My First Liturgy Experience

Hands Off!

If there is only one thing that most of us can’t tolerate, it is a big change in our style of worship.  Think about it, a pastor can change, the style of the building can change, the leadership/elder board can change, but don’t you dare touch that style of doing church!  One example of that is seen when a traditional church decides to begin catering to the modern crowd.  Many angry old folks end up leaving with their hymn books in hand.

That Strange, Foreign Thing Called “Liturgy”

Liturgy is an uncommon word in modern churches.  Its literal meaning is “the work of the people.”  What it usually means today is the form and order in which a church does stuff.  So, for example, a liturgy I became accustomed to was the following:

  • Intro worship song
  • A brief welcome/prayer
  • Two more songs
  • Announcements
  • One more song while the offering is taken
  • Pastor’s sermon
  • Altar call
  • Dismissal

The Time Warp

My wife boldly joined me in this new spiritual venture.  We found that stepping into an Eastern Orthodox Church for the first time was like being zapped 1,000 years back in time.

My first thought was, “I’m not sure I’m ever going back to this.”

But I did.

And slowly, I have come to love the Liturgy of the Eastern Orthodox Church.  There is no entertainment.  You either enter into worship with them, or you stand there bored out of your mind waiting for this big bearded dude to shut his trap and quit chanting.  Which reminds me, almost everything is sung or chanted there (except the sermon).  They sing the Psalms and the Lord’s prayer; they chant the scripture reading for that day; and often times the sermon is only ten to fifteen minutes long.

No Showmanship Here

One of the things that helped me to appreciate the liturgy was to stop waiting for the service to begin.  I found myself unconsciously waiting for the “performance” to start.  I’m so used to a few songs being the beginning of what is really the main purpose of being there — hearing the fun or engaging pastor’s sermon; that is what western churches revolve around.

I had to come to the realization that the entire liturgy – the songs, the prayers, and even the icons – are a part of the message there.  In fact, they are the primary sermon.  They contain the entire gospel message and most of the main points of theology.

A Bit of Help

If you’re thinking about visiting an Eastern Orthodox Church for the first time, here are a few things I wish I’d known.  Also, there are a couple of books by Bishop Kallistos Ware called The Orthodox Church and The Orthodox Way that I found extremely informative.  Also, Ancient Faith Radio, which is devoted to podcasts, has helped me tremendously.  Check out my Resources tab above for more info.

2 thoughts on “My First Liturgy Experience

  1. I am on similar road. My background and spiritual orientation pretty spot on. I went to Divine Liturgy this past Sunday. I was a foreigner in a land I did not know. Been a student of history. My wife thinks I am kind of lost and does not understand me nor does my son. I am walking in this path without by wife. Who by the way is Bible believer (as understood as a protestant) any advise on the Icons and Mary.

    1. The books I mentioned in the blog by Met. Kallistos (Timothy) Ware discuss the faith and icons.

      I have an article on prayers to Mary here:

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