Where do I park?
We are a rural church, and our parking lot is basically the lawn. When you come down the driveway, you will pass the church building (it is the first building that you pass when coming down the driveway). Immediately after that you will see a parking area to your right. If you drive a little further, there is the fellowship hall to the left, and people just park in front of that as well. You are a spiritual sister or brother that we have not met yet, but we are family, fellow children of God. So park "anywhere," come on in, and make yourself at home.
What to Expect
The unfamiliarity of visiting a new church can be an uncomfortable experience. You don’t know anybody but everyone else knows each other! However, knowing what to expect helps ease the uncomfortability of the unknown. Awkwardness is normal in an unfamiliar place, but as you will find out, you don’t ever need to feel awkward around here! We are simply family that haven't met yet. Here you have a loving church family that you can look to whether you are just visiting one time or whether you want to stay for a while! Our doors are open and we are already all family, fellow children of our heavenly Father, and we look forward to meet you!
What Sunday Looks like
Our main service, the Divine Liturgy, takes place at 9:45am. There are usually prayers or prayer services going on beforehand, so if you enter and prayers are already going on, don’t worry—you are not late! If you are able to come over to the fellowship hall following Liturgy, we have a fellowship hour with coffee and some sustenance in the hall, often with Faith studies during the hour and Bible study toward the end.
In the Orthodox Church, the main service is the Liturgy. Divine Liturgy is the ancient Comunion service that goes back to the time of the Apostles, and is the participation in the heavenly Liturgy described in the books of Isaiah and Revelation. Liturgy means the “public work” of God with His people. In fact, right at the beginning, the Priest says the prayer “it is time for the Lord to act; blessed is our God, always now and forever and ever. Amen.” The Liturgy is a dialogue of God with His people, and is God working in and jointly with His people to pray for the world, to proclaim His good news that salvation is here, and to make present, week by week, Christ’s one time sacrifice for the salvation of the world, brought forth according to His promise. Many of the liturgical prayers are offered in song, as is the ancient Christian way, “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs; singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Eph. 5.19). As the Psalmist says: “how good it is for us to sing praises to our God!” (Ps. 147.1).
Please see Guidelines for Communion. Holy Communion is very serious in the Orthodox Church, heeding the words of Scripture that we are to examine ourselves. While all Christians can receive the blessed bread at the end of Liturgy, Holy Communion is only for committed Orthodox Christians who have properly prepared themselves. The Orthodox Church does not practice "intercommunion". To inquire as to how to become Orthodox, please ask the Priest for guidance.
What are the Services Like?
At Holy Protection the primary language is English. However, to show the universality of the Christian Orthodox Faith and to reach out to others, we do "sprinkle" the services with brief phrases in other languages (don't worry, they are in the book). Most of these are repetitions. While we avoid vain repetition, which Scripturally is not right, we see from Scripture that there is also repetition that is beneficial. Biblically, for example, we see that if one is to affirm a particular word, it is repeated three times. We see this when Christ asks Peter whether Peter loves him. St. Peter gets irritated, but the repetition is Biblical--it is that of affirmation of a particular reality. We see this throughout the Bible, and God's logic is this: when we undertake something important, if we say it once, we can turn back. If we say it two times, we may mean it but can still turn back. If we say it three times, we are affirming it, for three is the number of the Trinity.
We say a lot of prayers in song, as is the ancient Christian way, worshipping in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. All are welcomed to pray and sing along. If you don’t have a good singing voice, it still sounds good to God and the rest of us as we all raise up our part “with one voice and one heart” to the Lord. We also have other services through the week in which we offer prayer as a daily dialogue with God but also for special purposes and needs (supplicatory services).
How Should I Dress?
This question stems from our lack of understanding of sacred space (space reserved to honor the Lord). You do not have to dress in formal attire. However, it is important to dress respectfully before God in His own house. One of the most important aspects of respect toward God is to not wear clothes that promote secular things (i.e. no logos, images, etc.). The Lord is fairly clear that only images of holy things and holy messages are allowed in His house. Comfortable yet respectful and modest dress is always appropriate. Usually for Sunday Liturgy men will wear things like dress-style or polo-style shirt with slacks. Women wear dresses or slacks with tops with sleeves (long or short is fine). Children under 10 may wear shorts but again, please have them wear shirts with no images or logos. On some days, when we have a work day and there is vespers (evening prayer), those who were working outside just come in what they are wearing to work. In such cases, it is more important to be present and pray than to worry about what one is wearing, especially if doing the work of God beforehand! Whenever possible, however, try to make sure that t-shirts are without logos. If you don't remember, come pray anyway, and do your best the next time. Please teach children respect for God's temple.
What About My Younger Children?
The Orthodox Church has always encouraged youth, from the time they are babies, to be included in worship of the living God. We include children in our worship, and don’t shuffle them off somewhere else. While larger churches often have cry rooms or nurseries, we are a small church, and are blessed to have the facilities that we have. We actually at one time had an area in the back that we could have kept as a nursery or cry room (the old kitchen), but felt it not appropriate to keep it closed in, as it would distract from what we are supposed to be doing--evangelizing all humans, even babies who cry. When we took it out, we had an explosion of youth. Our small parish would have as many as 35 children on a Sunday, but regularly at least 20 for many years. This has waned. We still have a good number of children belonging to the church, but with parents that have to work on Sundays, but others with children who have mandatory attendance elsewhere, as well as other migratory reasons.
We like a liturgy that has some noise from the little ones (Fr. Harry calls it "singing along"). Our church is full of elderly people that will simply love your children and be another grandparent to them, and many others who gladly are aunts and uncles to them. Sure, with any children there are limits on behavior and must be, but a baby crying is NORMAL. Younger children wiggling and even complaining a little is NORMAL.
If you have small children, and they sing along (even if the words don’t make sense), all the better! If they get a little grumpy, give them a little time. Everyone understands and no one minds a little noise from infants and young children. If it lasts a little longer, maybe take them for a walk around to see the icons, or to the porch for a breath of fresh air (we have speakers so that you can still hear). If you have a little one that runs up to the priest while he is saying his sermon/homily, don’t worry, our priest is experienced at holding kids while he is preaching, or letting them assist in some way. If your kids are older, have them join in the prayer and worship! Our books make it easy to following along.
We Ask of You a Little Mercy
While some come in worried about the expectations of others, others come in with a list of expectations. We ask you to be merciful. We are a small parish with limited resources.