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NightOwl
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« on: September 10, 2011, 01:27:41 AM »

I'll be visiting the local ROCOR parish for the first time this Sunday. I've never been to an Orthodox church, and have studied Church theology, practices, etc. but not actual church etiquette. How are first-time visitors expected to act? For example should I bow to the priest when I introduce myself? As always I appreciate any and all advice!
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« Reply #1 on: September 10, 2011, 09:11:36 AM »

Dear-to-Christ Andrew:

Here is a basic primer on what to expect:

http://www.frederica.com/12-things/

As far as bowing to the priest, that's not necessary.  Just introduce yourself to him like you would anyone else. If you have any specific questions, there are many here who would be happy to help you.

May your visit be blessed with the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ!

In Christ,

Fr. Michael
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« Reply #2 on: September 10, 2011, 09:22:50 AM »

They may want men to stand on the right, women on the left.
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« Reply #3 on: September 10, 2011, 12:09:08 PM »

Regarding the priest, I would observe what others do. If others ask for blessings, then feel free to do so yourself (cup your hand in front of you and just ask if he will bless you, after which I would expect that he will, then he will give you his had and you can pucker up and give a kiss). As far other stuff, again, I'd just say observe. If people are bowing X number of times and venerating the icon and touching their hand to the floor and whatever else, then follow along. If they cross themselves when the priest crosses them (or don't), follow along. If they bow at certain points, or they sing or don't sing with the choir, or whatever else, just... go along. Practices are not only going to differ from group to group, but also parish to parish, and there will probably be some diversity even within a single parish. Just remember, if you're sincere then nothing truly bad can happen... the most that would happen is that you horribly embarrass yourself and everyone points and laughs and you can never go back.  Grin
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« Reply #4 on: September 10, 2011, 02:46:32 PM »

What is expected varies from parish to parish, as each priest is different.  If you meet with the priest before or after Liturgy, it would be appropriate to ask for his blessing.  If you speak with him when you go to venerate the Cross at the end of the Liturgy, then you would not ask his blessing, you would simply kiss the Cross, then his hand. But be careful about striking up a conversation during the veneration of the Cross, in my experience, most priests prefer that you engage them after services are over.  I wouldn't sweat it though.  You're not Orthodox.  Most priests are understanding. If the priest is not understanding, well then don't be upset, chalk it up to an exercise in humility.  You'll be fine.  I've noticed some people think of ROCOR as the ultra-traditionalists of "canonical Orthodoxy", as a pharasaical sect, but in my own experience, ROCOR priests are almost always friendly, kind, and considerate. 
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« Reply #5 on: September 10, 2011, 04:38:41 PM »

My minimal guide:

Stand and rotate with folks.

All the other stuff probably should done within the context of knowing a little about what is going on.

Stand and rotate.

Speak with the Priest or not. Sundays can be busy. If you ain't comfortable with asking for a blessing, I wouldn't.

Get the Priest's email from whatever literature you find there and perhaps email.

Linger at coffee hour.

Take it easy.

Stand and rotate.

Best of luck!

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« Reply #6 on: September 10, 2011, 10:33:36 PM »

My minimal guide:

Stand and rotate with folks.

All the other stuff probably should done within the context of knowing a little about what is going on.

Stand and rotate.

Speak with the Priest or not. Sundays can be busy. If you ain't comfortable with asking for a blessing, I wouldn't.

Get the Priest's email from whatever literature you find there and perhaps email.

Linger at coffee hour.

Take it easy.

Stand and rotate.

Best of luck!



I agree.  No one is going to expect a new inquirer to ask the priest for a blessing - least of all the priest!  Don't worry... just observe and follow along as you feel comfortable.    
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« Reply #7 on: September 11, 2011, 01:12:37 AM »

What is expected varies from parish to parish, as each priest is different.  If you meet with the priest before or after Liturgy, it would be appropriate to ask for his blessing.  If you speak with him when you go to venerate the Cross at the end of the Liturgy, then you would not ask his blessing, you would simply kiss the Cross, then his hand. But be careful about striking up a conversation during the veneration of the Cross, in my experience, most priests prefer that you engage them after services are over.  I wouldn't sweat it though.  You're not Orthodox.  Most priests are understanding. If the priest is not understanding, well then don't be upset, chalk it up to an exercise in humility.  You'll be fine.  I've noticed some people think of ROCOR as the ultra-traditionalists of "canonical Orthodoxy", as a pharasaical sect, but in my own experience, ROCOR priests are almost always friendly, kind, and considerate. 

Yes. Not only are they typically Liturgically just outstanding, they seem to be very devout and pious in spirit, not in a Pharisaical way but in a manner consistent with Christ.  Its very genuine and reserved. From the heart.
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« Reply #8 on: September 11, 2011, 01:15:58 AM »

My minimal guide:

Stand and rotate with folks.

All the other stuff probably should done within the context of knowing a little about what is going on.

Stand and rotate.

Speak with the Priest or not. Sundays can be busy. If you ain't comfortable with asking for a blessing, I wouldn't.

Get the Priest's email from whatever literature you find there and perhaps email.

Linger at coffee hour.

Take it easy.

Stand and rotate.

Best of luck!



I agree.  No one is going to expect a new inquirer to ask the priest for a blessing - least of all the priest!  Don't worry... just observe and follow along as you feel comfortable.    

I wont ask for the blessing until I actually enter into the Church technically.  YMMV.
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« Reply #9 on: September 11, 2011, 01:25:42 AM »

There's nothing wrong with a non-Orthodox asking a priest for a blessing, especially if you're considering converting.
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« Reply #10 on: September 11, 2011, 01:35:55 AM »

Don't go up for Holy Communion, and don't add "and the Son" into the Creed anywhere.
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« Reply #11 on: September 11, 2011, 08:44:34 AM »

There's nothing wrong with a non-Orthodox asking a priest for a blessing, especially if you're considering converting.

I don't think there's anything wrong with it either, but it certainly isn't expected.  Especially if it is a first time visitor.
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« Reply #12 on: September 11, 2011, 03:19:42 PM »

There's nothing wrong with a non-Orthodox asking a priest for a blessing, especially if you're considering converting.

I don't think there's anything wrong with it either, but it certainly isn't expected.  Especially if it is a first time visitor.

I think its bad form to ask for it if you havent at least been going to Liturgy for a while and especially your first time attending.  Now if he offers because you are a heathen or heretic and he will pray for the Lord to lead you to Orthodoxy well then yeah; but think if you were a Priest and you had parishioners who ask you for a blessing and it's almost a right for them. Now think of some guy off the street who youve never seen before comes in and says "Hey I think you Orthodox are cool and I might try it, now give me a blessing!" 'Okay Jacob slow your roll.' He blesses you like 5 times during the Liturgy anyway.

Bad form Peter, bad form!
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« Reply #13 on: September 11, 2011, 03:36:26 PM »

...but think if you were a Priest and you had parishioners who ask you for a blessing

This situation that you describe won't be found in any parish on this planet. I can't speak for planets in other solar systems, however. Smiley
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« Reply #14 on: September 11, 2011, 06:39:07 PM »

I'll be visiting the local ROCOR parish for the first time this Sunday. I've never been to an Orthodox church, and have studied Church theology, practices, etc. but not actual church etiquette. How are first-time visitors expected to act? For example should I bow to the priest when I introduce myself? As always I appreciate any and all advice!

Andrew,

How did it go?
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« Reply #15 on: September 11, 2011, 07:59:59 PM »

There's nothing wrong with a non-Orthodox asking a priest for a blessing, especially if you're considering converting.

I don't think there's anything wrong with it either, but it certainly isn't expected.  Especially if it is a first time visitor.

I think its bad form to ask for it if you havent at least been going to Liturgy for a while and especially your first time attending.  Now if he offers because you are a heathen or heretic and he will pray for the Lord to lead you to Orthodoxy well then yeah; but think if you were a Priest and you had parishioners who ask you for a blessing and it's almost a right for them. Now think of some guy off the street who youve never seen before comes in and says "Hey I think you Orthodox are cool and I might try it, now give me a blessing!" 'Okay Jacob slow your roll.' He blesses you like 5 times during the Liturgy anyway.

Bad form Peter, bad form!

I'm sorry KShaft, how would you know what is "bad form" in an Orthodox Church when it seems you belong to the Roman Catholic variety?

There is nothing wrong in asking an Orthodox priest's blessing, ever.  Remember, the blessing isn't truly from the priest, but, from God, through His chosen servant. 

God bestows His blessings on all people.  The sun shines on everyone, and the rain falls on everyone, equally.

A blessing is not a Holy Sacrament, and is available to all.

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« Reply #16 on: September 11, 2011, 11:38:58 PM »

Yeah, it's not a problem at all if you want to ask the priest for a blessing. If you don't want to that's alright too. It's been my experience that people, especially at first, tend to be far too concerned about not doing things "right" (whatever that is  Wink). There's a tremendous amount variation in personal piety and practices among the Orthodox. The Greeks do some things different from the Russians who do some things different from the Romanians etc. Even within the same parish there are great variations in the things people do. Frankly as long as you don't start screaming obscenities, charge the altar or tackle the priest you'll be alright. No one will be judging the way you behave. 
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« Reply #17 on: September 11, 2011, 11:45:40 PM »

The two rules I always tell people (although the last is just for women):

1. Show up on time. Period. You only get a pass if you have small kids.

2. If you're a woman, don't show up dressing like a street walker.
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« Reply #18 on: September 12, 2011, 06:12:31 AM »

The two rules I always tell people (although the last is just for women):

1. Show up on time. Period. You only get a pass if you have small kids.

2. If you're a woman, don't show up dressing like a street walker.

If you're a man, just make sure your street walker clothes are black.
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« Reply #19 on: September 12, 2011, 09:35:38 AM »

The two rules I always tell people (although the last is just for women):

1. Show up on time. Period. You only get a pass if you have small kids.

2. If you're a woman, don't show up dressing like a street walker.

If you're a man, just make sure your street walker clothes are black.

As long as the guy can 'stand and rotate', I guess it is ok.

Seriously....people come up and ask foro blessings all the time. Priests can tell if the person asking is new at it ro if they have done such things before. Just remember: the only wrong thing is to have the urge from the Spirit rest on your heart to ask for a blessing, but then disregard that urge.
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« Reply #20 on: September 12, 2011, 09:51:44 AM »


Clarification, please.

When do people "rotate"?  Sounds like we stand and spin in church.

At my parish we usually face forward.

If the priest is censing around perimeter of the church, we still face forward, until he nears us, and then only slightly pivet so our back isn't towards him and bow.

Even when something is "going on" in the back (ie. arrival of Bishop, blessing of water, engagement, etc.) we still don't turn our backs to the Altar, just turn our heads to take a look.

I was always taught not to turn backwards to the Altar....however, I do when I am exiting.  I do NOT walk out backwards, although I have seen some folks do it.



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« Reply #21 on: September 12, 2011, 09:55:14 AM »


Clarification, please.

When do people "rotate"?  Sounds like we stand and spin in church.

At my parish we usually face forward.

If the priest is censing around perimeter of the church, we still face forward, until he nears us, and then only slightly pivet so our back isn't towards him and bow.

Even when something is "going on" in the back (ie. arrival of Bishop, blessing of water, engagement, etc.) we still don't turn our backs to the Altar, just turn our heads to take a look.

I was always taught not to turn backwards to the Altar....however, I do when I am exiting.  I do NOT walk out backwards, although I have seen some folks do it.





In some traditions, the clergy and servers will pass all the way to the back of the Church before returning to the altar when making the entrances with the Gospel and/or the Precious Gifts. At such times, it is customary in many places to turn to face the Gospel Book and/or the Gifts as they pass.

I know that in other places the entrances are made from the north door directly to the beautiful doors, so there would be no need to turn to face the Gospel Book and/or Precious Gifts.

How does it work in your parish, Liza?
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« Reply #22 on: September 12, 2011, 11:00:02 AM »


At our parish, the priest takes the "short" route.

He exits the North door and remains on the solea/ambo the whole time.

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« Reply #23 on: September 12, 2011, 04:58:08 PM »

alveus lacuna:
'Don't go up for Holy Communion, and don't add "and the Son" into the Creed anywhere.'
  Grin

lizasymonenko,
i think the only time u r supposed to walk out backwards is if the consecrated Body and Blood are on the altar
(like for a bowel emergency or to deal with a small kid, otherwise u shouldn't leave during this time at all).
in practice most people disregard this rule anyway.

theodoraelizabeth3,
where is this orthodox church where people arrive on time?!

andrew,
how did it go?
seriously, the only rule i would give is to stand up during the reading of the gospel. i think if someone was an atheist, it would be ok for him/her to sit down, but as a Christian it would look disrespectful.
also it's a good idea to talk to someone after the service. if that's hard, just imagine maybe they are even shyer than you are.
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« Reply #24 on: September 12, 2011, 06:30:04 PM »

seriously, the only rule i would give is to stand up during the reading of the gospel. i think if someone was an atheist, it would be ok for him/her to sit down, but as a Christian it would look disrespectful.
also it's a good idea to talk to someone after the service. if that's hard, just imagine maybe they are even shyer than you are.

Hell, I would say you can sit the whole time to someone who really didn't care. Orthodox should be able to deal. But I really don't think people who are trying to be accommodating should much else than I said. Going through the "gestures" to be "polite" is more out of line than not doing them at all to be respectful of them.

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« Reply #25 on: September 14, 2011, 05:50:31 PM »

Thanks for all of the info/advice! I forget to post my impressions, sorry about that. Well, it's a lot different from my former Presbyterian church, obviously! Was a bit lost at first because there was so much activity (everyone moving around, entering and leaving, venerating icons, etc) but I adjusted quickly. The Liturgy lasted two and a half hours standing pretty much the whole time, with men on the right side and women on the left. Lots of singing and Russian (which isn't a bad thing since I started learning it this semester). I did ask the blessing of the priest at the end, as was advised. After the service some people came up to me and introduced themselves, including a couple who had converted from Presbyterianism. There's only one other college student, and a few high schoolers who I think were hanging around the outside of the church for most of it. Overall an uplifting experience, and I plan on going back this Sunday.

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« Reply #26 on: September 15, 2011, 02:02:05 PM »

thanks for updating us, keep it up, you may find what you're looking for!
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« Reply #27 on: September 15, 2011, 02:46:22 PM »

Thanks for all of the info/advice! I forget to post my impressions, sorry about that. Well, it's a lot different from my former Presbyterian church, obviously! Was a bit lost at first because there was so much activity (everyone moving around, entering and leaving, venerating icons, etc) but I adjusted quickly. The Liturgy lasted two and a half hours standing pretty much the whole time, with men on the right side and women on the left. Lots of singing and Russian (which isn't a bad thing since I started learning it this semester). I did ask the blessing of the priest at the end, as was advised. After the service some people came up to me and introduced themselves, including a couple who had converted from Presbyterianism. There's only one other college student, and a few high schoolers who I think were hanging around the outside of the church for most of it. Overall an uplifting experience, and I plan on going back this Sunday.



Sounds like a traditional ROCOR parish.  I'm glad it went well and I am so glad that people came up to you and introduced themselves.   I hope that you continue to grow there. 
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« Reply #28 on: October 31, 2011, 12:23:53 PM »

What is expected varies from parish to parish, as each priest is different.  If you meet with the priest before or after Liturgy, it would be appropriate to ask for his blessing.  If you speak with him when you go to venerate the Cross at the end of the Liturgy, then you would not ask his blessing, you would simply kiss the Cross, then his hand. But be careful about striking up a conversation during the veneration of the Cross, in my experience, most priests prefer that you engage them after services are over.  I wouldn't sweat it though.  You're not Orthodox.  Most priests are understanding. If the priest is not understanding, well then don't be upset, chalk it up to an exercise in humility.  You'll be fine.  I've noticed some people think of ROCOR as the ultra-traditionalists of "canonical Orthodoxy", as a pharasaical sect, but in my own experience, ROCOR priests are almost always friendly, kind, and considerate. 
I agree. ROCOR is liturgically more traditional,but not significantly different from an OCA church with a significant Russian population. Some OCA churches (churches in the Diocese of the West, for instance) follow a liturgical practice similar to ROCOR. Some ROCOR churches have services in English and Russian.
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