If you have never, or rarely, visited an Orthodox church it can seem “foreign” and confusing at first. Please keep in mind:
- We are delighted to have you worship with us!
- You may participate as much or as little as is comfortable for you.
- Many of us were once visitors ourselves. We know how perplexing, awe-inspiring, and spiritually “thirst-quenching” it can be.
Below is information that we hope will answer questions you might have before your visit to St Timothy. The sections are in "chronological order," from getting ready to come to church, being in the service, and then attending the agape meal. We also recommend you read our information about Services, and Frederica Mathewes-Green's "12 Things I Wish I'd Known..."
Preparing to Visit
How long do the services last?
Vespers on Saturday evening, and Orthros on Sunday morning, each last about 60 minutes. Divine Liturgy on Sunday mornings lasts about 90 minutes. It begins when Orthros ends, at about 9:15 am. There is no break or pause between the two services. Other services, such as evening services for a Feast Day or services during Great Lent, vary in length.
How do people dress?
Modest and fashionable sums up style at St Timothy! You will feel comfortable if you follow these simple guidelines.
- Ladies, your neckline and knee-length should not be extreme. Slacks are acceptable. If your top is sleeveless, wear a short-sleeve or long-sleeved sweater or jacket while in the church. Some of our women wear headscarves, but most do not.
- Men wear suits, or a shirt and tie, or a sport shirt with slacks. Clean, pressed jeans are acceptable.
- Children should follow guidelines similar to adults, although slightly more informal is acceptable.
- Please do not wear shorts (except on little kids), gym clothes, torn jeans, or t-shirts with bold slogans.
Parking and Entering the Church
St Timothy has a parking lot as well as ample street parking. There are three entrance doors:
- The door facing Central Avenue leads into the narthex and nave.
- Walk or drive to the right, around our Bell Garden, and you'll find the door that leads into the parish hall.
- You'll also see the impressive doorway into the new church we are building. It does not lead to the current church.
- In the parish hall, you’ll see a door on the left-hand wall; this goes into the narthex and nave.
- The door facing Link Road leads into the administrative area. Classrooms, choir room, bookstore, and Father John's office are in this part of the church, and the hallway toward the parish hall and nave.
When in church...
What is "on time"?
Do not be alarmed if you arrive a few minutes before the 9:15 am Divine Liturgy and find people already in the nave, already praying. You are not late. You’re arriving during Orthros, and you aren’t the only one. The Divine Liturgy begins immediately at the end of Orthros; there is no break or pause between them. Every Orthros service has its minor variations, so it might end at 9:05, or as late as 9:30.
The priest chanting “Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit!” marks the beginning of Divine Liturgy.
We Orthodox light candles on arriving at church as a visible symbol of prayer. You may light candles if you wish.
The Orthodox custom is to venerate the saints by kissing their icons (or bowing to them, which we do now, during the pandemic). To kiss or bow to an icon or cross is not the worship of icons or of the saint depicted. Rather, it is respectful veneration of that saint, who always points us to Christ. As a visitor, you are not expected to bow to icons but you are welcome to do so if you wish.
Standing and Sitting
Standing is the traditional posture for prayer and worship in the Orthodox Church. We do have seats, for those who are older or infirm— or tired of standing! We all (including visitors) stand up:
- At the Little Entrance
- During the Gospel reading
- At the Great Entrance
- During the Anaphora and the distribution of Holy Communion
We have copies of the service of the Divine Liturgy if you would like to read along during the service. If you would rather observe instead of reading, there is much benefit in that, too.
The Sign of the Cross
During any service, you’ll see people bless themselves with the sign of the cross. Sometimes we do this at the same time, but occasionally at different times. It is a matter of personal piety, not of dogma.
Orthodox bless themselves in a specific way. We place our thumb and first two fingers together, to represent one God in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We fold our last two fingers into our palm, to represent the two natures of Christ, human and divine. To make the sign of the cross, we touch fingers to forehead, chest, right shoulder, then left shoulder.
As a visitor, please do what feels comfortable to you: Nothing at all, or left-shoulder-to-right shoulder if that’s what you’re used to.
Christ welcomed the little children and so do we. But we know kids grow restless. We have an Infants Room if your little one needs a break. The Infants Room has toys, a crib, a changing table, and a rocking chair for mom or dad. Just ask anyone with a child, and they’ll be happy to show you the way. Also, we have two restrooms in the parish hall, to the left of the kitchen.
During the Eucharist
Only those baptized and chrismated in the Holy Orthodox Church receive Communion. If you are an Orthodox Christian and have prepared yourself by recent confession, prayer, and fasting, you are welcome to approach the Holy Mysteries. We do not practice "open communion" because to receive the sacrament is to declare one’s commitment to the Orthodox Faith. Wait until you have accepted the Orthodox teachings on the mystery of the Eucharist, and have been received into Christ’s Holy Orthodox Church, before coming forward for Communion.
After taking Holy Communion (and also at the end of the liturgy), we Orthodox eat a piece of blessed bread. (It is not Holy Communion). If a parishioner offers you a piece of this bread, please, accept and eat it! As it is blessed, please eat it respectfully, dropping as few crumbs as possible.
Kissing the Cross, the Gospel, and the Priest’s Hand
At the end of Divine Liturgy, we all come forward to kiss the cross and receive a final piece of antidoron. (Similarly, at the end of Vespers, and during Orthros, we come forward to kiss the Gospel book.) We also at these times kiss the hand of our priest. After all, the priest offers the Holy Gifts of Christ's Body and Blood on our behalf. We do not expect non-Orthodox visitors to kiss the priest’s hand. You may kiss the cross, or gospels if you wish. Please do come forward to receive antidoron and exchange a ”Good morning!” with Father John or Father Spyridon.
After the Service
We encourage you to stay afterwards and join us for our usual lively potluck Agape Meal.
The Bookstore is open for an hour after the end of the Divine Liturgy.
Our About Each Service page gives you details on the purpose and composition of our weekend services; Vespers, Orthros, and the Divine Liturgy.