People often ask what the ‘done thing’ is when attending our parish. There’s a bit of a rule that visitors are exempt from rules and regulations – an encounter with God at church is enough! However, after receiving many questions, we’ve made a list of guidelines to suggest to people who visit our parishes – not as laws, but as aids for reverent worship.
The first and biggest ‘rule’ is to be respectful. Really, once you’re following that rule, everything else will come naturally.
If you’re looking for more detail, though, read on…
The most common question we receive is about clothes.
In short: don’t dress to impress – rather, dress to respect. God accepts where we are and how we are attired, but: we must attend to what we do to prepare for Him.
It’s not necessary, but if you’re looking for more guidance, just have a look at some of our photo albums. Among other things, you’ll notice that clothes should generally cover from the shoulders to the knees.
Also, please: do not wear lipstick or lip gloss to church. Not even the non-stick stuff. As Orthodox Christians, we tend to kiss icons, receive Communion, kiss the cross, kiss the priest’s hand…and no matter how non-stick the lipstick says that it is, it isn’t. Feel free to apply this after the service has finished, though, if you wish.
Generally, when coming into a church, Orthodox Christians will make the sign of the cross over themselves, go to the candle desk where they can get candles to light them (in prayer for people), and then venerate icons (on the hands, please, not the face). At our parish, these candles are available by donation. If you are visiting, you can simply walk in and find a place to be – no one will mind!
Why candles? The short story is that they represent our prayers. We make a donation so that it is ours to offer (rather than offering something of someone else’s).
Similarly, please plan to stay until the end of the service. We attempt to post approximate finishing times so that people can plan ahead. We also have morning tea after some services (we often aim for the first Sunday of the month) – if so, please stay around! We’d love to meet you.
Remember: please put your mobile phone on silent.
Children are always welcome at our parish – and we have quite a number of them. A good rule of thumb here is that, well, kids will be kids! We actually encourage children are in the church for services (and not doing a different activity while church is going on) – put another way, we teach our children how to behave in church by being in church.
Standing and Sitting
We don’t have many seats in our parish, but you are welcome to sit down if you need to. We do ask that if there are people who need seats – the disabled, the elderly, or anyone that you should stand for on public transport – that seats are available for them to sit in.
There are some special times during our services. A good rule of thumb is that if the service is going, and if either the priest is in the main body of the church or the deacon is carrying something in the main body of the church, there’s a good chance that it’s a special time in the service. During such times, it is generally most proper to stand reverently and follow what most people are doing.
Conduct in church
While in church, remember that we should be communicating with God. Please take this opportunity to talk to God through prayers, hymns and giving thanks – He is waiting to hear from you.
Even outside of services, when in church one should aim to keep conversations to a minimum. One can easily step outside to have a chat.
During our Divine Liturgy service, there is a distribution of Holy Communion. It is our practice that only baptised Orthodox Christians who have prepared themselves may commune – please speak to Fr Alexander for more information.
It may surprise many to learn that at our parish, many people present don’t commune (for various reasons), so no one need fear being the ‘odd one out’.
At the end of our Liturgy services, people will come up to the priest, venerate (‘kiss’) the blessing cross that the priest is holding, and receive a piece of blessed bread. This is sometimes called ‘Antidoron’ (meaning ‘instead of the Gifts’). Anyone who wishes to may venerate the cross and receive the bread, and we ask that you treat and consume the bread with respect (particularly, please make sure no crumbs are dropped).
But, above all…
Just be respectful. Once you’ve come a couple of times, you’ll see the way we do what we do. Remember that Orthodox Christians are in church to unite together in prayer as a community, in humility and love. Truly, everything else will come naturally if that rule is being followed.