Visitors will find many new things to experience in an Orthodox Church service and there are many customs and traditions that are important parts of our worship. Feel free to go at your own pace, ask questions, and know you are welcome to “come and see.” Read on for answers to some of the most commonly asked questions.
Are non-Orthodox visitors welcome?
Absolutely! The faith is open to all, and you are welcome here. We are honored to have visitors
join us for prayer and worship. We are a community made up of quite a few converts (including
some of our priests and deacons) and welcome newcomers, inquirers, and visitors. We
understand that our visitors may have questions about the Orthodox Christian faith and
practices; many of us have been there. Don’t be afraid to ask about what we do or why we do it.
What should I expect when I first arrive?
When you first enter our church, you are coming into the narthex, which is the entrance area
before entering the nave, the church proper. If you visit on a Sunday, you’ll be welcomed by a
greeter at the door. Feel free to tell the greeter you’re new and he or she will help you navigate
your way around and introduce you to others who can answer any questions. We have copies of
our services available, so you can follow along, or simply look and listen as we worship God
What happens after the Sunday Liturgy?
After service on Sunday, you are invited to join us for Coffee Hour, which is a great time to visit
with parishioners and other guests, meet our clergy, and ask questions. If you are not interested
in social interaction at first, that’s fine. You are always welcome to follow your own pace and
level of interest.
How long are the services?
It depends on the service. Below you’ll find a list of our weekly services with approximate times..
Great Vespers (evening prayers typically on Saturday nights) are 45-50 minutes.
Orthros/Matins (morning prayers before the Divine Liturgy) are 60-70 minutes.
Divine Liturgy (Sunday mornings and on Feast Days) is about 90 minutes.
Please view our calendar for up-to-date times and additional services throughout the year.
What should I wear to Church?
Most people who attend our parish follow the general rule of dressing respectfully and modestly
as we stand before God. We have people who wear everything from nice jeans to suits, long
dresses to skirts, sneakers to dress shoes. You will see some women wearing head coverings
and others not – it is a personal practice and both traditions are welcome. We have included a few tips here.
Will I be able to understand the Orthodox worship service?
Our worship services are primarily in English. We are blessed to have parish members from all
over the world, so you may hear a small portion of the service in Arabic, Greek, Slavonic,
Romanian or other languages.
Is childcare provided?
At St. Elias, children and young people are an integral part of our community and our worship.
There is no separate youth service, children’s church, or cry room. There is only the gathering of
the One Body of Christ, an intergenerational assembly in which all participate equally,
regardless of age, building a solid community. Parents may sometimes need to step out into the Narthex with their children to avoid being disruptive.
Is Sunday School available for children?
We do have Sunday School after Liturgy for pre-school through high-school children, with a
break during summer. We also typically have a Vacation Church School one week during the
Why do people light candles?
Lighting candles is an important part of Orthodox worship and piety. We purchase and light
candles as we pray, making an offering to God to accompany our prayers. Orthodox typically
light candles when coming into the church. A general rule of thumb is to remember it may not be
appropriate to light candles in front during the Epistle, Gospel, or sermon. By the way, you do
not have to be an Orthodox Christian to light a candle and pray in an Orthodox church.
Can non-Orthodox receive Communion?
Orthodox priests may only serve the Holy Eucharist to Orthodox Christians in good standing of
the canonical Orthodox Church, who have recently confessed and fasted before partaking of the
Holy Eucharist. This has been the ancient tradition of the Holy Church for its 2,000-year history.
The Orthodox Church understands the Holy Eucharist as a mystery of the real presence of
Christ in the Eucharist, not simply as a memorial, or merely in a spiritual sense, as many other
non-Orthodox Christians do.
What is Holy Bread and can non-Orthodox partake?
After taking Holy Communion and at the end of the liturgy, it is traditional to eat a piece of holy
bread or antidoron - the bread left over after Holy Communion was prepared (only a part of the
bread offered is consecrated and given at communion). Antidoron is not Holy Communion, it is
blessed bread. As such, it should be eaten carefully so that crumbs don’t fall on the floor. You
may find that a member of the parish will offer you blessed bread - you are welcome to accept
and enjoy this act of hospitality.
What is Orthodox music like?
Close to seventy-five percent of an Orthodox service is singing. Traditionally, Orthodox do not
use instruments. Usually, a choir or chanters lead the people in a cappella singing, with the level
of congregational response varying from parish to parish. The style of music varies as well, from
very traditional Byzantine chant to four-part harmonized hymns, with lots of variation in between.
The music is prayerful and intended to lead the faithful in worship of God.
Do I have to stand for the entire service?
The traditional posture for prayer and worship in the Orthodox Church has been to stand. In
some Orthodox “old countries” there are often no pews in the churches and chairs or benches
on the side walls are reserved for the elderly and infirm. In other “old countries”, there are rows
of chairs or benches (pews) in most churches. In North America, we have tended to build our
churches following the practice of pews or chairs. First of all, it is fully acceptable to stand for
the entire service. You will see that there are times when it is fine to sit. And you can always sit
when you need to for physical reasons. It is appropriate to stand during the Gospel reading, the
Little and Great Entrances, the Anaphora, the distribution of Holy Communion, whenever
the priest gives a blessing, and the Dismissal. A good rule of thumb also is to always stand when the priest or deacon is using the censor.
Why do people kiss the icons?
When you enter the church, it is traditional to venerate the icons. At St. Elias there are icons at
the entrance to the church and icon stands in the front as well. When venerating (kissing) an
icon, pay attention to where you kiss. It is not proper to kiss an icon in the face or lips. When
you approach an icon to venerate it, kiss the gospel, scroll, or hand cross in the hand of the
person in the icon, or kiss the hand or foot of the person depicted.
Why do people make the sign of the cross?
You will notice that Orthodox make the sign of the cross when entering the Church and
whenever we mention the Holy Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). The sign of the cross is a
blessing we can give to ourselves as well as an offering of ourselves to God. We make the sign
of the cross with our right hand with the thumb and first two fingers up and the last two fingers
down. We go from forehead to navel to right shoulder to left shoulder. You are welcome to
make the sign of the cross with us if you like.
How can I learn more?
An ongoing inquirer’s class is offered for those wanting to learn more about the Orthodox faith.
There you can ask questions and explore, or simply listen to the topic being discussed. Check
the calendar for current classes or contact us for class details.
How do I become a member?
What if I have further questions?
Feel free to talk to one of our clergy or church members after a service or during Coffee Hour
following Sunday Divine Liturgy. To schedule a time to visit with a priest, call the church office, or