Visitors and Newcomers

"Philip found Nathanael and said to him, 'We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets wrote- Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.'  And Nathanael said to him, 'Can anything good come out of Nazareth?'  Philip said to him, 'Come and see.'" 

-John 1:45-46

 We have included the above Bible passage and accompanying icon of the Apostles Philip and Nathanael with the Lord Jesus, because it illustrates so well our experience at St. Raphael Orthodox Church.  We too, like Philip, have found Jesus of Nazareth, and like Philip, we invite those we encounter to "Come and see!"  We hope you will find the information on this page helpful in explaining who we are, and what you will experience if and when you come to visit us.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long are the services?

  • Great Vespers (evening prayers-Saturdays at 5pm) is about 75 minutes in length
  • Matins (morning prayers- Sundays at 8:45am) is about 75 minutes in length
  • Divine Liturgy (main weekly Eucharistic service at 10am) is about 100 minutes in length
  • We invite all of our visitors to stay after Sunday liturgy for a delicious meal in our fellowship hall downstairs.   This is a great opportunity for you to meet our pastor, Fr. Ignatius and the faithful of our church community.

 Is there a dress code?

        The general rule for men and women is to dress appropriately, modestly and respectfully, because we stand before the living God.  The people of our church wear everything from casual pants to suits, long dresses to skirts, and shirts with or without ties. We ask, however, that you do 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.) in the nave, the main part of the church.

Do I have to be Orthodox to visit?

        Absolutely not!  You don't even have to be a Christian.  We welcome anyone to come and experience the prayers and hymns of Orthodox Christian worship.  We have many members who did not originally come from Orthodox backgrounds (including our priest), and some who had little or no Christian background whatsoever, before they started attending our church.  Anyone can participate in any part of the service, except for receiving the Eucharist.  See next FAQ.

 Can non-Orthodox receive the Eucharist (Communion or the Lord's Supper)?
        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 Eucharist as a mystery of the real presence of Christ, 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” 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.

If I am already Orthodox, can I receive the Eucharist?
       The Eucharist is available to baptized Orthodox Christians who have prepared themselves spiritually.  Our church is part of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, which is part of the Patriarchate of Antioch, whose Patriarch is currently John X.  We are in communion with all of the canonical patriarchates in the world including Constantinople, Moscow, Alexandria, Jerusalem, Georgia, Romania, Serbia, Bulgaria and the autocephalous Churches of Greece, Cyprus, Poland, Czech/Slovakia and Albania.  Our bishops are in communion with all of the bishops listed at http://www.assemblyofbishops.org/directories/bishops/.  We are not in communion with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Kiev Patriarchate), the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, the Macedonian Orthodox Church, and the Orthodox Church of France, to name a few.  If you have any questions about practices regarding receiving the Eucharist, please speak with Fr. Ignatius.  Frequent reception of the Eucharist is encouraged along with proper preparation, which includes fasting from all food and drink from midnight the night before, self-examination and the use of Orthodox prayers before Communion, and regular confession.

What about confession?
       The sacrament of confession is available to all baptized Orthodox Christians.  Fr. Ignatius can hear your confession on Saturday evening, following vespers (5pm), toward the end of matins on Sunday morning (about 9:45am) or by appointment.  Confessions should be made on a regular basis.  What that means exactly, is left up to the individual and his/her spiritual father to decide.  It is not required, in the Antiochian Orthodox tradition, for one to have made a confession immediately before receiving the Eucharist each and every time.  

Standing or Sitting?
        The traditional posture for prayer and worship in the Orthodox Church is to stand before the King of the universe! However, we have chairs and benches around the perimeter of our nave for those who need to sit for some of the service.  So you are free to sit. It is appropriate though, 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. Just follow the congregation.

What about lighting candles?
        Lighting candles is an important part of Orthodox worship and piety. We light candles as we pray, making an offering to God 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.

What is Orthodox 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 a capella harmony, with the level of congregational response varying from parish to parish.  Given our size, we have a substantial choir that people appreciate, and we sing music from several traditions. We mostly have drone-accompanied or harmonized Byzantine chant and Russian style choral music. We have a very little but growing body of Georgian music, which is choral but more austere and tranquil than the Russian. And we have a little bit of American music in different styles. The music is solemn, prayerful and intended to lead the faithful to worship the living God.

Is childcare provided?
        Each parent is responsible to take care of their child. We have a room for changing diapers or for nursing babies downstairs, near the women's restroom. We encourage children to be present in Church for the services. This participation is part of a child’s spiritual formation. Fr. Ignatius would much rather have you present in the church service with your child, even if he or she is occasionally noisy (as children are), than for you to feel that you can't be present because you are afraid of the disruption your child will make.  We are a kid-friendly church and we are tolerant of the sounds that young children make.  However, if your baby or child gets especially fussy, please take him or her out of the nave until he or she is ready to return quietly!

Is Sunday School available for children?
        From September through the end of May, we provide Sunday school for children in grades K through twelve. Sunday school is held directly after the end of Liturgy. Generally we like children to be registered for Sunday school; but if you and your child are guests, your child is invited to join the class as a visitor.

So, what can I expect when I come for the first time?
        If you come to Sunday liturgy, you may be greeted by an usher in the narthex/lobby.  He/she can let you know where to hang up your coat (if it is winter) and where the bathrooms are.  Our usher can also direct you to a booklet which has the text of our services so that you can follow along if you choose.  You can expect to experience worship that engages the senses because we believe in worshipping God with not only our spirit, but also our body, thus you will hear a beautiful choir, you will see dozens of colorful icons depicting the Lord Jesus and the saints, and you will smell incense.  Don't worry about looking confused, disoriented and don't be concerned about "doing the wrong thing."  We are a friendly bunch and we want to make you feel welcome and included.

What if I have more questions?
        Ask away!  Fr. Ignatius can be reached by email at frignatius@straphaelorthodoxchurch.org and he has open office hours on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons from 1:15pm-2:45pm.  If you come to liturgy on Sunday, stay for our fellowship meal afterward.  This is a great time to ask questions.

If I were interested in learning more and/or becoming Orthodox, what is the process?
        Fr. Ignatius strongly encourages those who are interested in learning about the Orthodox Church to come and experience the church services as frequently as one can.  This is the best way to learn what Orthodox Christians believe and how they put it into practice.  Periodically, Introduction to Orthodoxy classes are offered for inquirers.  For those who have moved beyond the stage of inquiry and who have decided that they want to be sacramentally united to the Orthodox Church, Catechumen classes are offered.  When both you and Fr. Ignatius feel that you are ready, you will become a catechumen.  During this time of being a catechumen, which usually lasts approximately 6-12 months, you may be asked to come to classes and/or to read certain books.  Once you have been properly prepared, then you can join the Orthodox Church.  If you have been baptized in another Christian church that uses a traditional Trinitarian  formula (i.e. "in the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit") then you will make a first sacramental confession, be anointed with oil in the sacrament of chrismation and receive your first Eucharist as an Orthodox Christian.  If you have never been baptized or have been baptized in a church that does not baptize in the name of the Trinity, then you would be baptized, in addition to participating in the sacraments mentioned above.


Further information:
 
 
 
 
• Written by Frederica Mathewes-Green, First Visit to an Orthodox Church: 12 Things I Wish I’d Known... [a link to an external site]

Discover Christian Orthodoxy[a link to our Archdiocese site]