Before You Visit
Come One, Come All!
As the arms of the Lord Jesus are continually open, He welcomes all into His loving embrace. In the same way, all are welcome to this Church, which is the house of God. Holy Transfiguration Church is a community made up of both cradle-born Orthodox Christians and those who have converted to the Faith. If you are already an Oriental Orthodox Christian (which includes Armenian Apostolic Church, Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch, Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church, and Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, and Coptic Orthodox Church) we will be delighted to pray and worship with you.
Anyone who wishes to discover ancient Coptic Orthodox Christianity is also warmly invited. We sincerely welcome you and look forward to meeting you! We will do our very best to assist all visitors and newcomers to follow along with the church services. Please feel free to ask questions at any time or call ahead so we can better coordinate your visit.
On Fire for God
When you enter the church, someone may greet you and direct you to a place to sit. We have books of our Divine Liturgy in English, Coptic, and Arabic for everyone. In addition, we have a large Powerpoint presentation that streams continuously and follows the prayers. You may follow the service text, or, if you prefer, simply close your eyes and meditate with the congregation (body of Christ) as they worship.
Upon entering a place of worship, many orthodox will make the sign of the Cross upon themselves, offer a prayer to the Lord, and even light a candle before an icon (holy picture of a Saint) while offering a short prayer. Lighting candles is an important part of Orthodox worship and piety. We light candles as we pray, making an offering to accompany our prayers. All are welcome light a candle and pray!
Hats Off, Head Covers On
The general rule for men and women is to dress modestly and respectfully, as we stand before the living God. We humbly ask that all visitors respectfully dress in modestly — no bare shoulders and no shorts. This also includes no tight fitting, or revealing clothing.
You will notice that the women cover their heads with veils during the Liturgy. We engage this practice because St. Paul instructs us in 1 Corinthians 11:15 to humble ourselves, to cover our glory and beauty when we stand before the King. In contrast, the priest covers his head when he stands before the altar in prayer, as this reminds us of the royalty of Christ the King. You may participate in any of these practices with us if you like.
You may notice the priest walking around the church with the censer offering sweet smelling incense before the altar (Ephesians 5:2). St. John the beloved Apostle saw the raising of incense in heaven which, he writes, “are the prayers of the saints” (Revelation 8:5). Similarly, as the priest raises incense around the Church, he gathers the prayers and supplications of the people and offers them to the Lord at the altar. He also asks the Lord to send them blessings in return.
No Shoes, Service
Those who serve in the sanctuary (front part of the Church behind the wall of icons called the iconstasis), are mainly the priests and deacons. This is also where the altar (holy table) is located. They should not enter that area unless they are clothed with the garments of service, and remove their shoes. This is done in remembrance of when the Lord God appeared to Moses the Prophet and commanded him to remove his shoes in the burning bush passage (Exodus 3:5). Out of respect, many parishioners also prefer to pray with their shoes off. In Addition, any one who is prepared to take the Holy Communion should approach after taking their shoes off.
The Holy Eucharist in the Orthodox Christian faith is not a mere symbol or memorial reenactment of the Mystical Supper. Rather, it is truly the Body and the Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. For this reason, in order for one to partake of Holy Communion one must be a member of one of the Oriental Orthodox Churches, be in good standing before God, and be properly prepared to receive the Holy Body and the Precious Blood of our Savior. As a general rule, proper preparation includes keeping the fasts of the Church, being in a continual state of repentance, having confessed recently (within the last month or so), is at peace with others (Matthew 5:24), and arriving to Divine Services on time.
Orthodox priests may only serve the Holy Eucharist to baptized members in good standing of the canonical Orthodox Church, who have a confession Father and are prepared (spiritually and physically) for receiving the Holy Mysteries. This is the ancient tradition of the Holy Church for the 2,000 years of its history.
Rather than trying to accommodate to often varying “interpretations” or revisions of the doctrine of our ancient faith, we simply ask that you respect the ancient, apostolic tradition and join us in receiving the Eulogia (blessed bread), at the end of the Divine Liturgy after the announcements.
Are We Done Yet?
On Saturday evenings, the Evening Raising of Incense service (Vespers) is generally 30–45 minutes in length, including a short homily in Arabic or English. On Sunday mornings, a similar service is celebrated before the Divine Liturgy. Afterwards, the Divine Liturgy is approximately 3 hours in length with an English homily at approximately 9:30 a.m. and the Distribution of the Mystery of the Eucharist from 10:30–11:00 a.m. We understand this may seem like a long service, but we know that when you have participated in an Orthodox service you will feel like you have truly worshipped and participated in Heaven’s praises to the living God.
Sit or Stand?
The traditional posture for prayer and worship in the Orthodox Church is to stand, for we stand before the King of the universe! In many churches in Egypt, there are typically no pews in the churches. Chairs or benches on the side walls are usually reserved for the elderly and infirmed. In America, we build our churches with pews or chairs, so you may sit. However, it is minimally expected to stand during the Gospel reading, the Anaphora through the Institution Narrative, the distribution of the Holy Mystery, when the priest gives the final blessing, and at the Dismissal.
Hymns: Praise & Worship
What are Coptic Orthodox worship hymns like? Between 65–75% of the traditional Coptic Liturgy involves congregational singing. Coptic Christians do not use contemporary musical instruments. Rather we praise with ancient instruments of the cymbals and triangle, which are used to keep musical time. A choir of deacons leads the congregation in harmonious chant, usually in Coptic, English, and Arabic. Our hymns are solemn, prayerful and intended to lead the faithful to worship the living God. They follow Arabic contemplative melodic tune. Feel free to sing and praise along with us!
Is there Childcare?
Each parent is responsible to take care of their child. We encourage children to be present in Church for the services. This participation is a vital part of a child’s spiritual formation. Also the more they are in the Church, the more they get used to worshipping properly. However, if your baby or child is extremely loud, overly talkative, or is having a difficult time, please take him or her out of the Church until he or she is ready to return. We have a cry room in the back of the Church for this purpose. This is to facilitate a peaceful, reverent environment for all to pray, as well as educate the child what is proper worship for the House of God.
However, after the service, parents may leave their children in their respective Sunday school class.
After the Service
Following the Divine Liturgy, Sunday school is provided in small groups for 3 year olds through high school.
Sunday school begins after the dismal and lasts about 45 minutes. During this time, adults are welcome to attend the adult Bible Study upstairs.
Following this, all are invited to join our Agape brunch of love and brotherhood, which is a good time to get to know our parish members and meet our priests.
New visitors will find there are many new things to experience in a Coptic Orthodox Church service. Feel free to go at your own pace, ask any questions, and know you are most welcome to come, learn, and pray with us.
Orthodox Christianity is filled with many treasures and many mysteries. Even those who have been in the Church all their lives still have questions about God, the Church, and the prayers. We would love to help answer your questions and spend time getting to know you. Our beloved Fathers the priests are also interested in meeting personally with you to help you any way they can. Please feel free to introduce yourself to the priests after the service, if they are available. Also, kindly fill out an information card so we can keep in touch with you. We have a google calendar, weekly email, and various ministries you can be a part of.