What to Expect
Are you thinking of visiting our church but you're not sure what to expect?
Well, when we meet on Saturday evenings we usually have two services:
This is an evening service, with a strong focus on the sunset and the light of Christ overcoming the darkness of night. For Christians, the setting of the sun begins the new day, so Vespers on Saturday evening marks the beginning of Sunday, which is the holy day each week when we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
Each Sunday has a special theme, and the readings from the Bible, as well as the various songs we sing (called hymns, psalms, and antiphons) reflect this theme. We also offer our prayers to God for the Church and the whole world, especially for individual people who have asked us to pray for them.
After Vespers, we usually share blessed bread called the Eulogia or Pain Bénit. This is not Holy Communion but is a sign of fellowship, and all are welcome to share it with us. We then sit and listen to a homily, which is a short talk about the Christian life.
The second service is a night service. As we wait for the coming day, we sing more psalms and hymns, and offer more prayers to God as we try to keep the night holy.
Altogether, the services last just under 2 hours. Afterwards we spend time together over refreshments, to catch up with each other.
You are very welcome to come along. If you'd like to find out a little more before your visit, there is plenty of information below. You don't have to take in all of this in one go. It's just a little bit of information that you might find helpful before you come along.
- What should I wear? We don’t really have a strict dress code. However, we try to remember that we are coming to worship God. As a minimum, we should try to make sure that our clothes are clean. If you're not sure what to wear, modesty is always a reliable guide. If it's short, strappy, or skin-tight, or if you think you might be embarrassed when bowing and prostrating, it might be time for a rethink, but we must remember that God welcomes us as we are and nobody will be turned away.
In Orthodox churches, men remove their head coverings while women get to wear a prayer covering for services. Women from different cultures do different things: some wear hats, others might like a simple bandana or a lacy mantilla, while others prefer prayer shawls or headscarves. There is great variety, and it is all welcomed.
- Crossing the threshold. When you come into the church, you'll see a table with all of the things you'll need: service booklets & sheets, and sometimes candles. Please take one of each. There will be some spare headscarves for those who might not have brought their own. You'll also see a bowl of holy water. It's customary to bless yourself with the holy water, (that is, dip your fingers in the water and make the sign of the Cross on yourself) when you enter and leave the church.
- What happens next? Before we do anything else, we greet the icons (holy images) of the Saviour and the Mother of God at the front of the church with a bow and a kiss (on the hands or feet; not on the face, and never with lipstick or lip balm), as well as any other saints whose icons are dotted around the church if we have a devotion to them. This is what we call venerating the icons. The saints are our sister and brother Christians who are in heaven praying for us. So we prepare to worship God by uniting ourselves to them in this way. If it's all new to you and you'd prefer just to observe, that's ok.
- Where do I sit? In Orthodox churches, we stand for most of the service. This is our way of giving honour to God as we come into his presence. Women stand on the north (left) side, while men stand to the south (right). However, worship isn't meant to be a physical endurance test. If you need to take a seat for a little while, nobody will mind or probably even notice. Long-term standing gets easier with practice, and you'll soon learn the value of comfortable shoes. If you need to sit because of age, health, pregnancy, or disability, that's also fine.
- Money. At St Melangell's, we rely on God’s mercy for our existence, including our financial needs. We don't take a collection during the service and you aren't obliged to give anything. However, we are a small community and we do have building hire fees and other running costs. Any donations to help us would be welcomed. If you would like to give something, you can do this discreetly using the money box on the welcome table as you enter or leave.
We hope this helps a little bit but if you have any questions before you visit, please feel free to get in touch.