I've never been to an Orthodox Church. What will I find when I visit St. Paul's?
First of all, you'll find a warm welcome! Half of our members came to Orthodoxy from other traditions, so our parish is full of people who remember making that first visit, and will be delighted to help you find your way around.
The Divine Liturgy is the main Sunday morning service. It starts at 9:30 AM, although a reader is already chanting a preliminary service, the Hours, as the congregation enters. As worshipers enter the sanctuary you will see them stop to kiss several icons at the doors. Kissing or “venerating” icons is the traditional way to show love and respect for the saint pictured.
The congregation stands during the service, as much they are able, facing the altar in prayer. The Liturgy is a dialogue between the clergy and the people, offering praise and worship to God. The choir leads the people's responses, but all the faithful are encouraged to sing with them or pray silently.
The Divine Liturgy has two main sections. The first section, centering around the proclamation of the Word of God, begins with the singing of Psalms, the Beatitudes, some hymns of the day, and the Thrice Holy Hymn. The clergy process through the sanctuary with the Gospel Book, then the Epistle reading is chanted by a member of the congregation and the Gospel reading by the priest or deacon. The sermon, reflecting on the Bible readings, brings this first section to a close.
The second section of the Divine Liturgy focuses on the Eucharist. The clergy make a second procession through the church carrying the gifts of bread and wine. The Nicene Creed is then recited by all and the Eucharistic Prayer begins. After the prayers of consecration the clergy and the people pray the Lord's Prayer together. When all is ready the people are invited forward to receive Holy Communion.
Only baptized and chrismated Orthodox Christians who have prepared themselves may approach the chalice. Everyone who isn't going to communion just stays at their place, either standing or sitting. Those receiving Communion also take some unconsecrated bread and wine from another table and will usually offer some of this bread to those remaining at their seats as a gesture of friendship and welcome. Feel free to take it!
After some concluding prayers the priest invites everyone to come forward and kiss the cross he holds. You should feel welcome to do this, or just observe, if you like. At St. Paul's an important third section of Sunday worship is Fellowship Hour right after the Divine Liturgy. Teams of cooks take turns providing a simple meal, and almost everyone stays to eat and chat. Visitors are warmly invited - it's a great chance to get to know us better!