A personal welcome…
Welcome to Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church, Tacoma Washington. We pray that your visit will be a source of blessing for you. Though our manner of Christian worship is centuries old, most Americans find it a bit different at first — but watch and listen, and the timeless beauty of heavenly, eternal worship will begin to reveal itself to you. Please, when you visit, don't worry about "doing the right thing;" we count it a sin to judge others while we pray (Luke 18:10-14). As you will see, we do like to stand in the presence of God, but if you need to sit, please do so! While the worship of the Holy Trinity is the very heart and foundation of our community and faith, we also find encouragement in fellowship with one another through our various parish activities. You will find that we simply enjoy being with each other!
We are one of the oldest Orthodox Christian communities in the United States, and the first to use English exclusively in Washington. Having outgrown historic Holy Trinity church in Wilkeson, we have moved into our new home southeast of Tacoma city limits. Here, amidst ten beautiful acres of field and forest, we have built and have had to enlarge preliminary buildings as we grow and welcome more people to our faith. There is no hiding the fact that we are very excited to be a part of one of the fastest-growing faiths in North America, while at the same time a part of the oldest Christian Church in the world. Most of us were new visitors once, and most of us are converts to Orthodox Christianity!
Whether you spend a morning, an evening or a lifetime, you will at least have come away with the experience of how, for centuries, countless millions of Christians have worshiped the Most Holy Trinity throughout Eastern Europe and lands around the eastern Mediterranean. It is a way shaped by the churches of Jerusalem, Antioch and Constantinople, a way inspired by Kiev and Moscow: now it is our turn in Pierce County, Washington, and we would be blessed to have you be a part of it!
God bless you!
The Clergy and Faithful of Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church
Children are the future of the church, and one of the most important ways to provide for that future is to engage children in an Orthodox Sunday school program to instill in them the beliefs of the church from an early age and to increase the depth of their belief and understanding of the church as they grow.
What to Expect at Services
We welcome all who seek the fullness of God. We are blessed to have many visitors, and we are truly glad to welcome visitors to our Church. Because Orthodox Christianity is unfamiliar to most people in this area — it was new to many of us as well — we have written this to help you know what to expect.
On Sunday morning we usually have 120 – 130 people in Church, many of them children. 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, worshipers know it and can participate personally, either by singing along or just by prayerful attention. Worshipers 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 to melodies and chants originating in Eastern Europe. No organ or other instruments are used, but an a cappella choir leads the people in singing. The words are all from Scripture or ancient Christian texts — no rhyming metrical hymns are used. Our services are in the English language.
Participating in the Services
◾Body Worship — Orthodox worship with their bodies as well as with words. 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.
◾Communion 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 non-Orthodox. In fact, Orthodox should not receive 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 so he will know they are communicants; just ask a member to send word to him. The cubes of bread offered in the large bowls are not Communion, but are like a fellowship meal, called antidoron. This is frequently given to visitors as a gift out of love. The bread is blessed and set apart before Communion and should be eaten reverently.
◾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 seats for those who wish to sit. 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 during the services 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 — we have a number of children ourselves and are used to some movement — but please be considerate and take them out briefly if they become very noisy, especially during the sermon.
◾Visitors Welcome — 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 Common Meal, a time of food and drink together in the Parish House; 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.
The Divine Liturgy
The main Sunday morning service is called the Divine Liturgy. With sermon, it lasts about an hour and a half. It includes:
◾Responsive prayers called litanies.
◾Praise, usually Psalms 103 and 147 and the Beatitudes (St. Matthew 5: 3-12)
◾Procession with the Gospel Book
◾Hymns of the day, on Sundays especially of the Resurrection, and the hymn, “Holy God.”
◾Epistle and Gospel readings and sermon
◾The Great Entrance, a solemn procession carrying the Gifts of bread and wine to the altar, representing the offering of our lives to God
◾The Nicene Creed, the summary of the Faith
◾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 Lord’s Prayer.
◾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.
The normal Saturday Evening Service is called Great Vespers. It lasts about an hour. Orthodox Christians, like the Jews before them, believe the new day starts on the evening before. Great Vespers 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; 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 worshiped, as a sign of our belief that in Christ God took a physical body, and 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, 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; some people “visit” for years. We offer a repeating series of inquirers classes, check the calendar on our website for dates and times. There are no obligations to join while attending these classes. If, after learning the basic teachings of the Orthodox Faith, you desire to join the Church, then speak to the priest about becoming a catechumen (Greek for “learner”). The catechumenate is the initial stage of membership before the Orthodox Christian initiation rites of Baptism and Chrismation (anointing with sacred oil as the “Seal of the Gift of the Holy Spirit”). Along with special prayers for the catechumens during church services, they are taught the Christian disciplines of prayer, fasting, almsgiving and participation in the sacramental life.
Adapted from St. Athanasius Church, our sister parish near Lexington, KY: athanasiusoca.org
Orthodox worship is different! Some of these differences are apparent, if perplexing, from the first moment you walk in a church. Others become noticeable only over time. Here is some information that may help you feel more at home in Orthodox worship—twelve things I wish I’d known before my first visit to an Orthodox church.
1. What’s all this commotion?
During the early part of the service the church may seem to be in a hubbub, with people walking up to the front of the church, praying in front of the iconostasis (the standing icons in front of the altar), kissing things and lighting candles, even though the service is already going on. In fact, when you came in the service was already going on, although the sign outside clearly said “Divine Liturgy, 9:30.” You felt embarrassed to apparently be late, but these people are even later, and they’re walking all around inside the church. What’s going on here? (read more)
These following podcasts are made available by Ancient Faith Radio. They are just a few of the many podcasters that provide high quality 24-hour internet-based Orthodox radio including live music streaming, teaching, readings, interviews, lectures, conference recordings, live call-in programs, an extensive list of downloadable Orthodox podcasts and much more at AFR!
Father Evan Armatas shares bible study lessons with his parish (and us) from Scripture, Tradition, and the Church Fathers in "Transforming Our Lives in Christ", recorded at St. Spyridon Greek Orthodox Church (Loveland, CO)
Enjoy inspirational stories for Children of all ages read by Dr. Chrissi Hart, author of "Tea with the Queen", "The Legend of the Cross", "Under the Grapevine", and "The Hermit, The Icon and The Emperor". "Readings from Under the Grapevine" concentrates on Orthodox Christian books and other classic literature from a variety of sources.
Hosted by Steven Christoforou, "Be the Bee" focuses on the various ways in which God has infused all of creation with goodness and beauty. The title refers to the metaphor of the bee and the flies that was used by Elder Paisios to describe how Christians should approach life. "Be the Bee" is a production of the GOARCH Department of Youth and Young Adult Ministries. Available in video and audio format.
Father John Oliver’s series "Society and the Soul", from his podcast series "Hearts and Minds", is based upon “A Handbook of Spiritual Counsel” by Saint Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain, a work which examines the five human senses: sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch, and the role that each one plays in acquiring or losing salvation.