Information for First-Time Visitors
The grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. We thank God you are thinking about visiting our humble parish.
While there are other more general guides to Orthodoxy, we hope this addresses some of the most common questions we get at Saint George in Redding.
What Do You Mean It’s in the Basement?
Yes, it’s in the basement of the Lorenz. We like to think of it like the catacombs that the early Church met in. Between Deja Vu and Final Draft Brewing Company you’ll see our sign. During services the gate is open. (Ring the doorbell if it’s out.) Enter under the cross. The nave (sanctuary) is to the right.
It’s Not Just for Greeks
First-time visitors are often concerned they’ve stumbled into a church for immigrants and are the awkward outsider. Yes, the service and building can feel a bit foreign, but everything is done with a purpose: to worship God. Our traditions are much older than America and the English language. If things feel a bit foreign it’s because we respect those who have gone before us in the faith.
Everything in the Orthodox Church is done with a blessing from a priest, who receives his authority from a bishop, who can trace his ordination back to the Holy Spirit’s descent on the Apostles at Pentecost. We call this “Apostolic Succession.” No apostles ever visited America. Because America is such a recent country (~200 years) compared to Christianity (~2,000 years), our parish gets our blessing (“ecclesiastical authority”) from a much older source: the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese (GOARCH). That’s because the families who started the church in the 1970s were Greek. As a way of honoring them and their heritage, you will hear certain parts of the service in Greek, such as the Lord’s Prayer. Most of the service will be in English. Other Orthodox churches in America might be called “Russian Orthodox,” or “Serbian Orthodox” like Saint Andrew’s in Anderson, but we’re all the same Church; we do most of the same things in our services.
Windows to Heaven
If you’re used to the bare walls that typify most protestant sanctuaries, you might be surprised by all the “pictures” on the walls. Some portray holy events, others holy people. We call these icons. These icons are “windows to heaven.” We don’t worship the icons themselves, nor even the saints they portray. We respect those who have gone before us in the Faith and ask for their help. You may have heard the song “the old rugged Cross.” If we can honor and venerate an inanimate object, how more so “the great cloud of witnesses” that has gone before us? Saint Basil says "the honor given the image passes to the prototype.”
You’re Not Late; Don’t Worry If You Are
Saint Paul says “pray without ceasing.” In heaven, the angels and saints constantly worship God. There is no end to the Church service there. The moment we enter the temple (the building of the Church), we begin to focus our whole selves more and more upon God. We make the Sign of the Cross; we venerate the icons; we make bows; we stand in prayer. As a result, it can sometimes be hard to tell when the service is really starting. When a priest is present, his prayers often begin long before the people’s and go long afterward. Don’t worry about being late. Just watch, pray, and contemplate the Mystery of the Church that is Christ’s body here on earth. The definite sign that we’re done is when we all move to the trapeza (fellowship hall — the room with the coffee).
No One is Doing it Right
You may see people doing all sorts of things: crossing themselves, standing, kneeling, bowing, lighting candles. First-time visitors — even regular visitors — may find themselves wondering what the right thing to do at any given time is. The fact is, there’s not a “right thing” to do. We usually cross ourselves whenever the Holy Trinity “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” is mentioned. Other than that, just pay God the respect He is due, especially in His Holy Temple. Sitting is fine. We stand as much as we can, and we stand during the reading of the Gospel. This is to show respect, but God is not a tyrant. We are all working out our salvation with fear and trembling. We’re glad to do it together.