In the Orthodox tradition, men and women stand separately during the services. Men on the right side of the church, women on the left.
Modest dress for both men and women are required. Men are asked not to wear hats or hoods, short pants or short sleeved shirts. Women are asked not to wear pants or shorts, skirts above the knee or sleeves above the elbow. Women are asked to cover their heads.
Visitors who are not baptized in the Orthodox Church may not receive Holy Communion. Visitors from other parishes or jurisdictions are asked to contact Father Isaac or Father Dimitry prior to approaching the chalice.
All are welcome to come for the final blessing at the end of the service and participate in the veneration of icons and lighting of candles.
In the Orthodox tradition, the faithful stand during the service. There are seats around the walls of the church for those who need them. If you find the amount of standing difficult, you are welcome to take a seat.
You will notice parishioners frequently making the sign of the cross. Orthodox Christians cross with our right hands and go from right to left, the opposite of Roman Catholics. To make the sign of the cross, we hold our thumb and first two fingertips pressed together with the last two fingers pressed down into the palm. The three fingers together symbolize the Trinity and the two fingers in the palm symbolize the two natures of Christ.
Traditionally, Orthodox churches use no instruments. Usually a small choir leads the people in a cappella chanting. The level of congregational response varies with each parish from none, to some, to almost full congregational participation. The style of music varies as well, from a more minor-toned Greek style to a more Western-sounding four-part Russian style harmony, with some variation in between.
Though not used as a musical instrument, the ringing of bells plays a large role in Orthodox services. Orthodox worship is the ringing of bells. Every cycle of divine services starts with the ringing of bells. The purpose of ringing the bells is to call the faithful to services and to call worshippers to concentrated attention at certain points of the services.
Icons are everywhere in an Orthodox Church. We venerate and not worship icons. They are beacons to heaven. They guide us to remember the examples of the saints that they depict as well as the feast days of Our Lord and His mother and the parables of Christ.
In the tradition of the Orthodox Church, clergy including priests and deacons, vest in special clothing for the church services. A very comprehensive description of the different vestments can be found here.
Beeswax candles and icon oil lamps (candilia) are found throughout an Orthodox Church. Orthodox Christians light candles and oil lamps before the icons as a sign of their faith and hope in God’s help that is always sent to all who turn to Him and His Saints with faith and prayers and as a symbol of our burning, grateful love for God.
If you have any questions during the service, you should free to ask someone standing near you. If you need further explanation or have more questions than it is reasonable to ask during the service, please feel free to speak with Father Isaac or Father Dimitry after the service.