A Guide to Church Etiquette
Information for members of our church and for visitors to our church, by Emily Postopoulos.

Some have asked about when it is appropriate to enter and exit the nave during the Divine Liturgy. You may enter and exit any time except the following:

The beginning of the Divine Liturgy
("Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit...");
The Small Entrance with the Gospel;
The Reading of the Epistle and Gospel;
The Great Entrance with the Chalice and Diskos;
During the Nicene Creed;
During the Epiklesis (the kneeling);
During the Lord's Prayer.

It is appropriate to enter and be seated during the sermon, but please remember that this is distracting to both the priest and the congregation. Note: it is appropriate to step out of the nave if the incense used in the service causes breathing problems. When returning to the nave, please observe the rules above for entering.

What is the appropriate attire to wear to church? Coming to church involves preparation of oneself for a serious and sacred encounter and is not a casual experience!! We dress accordingly out of love and respect for our Lord who we meet in a mystical manner in church each time we celebrate the services.

When should I receive Holy Communion? As frequently as possible. However, this is the greatest of responsibilities. Note the guidelines in the bulletin that include fasting and the reading of the communion prayers. Do not receive Holy Communion unless you have made serious preparation to do so, which may also include scheduling the sacrament of Confession prior to receiving Holy Communion. "With the fear of God, faith, and love draw near" is an invitation to join yourself to the purity and beauty of the life of God. What have you done to prepare yourself for this, one of life's most significant events?

Lighting Candles? When an Orthodox Christian enters the narthex of the church, he/she makes the sign of the cross, venerates all the icons, makes an offering for a candle and lights the candle while saying a prayer. The large seven day candles in the plastic sleeves are memorial candles lit in memory of our departed loved ones. You may place candles in any of the brass candleabras in the narthex or in the nave of the church in front of or on the marble solea. However, as a courtesy to the clergy and others working in the altar area during the service, please do not come down to the solea while the priest is facing the congregation or during either the Small Entrance or the Great Entrance. Please wait until the clergy is facing the altar and all altar boys are back inside the altar area. This is less distracting for everyone and it avoids confusion and collisions with processions.

A good rule of thumb is to apply the same guidelines listed above for entering the nave to coming down to the solea, except when the priest is facing the congregation. Then you need to wait to come down.

Spiritual godparents of newly baptized and/or chrismated church members may come down to light candles when the priest calls the congregation to Communion, even though the priest is facing the congregation.

Names: When receiving any sacrament of the church, use your baptismal/chrismation name.

Sign of the Cross: We make the Sign of the Cross as a public profession of our Orthodox Christian faith. The first two fingers and thumb of the right hand come together symbolizing the Holy Trinity. The two remaining fingers symbolize the Humanity and Divinity of Jesus Christ. Therefore, in our right hand, we hold the two major doctrines of the Christian Church each time we make the Sign of the Cross. We make the Sign of the Cross before we eat, sleep, drive, pass by, enter or leave the church, travel, or take on any major endeavor, acknowledging our desire to include God in these activities. In Church, make the Sign of the Cross:

When you venerate the icons;
When you light a candle;
If you are an Altar Boy when you enter the Altar and when you pass behind the Altar;
When you hear
"Father, Son, and Holy Spirit," "Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us," "the Theotokos," "Peace be with all;"
When the priest censes in your direction;
At the end of the Gospel reading;
During the Creed when we read, "In one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church;"
And before receiving Holy Communion.

Crossing your legs during the service: The proper posture for prayer is to stand attentively. In Orthodox churches in America, we have allowed pews for sitting during the services. While sitting during the service, one is not to observe the service as you would a movie or a TV show--the Divine Liturgy is not entertainment. Therefore, it is not appropriate to posture yourself in a casual manner, such as crossing the legs in church. It is also a matter of courtesy to others in the congregation -- our pew arrangement limits the amount of seating space available per person, and leg crossing tends to crowd the pews. Not crossing your legs helps increase the amount of seating space available for others attending services.

Reminders for Ministries -- If you cannot fulfill your obligation for the week for prosfora, coffee hour, serving in the altar or nursery, or reading the epistle, please arrange for someone to substitute for you. The secretary is only available two days a week and time is of the essence for some of these services. The more warning you give in advance, the easier it will be to find someone to help.

St. George Library serves all the parishioners of the church. We have books, pamphlets, videocassettes and audio cassettes for you to check out. Please remember to return materials to the church or church mail drop box no later than one month from the date you check the materials out. We request that materials be returned on time. Some of these books are donated in someone's memory or as a gift, and we want to keep them on the shelves for all to use. Icons, cards, books, and miscellaneous items are for sale in the bookcase on wheels. Catalogues are available to help you select and order items not in the library. Contributions are welcome. Any questions may be directed to Fr. Basil or Elaine Avgerinos.

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