Church Etiquette

Gentle reminders about Church Etiquette

This guide is meant for personal reflection, not as a means of judging others. Keep in mind that there are different traditions among the Orthodox faithful. In Orthodoxy there is a wider acceptance of individualized expressions of piety, rather than a sense that people are watching you and getting offended if you do it wrong. Variations in behavior with pious intent should not be confused with disrespectful behavior. If you are uncertain about something, ask Father. We come to church to pray and worship God above all else, and that should be our focus.
The Orthodox Divine Liturgy begins when the priest intones, “Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” It is important to arrive early enough to receive this blessing. Arriving later causes a distraction for others who are praying. If an occasional problem occurs and you have to come in late, enter the church reverently and quietly.
ENTERING THE CHURCH (before entering turn off all your personal devices!)
Continue through the narthex quietly and reverently. First, light your candle. Candles represent the light of Christ and the flame of the Holy Spirit. Candle-stands are in the narthex. Venerate the Gospel and icons before you. The Orthodox Church teaches that it is proper to venerate, not worship, icons. The acceptable way to do this is to kiss either the hands or feet of the saint depicted in the icon, or the scroll, the Gospel book, or the hand cross a saint is holding. 
  • If wearing lipstick to church, please blot the lipstick before venerating any, icon, relic, or vestment.
Try not to interrupt the Liturgy by your entrance. Remain stationary in the narthex if:
            • The Priest is facing the congregation
            • The Priest is incensing the altar and/or congregation
            • During the Small Entrance (Priest carries out the Holy Gospel)
            • During the Great Entrance (Priest carries out the Holy Gifts)
            • During the readings of the Epistle and the Gospel
            • During Consecration of the Gifts (“Se Imnoumen”)
            • During the Creed & the Lord’s Prayer
            • During the sermon

Refrain from socializing during the Liturgy – Save your greetings and conversations for coffee hour. We are in the Liturgy to greet God with our prayers and worship, not to distract others.

It is the custom of some Orthodox Christians to stand throughout the Divine Liturgy, as well as during other services. It is perfectly acceptable to stand in church. If you choose to stand the whole time, please do so in the side chairs so that the view of the altar is not blocked for those who are seated. Sometimes the priest will motion to stand or sit, respectfully follow the request.
If you sit during the Divine Liturgy, remember to stand at these times:
  • When the Liturgy begins and the priest gives the blessing;
  • During the Small and Great Entrances
  • When the priest is censing the icons and congregation
  • During the Gospel reading
  • At the Anaphora
  • For Holy Communion
  • At the final Blessing
Orthodox Christians are invited to approach and receive Holy Communion if they are properly prepared. Please allow Godparents and parents to bring newly baptized children first. All others who are prepared to do so may then approach the holy chalice. The cloth held by the priest and the altar boys is there to prevent any particles of the gifts from falling onto the floor.  It is not to be used as a napkin.