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Author Topic: Going to an Orthodox Church...what to expect?  (Read 1087 times) Average Rating: 0
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Eastern Mind
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« on: February 22, 2012, 12:09:51 PM »

There is a Greek Orthodox Church in my town, and I was thinking of going this weekend. But, I was wondering if some of you could help me out, because I do not know what to expect. I know there are no pews, but other than that...I don't really know when to bow/kneel, what to say, etc. I suppose I could learn as I keep going every week, but I would still like a few pointers, if that's okay.

Thanks! Smiley
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« Reply #1 on: February 22, 2012, 12:15:11 PM »

There is a Greek Orthodox Church in my town, and I was thinking of going this weekend. But, I was wondering if some of you could help me out, because I do not know what to expect. I know there are no pews, but other than that...I don't really know when to bow/kneel, what to say, etc. I suppose I could learn as I keep going every week, but I would still like a few pointers, if that's okay.

Thanks! Smiley
Well, I remember when I went to my priest concerning my first service. He told me, dont worry about when to do this and that. If you want to follow along, do so when others do. If you don't thats fine. Nobody will throw things at you.

I think that was great advice. It really let me take everything in, and observe what was going on around me.

PP
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« Reply #2 on: February 22, 2012, 01:00:33 PM »

You may want to call the priest and speak to him ahead of time, but it's not strictly necessary.
No one will be expecting you to do everything - just follow their lead and be respectful
Oh, and wear comfortable shoes and dress nicely. The Greeks I know tend to dress up for church, and you may be standing more than you're used to, even though most Greek churches have pews.
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« Reply #3 on: February 22, 2012, 01:44:29 PM »

Be prepared to possibly (not certainly but very possibly) get kissed on the cheek by old ladies.
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« Reply #4 on: February 22, 2012, 02:08:24 PM »


Just relax and enjoy yourself.

Smile and nod at folks who greet you.
Be respectful, but, nobody will "expect" you to do anything.

If folks stand, kneel or sit, do likewise if you can...if only not to draw attention to yourself.

Feel free to light a candle or venerate an icon, if you are comfortable doing that.

Otherwise, just find a cozy spot and get comfortable. 

Mostly, just relax.  I know that when I visit "other" churches I work myself into a tizzy, even knowing what to expect....and then I just end up with a splitting headache.

Just relax and observe. 

Let your eyes absorb the beauty of the icons and the gestures.  Let your ears absorb the hymns and prayers.  Let your nose enjoy the beautiful scents of the incense.   Let your soul enjoy being with God.
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« Reply #5 on: February 22, 2012, 02:11:27 PM »

There will be lots of singing.  Wink You can join in, if you want.
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« Reply #6 on: February 22, 2012, 02:34:21 PM »

Read that: http://www.antiochian.org/content/first-visit-orthodox-church-twelve-things-i-wish-id-known
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« Reply #7 on: February 22, 2012, 03:29:16 PM »

Be prepared to possibly (not certainly but very possibly) get kissed on the cheek by old ladies.

And by old men, as well! There's a lot of kissing. Which is not at all a bad thing.
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« Reply #8 on: February 22, 2012, 05:42:35 PM »

12 Things I Wish I'd Known is a great article to read (the one Michał linked to) for general info, I recommend it!

Along with everyone else here, don't sweat it! Folks will know you're new and not Orthodox, so they won't expect you to know or do anything. Just take in your surroundings. Participate in crossing, bowing, etc. if you'd like, but don't feel obligated. Be sure to meet the priest and introduce yourself!

Hope all goes well!
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« Reply #9 on: February 22, 2012, 05:46:24 PM »

Lovely elderly ladies.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=We3MxsWdqOc
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« Reply #10 on: February 22, 2012, 06:14:49 PM »

There is a Greek Orthodox Church in my town, and I was thinking of going this weekend. But, I was wondering if some of you could help me out, because I do not know what to expect. I know there are no pews, but other than that...

Oh, you're going to find pews in a Greek church in the USA; I'd put money on it.

It's rare to find a church without heretical pews unless they are thrice-blessed Russians, as even the Ukrainians have caved-in on this pillar of Orthodoxy: Holy Pewlessness. Constantinople has fallen, and the Slavic lands are next!
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« Reply #11 on: February 22, 2012, 08:54:55 PM »

I don't really know when to bow/kneel, what to say, etc. I suppose I could learn as I keep going every week, but I would still like a few pointers, if that's okay.

Just follow the advice St Ambrose gave to St Monica when she asked the same question about her upcoming visit to the city of Rome - "When in Rome, do as the Romans". You're question is the actual context of that quote. Just do what you see others doing and try to follow along the best you can. Try not to be the only one doing something (standing when everyone is sitting, may not be an issue of they don't have pews, but serves as an example.
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« Reply #12 on: February 22, 2012, 09:22:12 PM »

There will be lots of singing.  Wink You can join in, if you want.

*sigh* would that the people at my parish joined in. I'm used to loud throngs during Nativity and Pashca- this past Christmas was pathetic- not the least because less people singing means more people at the parish have to hear my pathetic attempts at Bzyantine tone.

And Eastern Mind- just release all preconceptions and enjoy. It will not be like a Protestant service (unless you are very High Church Anglican) and not like any of the (admittedly few) Roman services I've been to. But, not knowing what jurisdiction your parish falls under, I can't tell you exactly what to expect- just that it will be very different.
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« Reply #13 on: February 22, 2012, 11:43:45 PM »


This was spot on for me I was amazed at how realistic it was so I add a third to those who recommended it. When we showed up the first time we found the parishioners to be very helpful during and after the service. Don't hurry out afterward. Stay for the coffee hour, talk to people.
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« Reply #14 on: February 22, 2012, 11:49:21 PM »

Expect incense. And chanting/singing.

Also the presence of pews or some sort of equivalent depends on the church. The Antiochian church I've attended had rows of chairs
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« Reply #15 on: February 23, 2012, 12:42:03 AM »

My Antiochian parish has no pews and only a few chairs and benches line the walls leaving plenty of standing room and area for everyone to do Lenten Metanias.

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« Reply #16 on: February 23, 2012, 02:11:48 AM »

Immerse yourself in the service.   Pews, organs, and headcoverings are little "T's" that the presence or absence of should not affect your experience.  I like some of the responses here:  do as the other do, enjoy the sites, smells, and sounds.   If your mind wanders, look to the icons - they can do wonders to help refocus your attention.   

Many Orthodox Churches have liturgy books.  Don't be afraid to use them.  Ask someone where you are if your'e lost.  If it's an ethnic Church, some of the chanting may be in the language of that Church.  That's okay, and you may find you enjoy that.   

And, when in doubt, there's always a "leader", usually in the front row.  She'll tend to be an older woman.  She'll kneel, bow, and cross herself before anyone else.  Use her for queues. 
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« Reply #17 on: February 24, 2012, 12:16:59 PM »

The timing of your spiritual journey may be Providential. I do not presume to know what is in your heart, but we are entering Great Lent (with its emphasis on repentance and preparation for the passion and resurrection of the Lord) and you will have many more opportunities to attend services than at any other period this coming year. May the Lord guide your spiritual journey.
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« Reply #18 on: February 24, 2012, 12:52:51 PM »

There is a Greek Orthodox Church in my town, and I was thinking of going this weekend. But, I was wondering if some of you could help me out, because I do not know what to expect. I know there are no pews, but other than that...I don't really know when to bow/kneel, what to say, etc. I suppose I could learn as I keep going every week, but I would still like a few pointers, if that's okay.

Thanks! Smiley

Just go.  People worry other people will look at them too much, in reality they don't.  The coolest welcome I ever got was at a huge Greek church.  They had me fill out a visitor paper when I walked in and they introduced me after liturgy to the like 800 plus people.  It was a very nice place. 
No one counts how many times you bow or cross yourself. 
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« Reply #19 on: February 24, 2012, 12:59:24 PM »

Yea, I would just sit in the back and watch.  Just enjoy it.  But do try and dress up like others mentioned.  First time I went to a greek church I was in blue jeans and a flannel shirt.  No one cared, but I felt out of place.
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« Reply #20 on: February 24, 2012, 02:02:54 PM »

expect the unexpected!  Cool
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« Reply #21 on: February 24, 2012, 02:25:19 PM »

If it is Greek Orthodox, it probably DOES have pews.

When you enter you will probably see some people selling candles and a candle stand of some sort. We generally put a dollar in the tray, and take a candle, and then light it.

If I were you, I would sit in the back and follow what those infront of you are doing. You do not have to make the sign of the cross every time someone else does unless you feel like it. Generally we do it when 'Glory to the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit is said'. Whenever the priest blesses the congregation, a small bow (in order to accept the blessing) is generally done, though in the Greek tradition, many will also cross themselves. When the priest comes down the aisle to cense, a small bow is again appropriate, and if you like, you can also cross yourself.

Also, there may be a liturgy book in the pew back infront of you. Try to follow if you can.

All in all, just relax. It is not very different from following along at a RC Mass, if you have been to one.

BTW--I am cradle Greek Orthodox. Have a blessed Divine Liturgy and let us know how it went.

In Christ,
Alice

 
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« Reply #22 on: February 24, 2012, 09:55:42 PM »

just watch out for the snakes as you enter.
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« Reply #23 on: February 24, 2012, 11:09:34 PM »

I will be sure to, if I can make it there Smiley


The timing of your spiritual journey may be Providential. I do not presume to know what is in your heart, but we are entering Great Lent (with its emphasis on repentance and preparation for the passion and resurrection of the Lord) and you will have many more opportunities to attend services than at any other period this coming year. May the Lord guide your spiritual journey.

Interesting. Do you think maybe I should wait until Great Lent is over, in your opinion?
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« Reply #24 on: February 24, 2012, 11:22:28 PM »

I will be sure to, if I can make it there Smiley


The timing of your spiritual journey may be Providential. I do not presume to know what is in your heart, but we are entering Great Lent (with its emphasis on repentance and preparation for the passion and resurrection of the Lord) and you will have many more opportunities to attend services than at any other period this coming year. May the Lord guide your spiritual journey.

Interesting. Do you think maybe I should wait until Great Lent is over, in your opinion?

Not at all. Every Saturday Great Vespers, every Sunday Matins and every Divine Liturgy is about the salvific work of the Holy Trinity. Indeed, even if we were not in the Lenten season, I would have recommended that you do not limit tourself just to Divine Liturgy. I personally love the ramp up to Great Lent, Great Lent itself, the Holy Week, Pascha and Bright Week as the most meaningful of all periods during the Church year. This is when the Church is "most Orthodox," in a manner of speaking, and I think you will be blessed with attending as many services as you can. If I may lay out a road map for you:

Go to at least one Wednesday night, Friday night, and Saturday night service between now and Palm Sunday.

Go to each Sunday Divine Liturgy.

During Holy Week, go to at least the Friday night service, Saturday morning Divine Liturgy (especially if folks will be Baptized and/or Chrismated).

Attend Paschal services making sure that you get there early enough to claim a good place up front (not later than 1120pm) and stay afterwards for the common meal.

Finally, if you want a good road map, get and read Great Lent by Father Schmemann.
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