Are non-Orthodox visitors welcome?
Yes, absolutely. We are a community made up of both cradle-born Orthodox Christians and those who have converted to the faith. We are very comfortable with new comers, inquirers, and visitors. Anyone who wishes to discover ancient Coptic Orthodox Christianity is welcome. If you have questions, our priest will be happy to answer them, so don’t be afraid to ask questions about what we do and why.
In planning your visit, please email us or call the church ahead of time, and someone will greet you and direct you to a place to sit. In attending the service of Raising of Incense or the Divine Liturgy, we have books available with the text of the prayers, we have a large PowerPoint presentation with the text of the prayers, and you also have the option to simply close your eyes and let your heart and mind enter into the spirit of the Church’s ancient and beautiful worship of God. In addition, a person will be available to sit with you and guide you through the service.
Following the Sunday Divine Liturgy, you are invited to join us for a “coffee hour” which is a good time to get to know our parish members and meet our priests.
How long are the services?
On Saturday evenings, the Evening Raising of Incense service (Vespers) is generally 45 minutes in length, followed by a short homily in Arabic (which you need not attend if you do not understand the language). On Sunday mornings, a similar service (Matins) is celebrated before the Divine Liturgy from 8:00-8:30 AM. Afterwards, the Divine Liturgy is approximately 2 hours in length with an English homily at approximately 9:30 a.m. and the Distribution of the Mystery of the Eucharist from 10:30-11:00 AM. We understand this may seem like a very long service, but we know that when you have participated in an Orthodox service you will feel like you have truly worshiped the living God. While following the texts and meditating on the words of the prayers and the story of Salvation, time passes quickly.
Is there a dress code?
The general rule for men and women is to dress appropriately, modestly and respectfully as before the living God. We ask that you not wear shorts, mini-skirts, tank tops, low-cut or strap less dresses (unless covered by a sweater, etc.).
Is child care provided?
All children are welcome and encouraged to attend our services. Each parent is responsible to take care of their child. Though the children might not grasp the depth of the service, their seeing the icons, smelling of incense, hearing the chants, etc. is an important part of the child’s spiritual formation. If your baby or child gets fussy, talkative, or has a melt-down, just simply step out into the cry rooms until he or she is ready to return quietly. Each cry room has equipped with Audio/Video close circuit that broadcast the service.
Is Sunday school for children available?
On Sundays, we provide Sunday school in small groups for children, from the age of 5 to grade twelve immediately following the service.
Standing or sitting?
The traditional posture for prayer and worship in the Orthodox Church is to stand, as before the King of the universe! In many churches and monasteries in Egypt, there are typically no pews in the churches. Chairs or benches on the side walls are usually reserved for the elderly and infirm. In America, we build our churches with pews or chairs, so you may sit. However, it is appropriate to stand during the Gospel reading, the Anaphora through the Institution Narrative, the distribution of the Holy Mystery, when the priest gives a blessing, and at the Dismissal.
Lighting candles is an important part of Orthodox worship and piety. We light candles as we pray, making an offering to accompany our prayers. Orthodox typically light candles when coming into the church, but there are times when candles should not be lit. Candles should not be lit during the Epistle or Gospel readings, and during the sermon. You do not have to be an Orthodox Christian to light a candle and pray!
Can non-Orthodox receive the Holy Eucharist?
Orthodox priests may only serve the Holy Eucharist to baptized members in good standing of the canonical Orthodox Church, who regularly confess, and who participate in the Church fasts, especially before partaking of the Holy Eucharist. These traditions are ancient and have been part of the Holy Church for the 2,000 years of Her history. The Orthodox Church understands the Holy Eucharist as a mystery of the real presence of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, not simply as a memorial, or merely in a spiritual sense, as many other non-Orthodox Christians do. Rather than trying to accommodate to often varying “interpretations” or revisions of this and other doctrines of the ancient faith, we simply ask that you respect the ancient, apostolic tradition and join us in receiving the Eulogia (blessed bread), at the end of the Divine Liturgy.
What are Orthodox worship hymns like?
Between 65–75% of the traditional Coptic Liturgy involves congregational singing. Coptic Christians do not use musical instruments with the exception of the cymbals and triangle, which are used simply to keep musical time. A choir of chanters leads the congregation in harmonious chant, usually in Coptic or English. Our hymns are solemn, prayerful and intended to lead the faithful to worship the living God.
New visitors will find there are many new things to experience in a Coptic Orthodox Church service. Feel free to go at your own pace, ask any questions you want, and know you are most welcome to “come and see.”