Fr. Mark's cell phone (717) 919-3382

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Orthodox Church

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FAQ

The Top 3 Questions

Questions about Visiting

Questions about Greekiness & Greek Stuff

Questions about Worship Services

Questions about the Orthodox Faith

Questions about Who is Welcome

 

The Top 3 Questions

Do I need to be Greek?

No.  Most of us aren't.  The priest and his wife aren't.

Why is it called Greek Orthodox? 

Because, since ancient days, the capital of the worldwide Orthodox Church has been in Constantinople. (Constantinople is also called Istanbul in modern times.) 


The koine Greek that the Bible was originally written in was the official language of the Church.  However, the canons (rules) of the Church said, and still say, that the services should be done in the language of the people. 


So, everyone is welcome.  It doesn't matter what country you or your ancestors came from, or what language you speak.  You are welcome here!

What should I call the pastor and his wife?

Priest: 

  • Father Mark or simply Father  
    Generally, clergy in the Orthodox Church are called by "ordination title" + "first name."  For instance, our bishop is called Metropolitan ISAIAH.  (We capitalize the bishop's name.)

Priest's wife:

  • Presbytera Suzanne or simply Presbytera
    "Presbytera" means "the priest's wife" in Greek. 
    Presbytera is pronounced, "prez-bih-TEH-ruh."

  • Matushka Suzanne or simply Matushka
    "Matushka" means "Little Mother" in Russian.  Just as the priest is the father of the parish, the priest's wife is the mother of the parish.
    Matushka is pronounced, "MAH-toosh-kuh."

  • If either of these is too hard to say, it is acceptable to use the nickname, "Prez Suzanne."  Prez is short for Presbytera.

I've seen churches that are Russian Orthodox, Antiochian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, and so on.  Are they all the same, or different?

Yes, they all are Orthodox Churches.  As long as the parishes are in communion with the Ecumenical Patriarch in Constantinople (Istanbul), then they all are under the umbrella of Greek Orthodoxy. 


However, it is common to call a branch of the Church by the name of its country.  This is especially true if the Church government in that country has been given autocephaly or self-governing status. 


Someday, we hope, we here in the United States will be known as the American Orthodox Church, and all the Orthodox parishes here will be united under that name.

How do I find other Orthodox churches?  And Orthodox monasteries?

There is a wonderful website that lists all the Orthodox parishes and monasteries in the U.S. that are in communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople (Istanbul).  Go to the website for the Assembly of Bishops by clicking here.

How do I find out more about Orthodoxy?

So many resources are available on the internet today, that it can seem overwhelming — especially if the sources seem to contradict each other, or offer ideas that are based more on opinion than fact. 


Here are five trustworthy websites:

  1. Ancient Faith Ministries

  2. Greek Orthoox Archdiocese (GOARCH)

  3. Antiochian Archdiocese (Antioch was one of the earliest centers of Christianity.  According to Acts 11:26, "They were first called Christians in Antioch.")

  4. Orthodox Church of America (OCA)

  5. OrthodoxWiki

Additionally, there are many trustworthy links on this resource page on the Assembly of Bishops website.

Is Orthodoxy the same as Roman Catholicism?

Yes and no. 

  1. Here is a timeline of Christian Church History (click here).  You can see that, originally, there was just one, united Church.  There were five major centers or bishoprics from the early days until 1054 A.D. 

    In that year, after more than a thousand years of unity, the Roman bishop excommunicated the rest of the Church.  The other bishops' united response was that the hand cannot cut itself off from the body and call itself the whole body.

  2. We don't have just one bishop (pope) in charge of everyone.  In fact, that was one of the reasons the Romans separated from the rest of the Church. 

  3. Also, we don't believe that any one human is, could be, or ever was infallible, except Jesus Christ.  And He was, and is, both God and Man. 

    Everyone else is just like you and me, human and prone to error, sin, and other things we wish we weren't. 

    By the way, the Orthodox concept of Theosis is our daily work to resist sin and become holy, like God is.  Only He is holy, but we have to keep trying, because we are called to be like Him. 

    It is the work we all are called to do, and that is why it is good to be part of a parish community.  We strive together, supporting and encouraging one another.

What is the Orthodox Study Bible (OSB)?

The Orthodox Study Bible (OSB) has study notes written from the Orthodox perspective, reflecting the teachings of the last 2,000 years rather than modern interpretations. 


The OSB also contains a fresh translation from the Septuagint of the Old Testament, so that it is restored to the original version that the Jews of Jesus' time were familiar with. 


This makes the scriptural references in the New Testament make more sense, because the references that Christ and the Apostles were making were based on the original version.

When are the worship services?

  • Morning services always start at 9 am. 
    Evening services and Bible Study always start at 6 pm.

  • The only exceptions to the regular schedule occur during the week before Pascha (Easter) and Pascha Sunday.  Jesus Christ turned the world topsy-turvy when He used death to conquer Death. 

    So, we do the same thing that week, with the services being held at many unusual times.  See the Holy Week schedule here.

  • Come visit us on Sundays at 9 am and stay for coffee hour.  We serve good food, by the way.

    And come visit us on Wednesdays at 6 pm for Bible Study.  We all usually pitch in to bring snacks, but feel free to come as you are.

Are visitors welcome?

Yes!  Absolutely yes!  We hope you will come often, and maybe decide to join us. 

Father Mark and Presbytera first visited an Orthodox church in Indianapolis for a food festival, to get a sweet treat.  Then they started attending services at the church, and just kept coming back for more.  They found their hearts' true home in Orthodoxy. 

And that's how we all feel:  right at home.  We hope you will too.  See you soon!

For more about visiting, see here.

Do I need to call before I visit?

It's up to you.  We always feel happy knowing visitors will be coming, but we like happy surprise-visits too.

Note:  If you are already Orthodox and are hoping to receive Communion, then, yes, you should call Father first.  Fr. Mark's number is 717-919-3382.

Are there other times when I can visit?

We do have other times, so please call or text Fr. Mark, or send him an email


We are working toward having more services during the week and also a prayer service called Vespers on Saturdays.  As we start having more members, we will be able to do that. 

Meanwhile, you can join us at Sunday worship at 9 am, and Wednesday Bible Study at 6 pm.  Check the current schedule or call Fr. Mark. 


We also have occasional parish Fun Nights, special services, and field trips to other Orthodox churches and monasteries.  Everyone is welcome, so come join us!

Can I receive Communion when I visit?

If you are an Orthodox Christian who has prepared with fasting, prayer, almsgiving (time, money, talents), and recent confession, and also if you are in good standing with your parish, then yes.

Even if we are Orthodox Christians, if we have not prepared, or if we are not in good standing with our parish, then we should not receive Holy Communion.

There is something for everyone, though:  Everyone is welcome to partake of the blessed bread (anditheron) that is handed out to all comers at the end of the service. 


One of the parishioners might also hand you some anditheron after Communion, to make you feel welcome and loved.  It's okay, it's just blessed bread and not Communion.  So, you can go ahead and eat it.

Do I need to give money when I visit?

No.  We're just glad you're with us. 


If you would like to light a candle when you come in, we do ask that you donate $1-2 toward the cost of each candle.  They're real beeswax.

I'm worried about feeling pressured.  Will I really be comfortable here?

Something you might like to know is that there is no pressure to become Orthodox.  Some people attend church for years before deciding whether to join, and some people attend only a short time before deciding. 

For that matter, some choose to join the Church, and some do not.  The decision is between you and God. 


We do not preach that only Orthodox are "saved."  God knows what is in a person's heart, and it is not up to us humans to judge who is saved and who is not.

Whatever you decide, you are always welcome here!  Joining is not the important thing.  Becoming more like Christ is.

Also, we don't do altar calls.  If and when you and Father both agree that you are ready, then you can join the Church, quietly and reverently. 

What do I have to do to become a member?

First of all, come regularly to services.

Second, talk to Father and express your interest.

When you and Father both agree that you are ready, then you will be chrismated (anointed with holy oil) if you have already been baptized. 


The baptism you had previously must have been in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in order to qualify. 


If you have not been baptized yet, or if you weren't baptized in the name of the Trinity, then you will be both baptized and chrismated on the day you are received into the Church.

Are there people of other skin colors at your church?

Every Sunday, we say the Lord's Prayer in every language that our members represent. 


So far, we have Greek, Spanish, Russian, Arabic, Ethiopian, Romanian, and English.  Please come and add your voice! 


God made us all, so each and every one of us is made in the image and likeness of God.  Every single person is an icon of Christ.  We look forward to welcoming you, just as you are.

Is your building wheelchair accessible?

Yes, every area of the building has wheelchair access. 


If you need any assistance, please let us know.  We will be happy to help.

Are children welcome in the church services?  Mine are not absolutely quiet.

Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hold them back."  Children are always welcome in the services. 


Sometimes the children make a "joyful noise to the Lord," and sometimes they might sound not so joyful.  Yes, of course, we parents try to teach our children to be quiet and reverent during the services.  But they are children! 


So, if you need to step out to give your child a break, everyone will understand. 


If your child makes a momentary distraction, we will remind ourselves that we should be focusing well enough in our hymns and prayers that we don't notice! 


Children are a blessing, and we rejoice when they are in our midst.

In fact, sometimes during the service we will pass your child a quiet toy or some crayons and paper, or give you an encouraging smile. 


We know you are doing your best.  Thank you for bringing your children.  Thank you for letting them participate in the services to the best of their ability.

Should I bring a Bible when I come?

You may bring your Bible, or use the copies in the pews.  We also have Orthodox Study Bibles for sale in our bookstore in the social hall.

Do you have congregational singing?

Yes, the congregation sings during the Liturgy.  The binders in the pew holders have the written music for the service.  If we have a special hymn that week, it might not be in the binder.


During Orthros (the prayer service that precedes the Liturgy), usually it is just the chanters and those gathered around the chanters' stand sing.  However, everyone is welcome at the chanters' stand.  Just greet the head chanter when you come up and ask if you may join in.

Note:  If you would like to learn how to chant, you are welcome to come up just to observe, and to help with the spoken readings.  Just tell the head chanter when you come up to greet him or her.  You are definitely welcome at the chanters' stand!

Also, if you would like to know what the special hymns of the day are, go to Digital Chant Stand at Ages Initiatives and click on the date and service that you desire.

If you would like to see the sheet music for the special hymns, click on the eighth-notes at the top of the column, and then on the blue eighth-notes that will appear in the text in various places.  (For help with this, you may email the choir director, Prez Suzanne.)

Do you have pews?

Yes, but we stand a lot.  Wear comfortable shoes. 


If you need to sit down, then of course please do. 


Children are not expected to stand as well as adults can. 


We all, however, make special efforts to stand during certain portions of the service, such as the Lord's Prayer and Holy Communion.

Do you have an organ?

All of our singing is done a cappella, without any additional instruments.  Please join us in singing!

What is the dress code?

We ask that everyone cover their shoulders and midriffs. 


Pants should be long, not shorts.  Skirts and dresses should be knee length or longer.  Pants and skirts should not be tight-fitting.


Necklines and any open shirt collars should be modest and not show much skin.

In other words, the rule is Modesty.  This is equally true for males and females.

Visitors often ask if they should dress up or down for services.  It's up to you.  We are here to honor God, so dress appropriately.  We're not holding a fashion show, but we are in the Courts of our Lord and King.  We are joining with the angels and heavenly hosts in worshipping God.

Ladies may cover their heads with a scarf or hat if they wish.

Ladies do not wear lipstick or lip gloss in church, because it leaves marks on icons, the communion spoon, and the priest's hand.  It is better to save lipstick and lip gloss for the coffee hour time.

What kinds of services do you have?

Please see a description of the services we offer, here


In addition to these, we occasionally have other services as well. 


As the parish grows, we hope to be able to offer Saturday Vespers each week, which is a prayerful service that gets us ready for Orthros and Divine Liturgy on Sundays.

What is the music like?

The music is very beautiful, and also probably like nothing you have every heard before.  The lyrics are deep and meaningful.  The melodies are varied, coming from many Orthodox traditions.  

Samples of the lyrics can be found at the Digital Chant Stand created by Ages Initiatives.

Samples of the music can be found at these websites.  As you will hear, the music is rich and varied.

Do I need to be good to come to church?  I've done some things I'm not proud of.

The Church is a hospital for sinners.  If you were already very good and very holy, you probably wouldn't need us!

In other words, it sounds like you will fit in just fine.

In fact, in one of the prayers we say before Holy Communion, we say this:


"I believe and confess, Lord, that You are truly the Christ, the Son of the living God, Who came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the first.


In other words, each of us is the worst sinner in the whole wide world.  That's why we have no right to judge anyone else.

And no one is ever worthy of being in God's presence.  

But God knows all this, and loves us and forgives us anyway.  

So come to church.  We'll welcome you with open arms, because that's what God does for us.

Do you recite prayers, or say spontaneous prayers?

Both.  During services we say prayers that have been written and handed down through the ages.

We also silently add our own, spontaneous prayers.

There is nothing wrong or un-scriptural about saying "non-spontaneous" prayer.  It's not repetitions that Jesus told us to avoid, but vain repetitions.  (Matthew 6:7)  Mindless prayer, self-glorifying prayer, insincere prayer, or unnecessarily wordy prayer — that's what we are to avoid.


Jesus Himself taught us how to pray with the words, "Our Father, Who art in Heaven..."  The disciples had said, "Lord, teach us how to pray, as John also taught his disciples."  (Luke 11:1)

It is a great gift to have had wise men and women teaching us how to pray these last two thousand years.  Their prayers inform us how to pray, so that our spontaneous prayers will also be wise and God-pleasing.

Is everyone welcome?

Yes, everyone is welcome!  It doesn't matter whether you are young or old, short or tall, dark or light, rich or poor, military or civilian, or anything else.  You are definitely welcome.

Is it like the movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding?

Well, not exactly. 


If you want the Greekey-Greek experience, you'll need to come to our annual Greek Festival in November.  That's a great time to cry, "Opa!" and dance around to Greek music.

Or our Superbowl gyro sale in February.


Both of those are fundraisers for our church work, and a fun time to celebrate our parish's Greek heritage. 


The San Angelo parish was, indeed, founded by Greek immigrants, and we are proud and grateful for all they did.  They got the parish started, were the ones who pioneered our Greek-themed fundraisers, and left us some of the most delicious, authentic Greek recipes in the whole nation.

But, most weeks we speak English or Spanish, don't squirt Windex, and eat tortilla chips and salsa.

You see, most of us aren't Greek.

But we do serve those awesome Greek cookies called koulourakia at coffee hour, almost every week.  They're great for dunking in coffee.

 

About Greekiness & Greek Stuff

Do I need to be Greek?

No.  Most of us aren't.  The priest and his wife aren't.

Why is it called Greek Orthodox? 

Because, since ancient days, the capital of the worldwide Orthodox Church has been in Constantinople. (Constantinople is also called Istanbul in modern times.) 


The koine Greek that the Bible was originally written in was the official language of the Church.  However, the canons (rules) of the Church said, and still say, that the services should be done in the language of the people. 


So, everyone is welcome.  It doesn't matter what country you or your ancestors came from, or what language you speak.  You are welcome here!

Are children welcome in the church services?  Mine are not absolutely quiet.

Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hold them back."  Children are always welcome in the services. 


Sometimes the children make a "joyful noise to the Lord," and sometimes they might sound not so joyful.  Yes, of course, we parents try to teach our children to be quiet and reverent during the services.  But they are children! 


So, if you need to step out to give your child a break, everyone will understand. 


If your child makes a momentary distraction, we will remind ourselves that we should be focusing well enough in our hymns and prayers that we don't notice! 


Children are a blessing, and we rejoice when they are in our midst.

In fact, sometimes during the service we will pass your child a quiet toy or some crayons and paper, or give you an encouraging smile. 


We know you are doing your best.  Thank you for bringing your children.  Thank you for letting them participate in the services to the best of their ability.

Should I bring a Bible when I come?

You may bring your Bible, or use the copies in the pews.  We also have Orthodox Study Bibles for sale in our bookstore in the social hall.

Do you have congregational singing?

Yes, the congregation sings during the Liturgy.  The binders in the pew holders have the written music for the service.  If we have a special hymn that week, it might not be in the binder.


During Orthros (the prayer service that precedes the Liturgy), usually it is just the chanters and those gathered around the chanters' stand sing.  However, everyone is welcome at the chanters' stand.  Just greet the head chanter when you come up and ask if you may join in.

Note:  If you would like to learn how to chant, you are welcome to come up just to observe, and to help with the spoken readings.  Just tell the head chanter when you come up to greet him or her.  You are definitely welcome at the chanters' stand!

Also, if you would like to know what the special hymns of the day are, go to Digital Chant Stand at Ages Initiatives and click on the date and service that you desire.

If you would like to see the sheet music for the special hymns, click on the eighth-notes at the top of the column, and then on the blue eighth-notes that will appear in the text in various places.  (For help with this, you may email the choir director, Prez Suzanne.)

Do you have an organ?

All of our singing is done a cappella, without any additional instruments.  Please join us in singing!

What is the dress code?

We ask that everyone cover their shoulders and midriffs. 


Pants should be long, not shorts.  Skirts and dresses should be knee length or longer.  Pants and skirts should not be tight-fitting.


Necklines and any open shirt collars should be modest and not show much skin.

In other words, the rule is Modesty.  This is equally true for males and females.

Visitors often ask if they should dress up or down for services.  It's up to you.  We are here to honor God, so dress appropriately.  We're not holding a fashion show, but we are in the Courts of our Lord and King.  We are joining with the angels and heavenly hosts in worshipping God.

Ladies may cover their heads with a scarf or hat if they wish.

Ladies do not wear lipstick or lip gloss in church, because it leaves marks on icons, the communion spoon, and the priest's hand.  It is better to save lipstick and lip gloss for the coffee hour time.

What kinds of services do you have?

Please see a description of the services we offer, here


In addition to these, we occasionally have other services as well. 


As the parish grows, we hope to be able to offer Saturday Vespers each week, which is a prayerful service that gets us ready for Orthros and Divine Liturgy on Sundays.

What is the music like?

The music is very beautiful, and also probably like nothing you have every heard before.  The lyrics are deep and meaningful.  The melodies are varied, coming from many Orthodox traditions.  

Samples of the lyrics can be found at the Digital Chant Stand created by Ages Initiatives.

Samples of the music can be found at these websites.  As you will hear, the music is rich and varied.

Do I need to be good to come to church?  I've done some things I'm not proud of.

The Church is a hospital for sinners.  If you were already very good and very holy, you probably wouldn't need us!

In other words, it sounds like you will fit in just fine.

In fact, in one of the prayers we say before Holy Communion, we say this:


"I believe and confess, Lord, that You are truly the Christ, the Son of the living God, Who came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the first.


In other words, each of us is the worst sinner in the whole wide world.  That's why we have no right to judge anyone else.

And no one is ever worthy of being in God's presence.  

But God knows all this, and loves us and forgives us anyway.  

So come to church.  We'll welcome you with open arms, because that's what God does for us.

Do you recite prayers, or say spontaneous prayers?

Both.  During services we say prayers that have been written and handed down through the ages.

We also silently add our own, spontaneous prayers.

There is nothing wrong or un-scriptural about saying "non-spontaneous" prayer.  It's not repetitions that Jesus told us to avoid, but vain repetitions.  (Matthew 6:7)  Mindless prayer, self-glorifying prayer, insincere prayer, or unnecessarily wordy prayer — that's what we are to avoid.


Jesus Himself taught us how to pray with the words, "Our Father, Who art in Heaven..."  The disciples had said, "Lord, teach us how to pray, as John also taught his disciples."  (Luke 11:1)

It is a great gift to have had wise men and women teaching us how to pray these last two thousand years.  Their prayers inform us how to pray, so that our spontaneous prayers will also be wise and God-pleasing.

Is everyone welcome?

Yes, everyone is welcome!  It doesn't matter whether you are young or old, short or tall, dark or light, rich or poor, military or civilian, or anything else.  You are definitely welcome.

Is it like the movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding?

Well, not exactly. 


If you want the Greekey-Greek experience, you'll need to come to our annual Greek Festival in November.  That's a great time to cry, "Opa!" and dance around to Greek music.

Or our Superbowl gyro sale in February.


Both of those are fundraisers for our church work, and a fun time to celebrate our parish's Greek heritage. 


The San Angelo parish was, indeed, founded by Greek immigrants, and we are proud and grateful for all they did.  They got the parish started, were the ones who pioneered our Greek-themed fundraisers, and left us some of the most delicious, authentic Greek recipes in the whole nation.

But, most weeks we speak English or Spanish, don't squirt Windex, and eat tortilla chips and salsa.

You see, most of us aren't Greek.

But we do serve those awesome Greek cookies called koulourakia at coffee hour, almost every week.  They're great for dunking in coffee.

 
orthodox-bible-study.jpg

Frequently Asked Questions

Have a question?  You're not alone!
Here are some of the questions we hear most frequently.

Don't see your question below?  Ask Fr. Mark!