Friday, July 31, 2009

Otters, Logs, and Falls (A Trip to the Smokies, part 5)

Grotto Falls - a satisfying reward to a long and somewhat grueling hike

Our oldest daughter Audrey's favorite animal is the otter. We had read that a large number of otters made their home in the GSMNP, so we decided on the fourth day of our trip to seek some out. We chose to hike along the Little River, which was the least popular location in the park that was said to contain otters. We figured that the fewer people were around, the more likely it was that we would actually see an otter or two.

We hiked a long way and did not see a single otter. But we had some fun anyway. At one point, we found a mini-island that was connected to the near bank of the river (more like a creek, actually) by a single log. When I saw that log, the little boy in me quickly bubbled up to the surface. I just had to cross this makeshift bridge! To my satisfaction, I did so with ease (walking, I might add, upright!).

Audrey decided to join me, but she was a little too nervous to cross on foot. Instead, she cautiously scooted across on her bottom.

She made it, but I couldn't help ragging on her a little (after all, isn't this part of a parent's job?).

Not to be outdone, Beth decided to try it herself.

Her she celebrates her great achievement while I inspect:

When it was time to go back, I gave the girls a clinic on the "manly" way to cross. They chose to go across on all fours anyway.

As usual, we were wiped out by the end of our hike (which was only about 2 miles total this time, but still tiring). We decided to go home, have lunch, and take naps. After that, I wanted to tackle another trail. All the girls except Courtney balked. So Jennifer and I took Courtney and left Audrey to watch Beth and Christine. They had a lot of important cable TV to watch! (We don't have cable at our home).
Jennifer, Courtney, and I decided to attack another trail that lead to a falls - Grotto falls, to be exact. Here we are at the trailhead.

Unfortunately, this was not exactly where we started hiking. We parked at what we THOUGHT was the Grotto Falls trailhead, but it turned out to be a different trailhead. This mistake required us to hike an extra 1.6 miles - uphill nearly all the way, and on an extremely narrow and rough trail. So instead of hiking 1.2 miles to the falls, we ended up hiking 2.8. But without the two littlest girls, we could really hoof it. We made it in about an hour.
When we got to the falls, we were not disappointed. These were probably the prettiest of all the falls we saw during our trip.

The hike back was much easier than the hike to the falls, not the least of which because it was mainly downhill. When we got back to the real Grotto Falls trailhead, I had Jennifer and Courtney wait in the nearby parking lot while I hiked the remaining 1.6 miles to the car. With only me hiking, and going almost entirely downhill, I was able to cover the distance in about half an hour. Then I picked Jennifer and Courtney up and we drove home. That afternoon, I hiked a total of 5.6 miles, and on the day I hiked nearly 8. Not bad for a city slicker!
The next day, we would see some even more interesting sites...

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A New Bible Story! -- by Clint

Not long after I met Debbie and decided that I wanted to enter full-time ministry (this was back when I was a protestant), I realized that it was foolish for me to stand in front of a church group, telling them what the scriptures had to say about some issue or the other. The reason that this thought entered my mind was because I had never read the entire Bible before. Not even once.

I was a preacher’s kid, but somehow I had eluded actually reading the book from cover to cover. For those who know me well, that might come as surprising. I read just about everything I can, whenever I can. But for some reason, the Bible had escaped my in depth perusal.

So I decided to rectify that situation. Imagine my surprise as the stories unfolded from the pages as I moved from book to book. Granted, I knew most of the stories from Genesis and Exodus. OK, Leviticus is not so much a story as a “how to” book for everything from sacrifices to cleaning leprosy from your house. But by the time I got to the book of Judges, I was blown away by how many of the stories in that book I had never heard before.

I won’t go into detail about some of them because they are not G rated. In fact, if they made some of those stories into movies, our kids couldn’t go without an adult present, if at all. (That might suggest why they were overlooked in Sunday School). Needless to say, I was glad that I finally read the stories. Not because of the content, but because I was finally learning the “fullness” of the faith.

It has been quite a long time since that occurred. I have read the Protestant version of the Bible several times. The initial thrill of learning a new Biblical story has long since worn off.

Well, until I opened my Orthodox Study Bible (OSB). OK, OK, I have had it for awhile now. I ordered it as soon as the full Bible version was released. I even got it in leather. Now, I have tons of new stories to read. Some are old stories that I already knew, but have a slight twist due to the change brought about because the Orthodox Old Testament is based upon the Septuagint. But I also have entire books of the Bible to read that I never read before.

I had already read the Maccabees (actually the first 4 of them) before I became Orthodox. But Baruch never made it on my radar. Neither did Judith, Tobit, Bel and the Dragon, etc. Imagine the joy that I am finding when I open the books of my OSB and read a new, fresh word preserved by God! It is fantastic.

Not only do I have the Orthodox version of the Bible, but I have centuries of Church Fathers to immerse myself in. The various saints preserved wonderful and edifying words for us to read, study and absorb.

As much as I have enjoyed my adventure in Orthodoxy so far, I can’t help but think that the best is yet to come. With all of these wonderful stories set before me, how could it not be?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Walk in the Woods (A Trip to the Smokies, Part 4)

Hen Wallow Falls in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park - the goal of our first real hike

On the third day of our trip to the Smokies, we finally got around to doing the thing that Jennifer and I wanted to do most - hike! On our drives through the park on the first two days, we had noticed huge crowds at the trailheads of hiking trails that lead to some of the most popular falls. We don't like crowds.

So, Jennifer studied the map and found an out-of-the way trail leading to a lesser-known fall called Hen Wallow Falls. The total length of the trail is 2.6 miles (1.3 miles to the falls and 1.3 back), which we thought was not too wimpy, yet not too long for the kids. Here we are before we left, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. We can't wait to get going!

When you visit the GSMNP, as I mentioned before, you spend a LOT of time driving. This photo is typical of what you see most of the time:

We reached the trailhead in about 30 minutes and were glad to see only a handful of cars. After a few hundred yards, we found a sign that was supposed to show us which way to go to get to the falls. Unfortunately, the sign wasn't much help, since it was lying on the ground. I picked it up and tried to figure out which way to go. We had to take a guess.

Thankfully, we guessed right. The trail was much less steep than the one leading to the top of "Old Smoky," but it was not paved and was often pretty rough going. It was loaded with all types of challenges, such as rock-hard roots that stuck high out of the ground and tried their best to trip you up, as this typical view shows (as always, click on the photo to enlarge it):

Other obstacles included VERY narrow and slick bridges over raging rapids (okay, I'm exaggerating just a little):

Plus slippery rock paths:

But the trip also contained many fascinating sights, including yellow spaghetti that grows straight out of the ground:

And bright red mushrooms (there were plenty of other interesting flora, but you don't want to look at fifty pictures, do you?):

The kids had a great time, at least on the way up:

They especially loved the bugs!

Finally, after hiking for about 2 hours, we made it to the falls, where the trail ended. There we had a mini-picnic.

On the way back, despite our having rested for nearly half an hour at the falls, we were plumb tuckered out. But no one was more tired than Christine. Along the way, she often intitated a "sit-down strike."

"Come on, Christine, get up! We have to get back to the car!"

"All right, all right, I'll carry you for a while!" (I actually ended up carrying her MOST of the way down! Well, at least it was mostly downhill!)

I didn't mind a bit. I cherish such moments, for they will not last forever. Before I know it, she'll be a teenager!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Old Smoky and Smoky the Mule (A Trip to the Smokies, part three)

The Magnificent Six, returning from a triumphant ride (well, okay, close enough!)

Encompassing 814 square miles, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park has a lot of ground to cover. On the first day of our stay there, we decided to give ourselves an overview of the park by driving all the way across it, enjoying the scenery and stopping at only two places: the Sugarlands Visitor Center (the one closest to Gatlinburg), and Clingman's Dome, which at an elevation of 6643 feet is one of the highest peaks in the eastern US.

There really wasn't anything special to photograph at the Visitor Center, but we took several photos of our stop at Clingman's Dome. Clingman's is also known as "Old Smoky," the very same mountain immortalized in the famous old ballad "On Top of Old Smoky." After parking in the parking lot at the foot of the peak, we (along with perhaps a couple hundred others) walked up the VERY steep paved path to the summit. Here's an example of the breathtaking views we saw along the way:

At the summit of "Old Smoky" is an observation tower, which was built to enable visitors to get a great view. When the tower was first built in the sixties, it supposedly offered views of up to 100 miles when the weather was clear. Here's the tower (not the prettiest sight we saw!):

We climbed to the top of the tower, which is about a hundred or so feet high, but which mercifully has a spiraling ramp with a very gentle grade. When we reaced the top, we had a beautiful view of....

Well, pretty much just clouds. Due to acid rain and other types of pollution, those old views of up to 100 miles no longer exist. The day we were there was a particularly cloudy one, and visibility was probably not even one mile. Here, Courtney is enjoying her view of the clouds.

And here we all are, enjoying the chilly weather. It must have been about 60 degrees in the tower, which was a great blessing after the near-100 degree heat (and 90% humidity) that we had been "enjoying" in Houston for the previous six weeks.

Time to head down.... (I spent quite a bit of time carrying Christine on this trip!)

Clingman's Dome is roughly in the middle of the park, and it was thus halfway along the 45-mile-long road that cuts directly across the park. After we had almost reached the opposite end of the park, we made an interesting find, something that was not even on our map. We saw a sign that said "Mingus Mill" and decided "What the heck? Let's go check it out!"

Mingus Mill (named for a nearby creek) is a reconstructed late 19th and early 20th century mill that actually functioned on the very spot where it is currently located. It was definitely worth the stop. Here's a view of (almost) the entire mill.

Here are the kids and me in front of the water sluice.

You'll never guess the name of the man who built and ran the mill for most of its existence...

Sion Thomas EARLY! We couldn't believe it. Since my paternal ancestors came from Knox County, Tennessee (adjacent to the county that Gatlinburg is in), it is very likely that this Mr. Early is a relative of mine. In the photo below, you can see his initials ("STE") carved into the wall of the main building, just below the gable (click photo to enlarge).

That was pretty much it for day one. Most people (including us) spend most of their time in the Smokies just driving from place to place. We put a total of 420 miles on our car in the six days we were there. The combination of mountain driving and hiking can wipe you out. On our way home, we spent a little bit of time walking around Gatlinburg. We ate dinner in a reasonably-priced but mediocre Italian restaurant, then returned to the cabin fairly early and collapsed.

On our second day, we decided to go horseback riding. There are a large number of places that offer riding, and most of them are reasonably priced. The first one we picked (we found out after we parked and went to the office) did not allow 4-year-olds to have their own horse, or even to ride with someone else. We did not want to leave Christine behind, so we went elsewhere. The second place we chose was quite some distance away. Not only that, but we got lost on the way and ended up driving an extra 45 minutes to get there. We didn't even get to the place until noon, having left the cabin at about 9:45.

The place was called "Davy Crockett Riding Stables." This seemed fitting, since Crockett had connections to both Tennesee and Texas. And they DID allow 4-year-olds to ride by themselves, so all six of us would get our own horse.
I got a sweet-tempered white mule named (appropriately enough) Smoky. He was very well-behaved and easy to manage. Here I am on him. You can also see Audrey, Beth, and Courtney (in the foreground) on their horses.
We were a little anxious about how Courtney would do. Jennifer told our trail guide that she was autistic and almost entirely non-verbal. Somehow, the guide didn't get the message. For the first 10 or so minutes, when the guide would tell us all to do something like lean forward, and Courtney didn't respond, she would say, "What's her name?" ("Courtney!" we would reply). "Hey, Courtney! Lean forward! Courtney! Hel -LOOOOOO!" Jennifer finally reminded her that Courtney is autistic and can't respond to such commands and questions. The guide finally got used to her, and even though Courtney had a few problems, she did quite well. She had a great time, as did we all.

Christjne was so excited to have her own horse. She did perfectly!

Happy trails, to you.......

We all had a wonderful time riding our horses (which we did for an hour). Next time: our first hikes.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Negligence and Maturity

Amma Syncletica, one of the most well-known of the Desert Mothers

I don't have the time or energy to do the next post on our trip to the Smokies tonight, so I'll give you some sayings by the Desert Mother Amma Syncletica, along with commentary by patristics scholar Laura Swan.

Saying 22: [Amma Syncletica] also said, Just as it is impossible to be at the same moment both a plant and a seed, so it is impossible for us to be surrounded by worldly honor and at the same moment bear heavenly fruit.

[commentary]Most of us are a mosaic of maturity and immaturity. God creates us with wonderful potential: potential that needs tender nurturing and exposure to growth-filled experiences. When we patiently tend to our inner gardens, the seed of spirituality germinates. Growth, maturity, and fruitfulness are the result. Self-defeating, self-deceiving behaviors thwart this seed's attempts to grow, leaving us in stagnating immaturity.

Amma Syncletica consistently rejects worldly recognition. She is concerned that honors given by society may diminish ardent pursuit of the inner journey. Nothing is to detract us from the primacy of Jesus in our lives.

Saying 23: She also said, My children, we all want to be saved, but because of our habit of negligence, we swerve away from salvation.

[commentary]Amma Syncletica is ...concerned about a mature living out of salvation that is serious about following Jesus. Negligence is deceptive, often initially appearing to be 'good.' Seemingly innocuous choices can begin to snowball - we become unaware and inattentive in many ways. This is why we must be watchful and attentive, discerning the direction of our choices.

Sayings of Amma Syncletica of Egypt, 5th Century Saint
Commentary by Laura Swan, OSB,
The Forgotten Desert Mothers, pages 60-61
Paulist Press, New York, 2001

Friday, July 24, 2009

Lodging and Arrival (A Trip to the Smokies Part 2)

Map of Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, girlhood home of Dolly Parton and tourist-trap capital of East Tennessee.

After you have decided where you are going and what you would like to do, the next most important step in vacation planning is deciding where to stay. Lodging is usually the greatest expense in a vacation (unless you spend money like water during the vacation).

The first thing we ruled out was something that many people do when visiting a national park, namely camping. I have never been a fan of camping. I'm just too much of a city slicker I guess.

Next, we ruled out a hotel. With a total of six people in our family, we would be tripping over each other in a hotel room. We would really need two rooms, and this would drive our nightly cost to very near $200 a night, after all the many taxes and fees are added in. When we were still thinking about going to San Antonio, I looked into an extended stay suite. But again, the cost per night would be pushing $200 per night, and this was considerably more than we wanted to pay.

After we decided to go to the Smokies, Jennifer had a brilliant idea. She Googled "Cabins near Gatlinburg, Tennessee" (Gatlinburg is the only decent-sized town near the national park). She found several agencies that rent out cabins, and we quickly decided on one called Mountain Rentals of Gatlinburg. Mountain Rentals offered a very large number of cabins, with nightly rates as low as $85. We decided on one a little more upscale, with 2 bedrooms and a full kitchen. We had planned to spend at least some of our time just relaxing in our cabin and wanted to be able to cook our own meals as much as possible, so this cabin was an excellent fit.

We had planned to take two days to travel the almost 1000 miles from our home to the cabin, stay five full days, and then take two days to come back. So we booked six nights. Soon after we did so, however, a person at the agency was kind enough to call us and tell us that with our six-night rental, we were entitled to an additional night free. This meant a whole extra day that we could spend in the area, but it required us to make the 1000-mile trip in one day (I had to be back by the 23rd to do a wedding rehearsal on the 24th). So, with a little bit of dread, we decided to do it.

In order to make it there on time to be able to get our key, we had to leave at 3 AM. That hurt, especially since Jennifer and I only got a couple hours of sleep. Still, the trip was blessedly uneventful, if very long and grueling. The kids didn't whine and complain too much, thanks in part to the portable DVD players that we had bought (I can't believe how cheap they are nowadays!) We were all excited when we were on I-40 and saw the exit sign for Gatlinburg.

Soon after we exited, we saw something that none of us expected. At about 9:30 PM or so we hit bumper-to-bumper traffic as we entered the town of Pigeon Forge. Pigeon Forge is the town in which Dolly Parton grew up, and it is now the home of three of her entertainment enterprises: Dollywood, Dollywood Splash Country, and The Dixie Stampede. In addition to these touristy places, Pigeon Forge also has hundreds of other ways for a fool and his money to be parted. We had never seen so many putt golf places, museums, rides, shops, restaurants, pancake houses, ice cream stops, and other types of tourist traps packed into such a small place. At nearly 10 PM, the town was abuzz with activity. We (well, those of who were awake anyway) just stared with our mouths wide open.

We continued staring as we entered Gatlinburg itself. Gatlinburg is a smaller version of Pigeon Forge. It seemed like it took us forever to get to our cabin, but we finally did around 10:30 or so. Exhausted, we put the kids to bed and soon afterward collapsed into bed ourselves. We were beat, but glad to be there and ready to start exploring the Smokies!

Here are some pictures of our cabin.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A Trip to the Smokies! Part One: Preparation

Well, we're back from a wonderful vacation at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I thought over the next several posts that I would share some photos from our trip and some of our experiences. Yes, dear readers, I am going to venture into yet another type of writing: the travelogue. Of course, these posts have nothing to do with Orthodoxy. This would fit into the "life in this crazy 21st century world" category. I hope you enjoy this new series.

Before this year, Jennifer and the kids and I had not been on a real family vacation since the year 2000. Of course, that means that Beth and Christine NEVER had! When we last went on a real vacation, we were living in Sarajevo, Bosnia, and we visited Salzburg, Austria. We hadn't been on vacation in the U.S. since 1998. Since 2000, we either haven't had the time or the money (often neither). This year, thanks be to God, we finally had both.

Because it had been so long since we had been on vacation, we were rusty. We had forgotten a lot about how to prepare for a vacation. This meant that we had to go back to the basics.

In my opinion, the first thing you must do in preparing for a vacation is to decide what exactly you hope to accomplish on the trip. Then you can decide where exactly you will go. Do you want to visit historical sites, visit museums, take in a lot of shows and rides, do a lot of "kidsy" things, spend time in the great outdoors, or a combination of these things? When we first started planning our trip over a year ago, we were going to make it all about the kids. I suggested Disneyworld, but Jennifer never was very interested in this option. Later, we decided upon San Antonio. There are a lot of things to do there, including Sea World, Fiesta Texas (an amusement park kind of like Six Flags), the Alamo, the Riverwalk, and more. This was our working plan for several months.

But when Jennifer was growing up, her parents often took her and her siblings hiking and camping in the woods. On one trip, they had traveled as far as the Smoky Mountains. Jennifer has fond memories of both that trip and the Great Smoky Mountain National Park itself. What's more, Jennifer and I had once passed through the Smokies on a trip from South Carolina to Texas. After taking in the breathtaking beauty of the mountains, we vowed to return one day and to actually spend some time there. These memories, combined with our love for nature (and hiking in it) and our lack of love for the Texas summer heat, made us decide to ditch our plans to visit another big, hot, crowded Texas city and head for the mountains!

Looking at pictures like the following didn't hurt, either:

Of course, we didn't see this EXACT picture, since we took it on the trip. But you get the picture.

So, the Smokies it was! But where would we stay?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Some Random Thoughts From My First Three Months as an Orthodox Christian

Here are a few things that have taken a tour of my mind over the past several weeks. Some are recurring and some are not. I just thought I would share.

- Clint

I hope I get to have bay leaves thrown at me next year.

I appreciate the Orthodoxy Clergy – every one of them. Even the ones I probably disagree with about some things.

After a lifetime of being “in church,” I have never met more authentic Christians than I have in the past few years of being associated with Orthodoxy.

I wish someone had told me that different priest have different opinions on whether or not you should close your lips over the spoon when receiving communion.

I am glad that a particular priest said, “close your lips” very quietly, so that not everyone in the parish could hear.

Coffee hour is a great idea (even though I don’t drink that vile stuff).

I miss Catechumen class (though I don’t miss being a catechumen).

Something new in the Divine Liturgy jumps out at me each and every week.

My favorite part of the Divine Liturgy has been and continues to be the Trisagion Hymn.

I enjoy singing in the choir.

It is amazing that they let me sing in the choir after my first attempt at chanting.

I enjoy learning the chants for Vespers.

Am I the only one who wonders why some priests’ vestments have high backs and some don’t?

I am glad that my wife came around….

I am looking forward to Fr. James getting back – and not just so he can take over his blog again.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

A Missionary Kid Returns Home (part two: Getting Saved)

When you’re a kid on a mission station, your entire life is wrapped up in the local church. This is mostly a good thing. On Sunday mornings we’d hear the tolling of the bell and know it was time to make the 100-meter trek over to morning service. And then Mom taught Sunday School in our living room right afterwards. Being in the center of a Christian community in a mostly non-Christian village meant that we had lots of very good friends who took very good care of each other.

It also meant that I learned a lot about my religion very early on, but with some interesting gaps. In church we used the two local languages—Samburu and Rendille—as well as some Swahili and English. English is the only of these four that I’ve ever learned well. So I was very accustomed, from my earliest years, to worshiping and listening to sermons in languages I didn’t understand. This meant that my understanding of “church” was based more on community than on intellect, and it also meant that most of my Christian education came not from church but from my parents.

The Africa Inland Church practices adult baptism and believes that you are not a Christian until you consciously decide to become one. So, in local parlance I “became a Christian” at age four after saying a prayer asking Jesus to come into my heart. I no longer have any idea what my motivation was for doing this, beyond the knowledge that it was something I was supposed to do. Of course I was an Evangelical Christian, because that was the only culture I’d ever known, but I guess I also recognized that in order to be treated as such I had to say the words myself and announce it to the family.

My understanding of “getting saved” was that in order to be a Christian you had to 1) ask Jesus into your heart and 2) really mean it. Well, I’d done the first step, but had I really meant it? In second grade we spent a year in the States and I recall a speaker at my grandparents’ Southern Baptist congregation challenging all the seven-year-olds to think about whether they had really and truly asked Jesus into their hearts. If we weren’t absolutely sure, he said, we should raise our hands. So I raised my hand, because I didn’t remember if I had really really meant it when I said those words at age four.

This question was to torment the next dozen years of my life. At least once a year on average I’d worry that my previous salvation experiences had been for impure motives like getting into heaven or getting God to like me rather than absolute genuine untainted love. And so, unsure of whether I was really a Christian, I’d ask Jesus into my heart again. And then worry that it didn’t count because I’d done it for the wrong reason yet again.

This uncertainty about the true state of my soul only got worse as I grew older...

Thursday, July 16, 2009

What to Expect

I enjoy surfing the web and looking at websites from various parishes within Orthodoxy. I enjoy sites from parishes from various jurisdictions (I am not an Antiochaphile, I suppose). Often, the sites say basically the same thing, with their own pictures being the only major difference between them (Sometimes, even those aren't different....)

But occasionally, I see a site that has something very unique and interesting. I found such a site today. The article is entitled "What to Expect When You Visit This Church," but it isn't the article from Frederica Matthewes-Greene that so many of us have enjoyed. I thought I would share it here. It might be that I have just missed it in my searches, but I still enjoyed it.

It comes from and OCA Parish in Clinton, MS - Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.


...Because Orthodox Christianity is unfamiliar to most people in this area, here are a few thoughts to help you know what to expect.

...The beauty of Orthodox worship must be experienced to be understood. The Divine Liturgy expresses the entire Christian faith in a continuous song of praise and prayer addressed to God. It is focused on God, not on us. There is nothing just for amusement or entertainment. Since much of the service is the same every week, worshippers know it and can participate personally, either by singing along or just by prayerful attention. Worshippers are surrounded by icons (pictures of Christ and the saints), which remind us that we are participating while on earth in the worship of all the angels and saints in heaven. The entire service (except for the sermon) is sung, at Holy Resurrection mostly to Russian chants and melodies. No organ or other instruments are used. The words are all from Scripture or ancient Christian texts – no rhyming metrical hymns are used. All our services are in the English language. (Below is an outline of the Sunday Liturgy).

Participating in the Services

Body Worship

Orthodox worship with their bodies as well as with words, so you will see that people at times bow, make the sign of the Cross, etc. If you are not Orthodox, of course no one expects you to do these things – just sit or stand and listen, and participate to the degree that you wish.

Holy Communion (The Lord's Supper
) is understood by Orthodox as a sign of membership in the Church and an act of commitment to the Church, so it is not given to those who are not members of the Orthodox Church. (We invite you to become a member -- see below.)
In fact, Orthodox should not receive Holy Communion unless they have recently been to Confession and have eaten and drunk nothing since the night before. Orthodox who are not known to the priest should speak to him beforehand so he will know they are communicants; just ask a member to send word to him.

The bread and wine on the table in the center of the Church is not Holy Communion, but is like a fellowship meal, called antidoron. Non-Orthodox may receive this after the service if they wish.

Standing (and kneeling) are the Biblical postures for prayer and Orthodox traditionally stand at Sunday services. But for most people this takes some "getting in shape", so feel free to sit as much as you wish. We have enough benches that those who wish to sit can do so. We don’t normally kneel on Sundays, as Sunday is the Day of Resurrection and kneeling is considered penitential; we kneel a good bit at weekday services during Lent.

Children - we don't have a nursery because we believe it is appropriate and beneficial for children to be in the services as much as possible. It may take a few visits, but young children can learn to settle down, and it's surprising how much even toddlers absorb. It's no problem if they move about quietly, but please be considerate and take them out briefly if they become very noisy, especially during the sermon.

Visitors Welcome
– you will not be publicly introduced or called attention to. Orthodox try not to talk during the services, so it may be that no one will greet you until the service is over. After Sunday services we have food and drink in the Parish Hall; you’re invited to join us there so we can get to know each other. No one will put any pressure on you to join the Church; many people “visit” our Church for years. We send announcements of Church activities weekly by email and a printed newsletter quarterly. If you wish to receive these send us your address.

The Divine Liturgy - The normal Sunday morning service is called the Divine Liturgy. With sermon, it lasts about an hour and a half. It includes:
1.Responsive prayers called litanies.
2. Praise, usually Psalms 103 and 147 and the Beatitudes (St. Matthew 5: 3-12)
3. Procession with the Gospel Book
4. Hymns of the day, on Sundays especially of the Resurrection, and the hymn Holy God.
5. Epistle and Gospel readings and sermon
6. The Great Entrance, a solemn procession carrying the Gifts of bread and wine to the altar, representing the offering of our lives to God
7. The Nicene Creed, the summary of the Faith
8. The Eucharistic Prayer. We "lift up our hearts" to join the angels in singing Holy, Holy, Holy and offering thanksgiving (Eucharist) to God for all His works, especially remembering Christ's saving work, and asking the Holy Spirit to transform our Gifts into Christ's Body and Blood. It concludes with the Our Father (Lord's Prayer).
9. Communion. Orthodox who are prepared by repentance and fasting receive the Holy Gifts as a means of union with Christ. Our children receive because God's work in us is not limited to what we can understand.

Vespers - The normal Saturday Evening Service is called Great Vespers. It lasts about 45 minutes. It is a preparation for, not a substitute for, worship at the Sunday Liturgy. It consists mainly of singing of Psalms, especially Psalms 104 and 141, the "evening offering" of incense, and the hymns O Gladsome Light and Lord, Now Lettest (Luke 2:29). It has themes of Creation and Resurrection as the "eve" of the Day of Resurrection, the first day of the week.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does "Theotokos" mean? Theotokos (Mother of God) is a title for the Virgin Mary. Orthodox love and honor (but do not worship) her because of our union with her Son. The attention given her in the Church also expresses our faith that Jesus Christ is truly human, born of a woman as we are, yet mysteriously has always been God, so His human mother can be called the Mother of God. In many hymns she is a sign of the Church as the beloved bride of God (Rev. 21:2); her exaltation as "more glorious than the Seraphim" is a sign of the exaltation awaiting all who "hear the Word of God and keep it" as she did.

What are Icons? Icons are paintings of Christ and the Saints. They must be painted according to a strict tradition because they are an important way the Faith is handed down and taught. Icons and crosses are kissed ("venerated"), but not worshipped, as a sign of our belief that in Christ God took a physical body, became part of our physical world so we could know Him. Other human beings who unite themselves with Christ become holy and the image of God becomes visible in them so we honor their icons, as well.

Incense, vestments, and candles are part of the imagery of heavenly worship in the Book of Revelation. In the Liturgy we participate while still in this world in the worship of the angels and saints in heaven. Many people buy candles and place them in the church as an offering of light to the Lord, who told us to let our light shine.

Standard prayers and hymns are used rather than extemporaneous or modern ones because they contain the accumulated insights of many centuries of Christians, and most of them are packed with Biblical quotations. They are repetitious because that way they become rooted in our minds. They are chanted or sung rather than spoken so we are less conscious of the personality of the individual reader.

How Can I Join This Church? We don’t hurry anyone to join; many people “visit” for years. But after visiting a while, if you wish to be a member, speak to the priest. Those wishing to be members are received as catechumens (learners), and usually spend at least a year attending the services and learning the Faith. Then if they have not already received Christian Baptism they are Baptized, and in any case are Chrismated (anointed with oil as the “Seal of the Gift of the Holy Spirit”) and given Holy Communion, which makes them full members.