cover the cost of the candle.)
Other than that, just find a place you would feel comfortable sitting/standing, and you can just observe. If you see others crossing themselves and you want to, you are more than welcome to but not required.
All you have to do is sit/stand there respectfully (which I know you will do), watch and listen. There is no "sign of peace", so you don't have to worry about that.
I wouldn't worry about trying to follow along with the Liturgy too much the first time. Just relax, try to take it all in, and enjoy!
As far as dress, I would recommend wearing a skirt that goes to/below the knee and nothing sleeveless in terms of tops. (Although I don't imagine you'd wear too many sleeveless shirts this time of year anyway!) As far as shoes, wear something comfortable, as even if they have pews, you may be standing for a long period of time. If you're going to a Russian parish, it may be a good idea to bring a scarf to wear on your head, as many Russian parish's are pretty traditional about this. (The Greeks, not so much. But that's another discussion for another time.
The woman on the Left is wearing an acceptable head scarf. The one on the Right is not.
If people don't talk to you before/during Liturgy, don't be offended, as the service is a time for prayer, and people really don't talk then. Be sure to go to coffee hour afterwards, as that is when people really open up and become friendly. (Not to mention, there's a high probability of awesome food being available!) Coffee hour is also a great time to introduce yourself to the priest, and yes, feel free to tell people that you are there because your partner is Orthodox. They will be very happy to see that you are interested in learning about the Orthodox faith.
To get a better idea as to what you're in for, I would reccomend viewing some of the video clips here:http://www.youtube.com/user/StGsOrthodoxChurch#play/uploads/0/FKO9o_kX1as
They are from a Carpatho-Russian parish in Taylor, Pennsylvania, and can sort of give you an idea of what to expect.
Also, if you want to, you can review the text of the Divine Liturgy here:http://www.ocf.org/OrthodoxPage/liturgy/liturgy.html
Fr. Tom Pistolis does a commentary on the Liturgy, explaining what it is, and how it works. You can view it here:http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-2143885517726441208&ei=0orKSsuZNYrOqAL_5eG5Dw&q=the+divine+liturgy+of+st.+john+chrysostom&hl=en#
I hope this helps!
God bless you!