I had never attended an Orthodox worship service before this morning. Since I've been reading much Orthodox theology during my sabbatical, I figured I should attend a service. My friends Michael Heller and John Greise went with me to St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church, which is atop the hill just to the east of our house.
When we arrived the Matins was still underway and very few people were in the congregation. One woman came over to the pew we had selected. We weren't sitting, because you stand through most of the service. She greeted us and asked what had brought us there that day. I told her I was the Senior Minister of the First Central Congregational Church and was on sabbatical this summer, attending other churches in town. She said, "Well, then, welcome home."
Beautiful words also rich with meaning that the Greek Orthodox are the ancient apostolic and universal church.
She then gave us pointers on the service (including that the cross above the iconostasis when lit indicated the times to stand). She also brought us some further reading material. She was quite hospitable--any congregation would be pleased with such a member to welcome guests. She also chatted about members of my church she knows.
The Divine Liturgy is not very participatory, though if you were Greek and grew up in the tradition, it would be easier, though most members did not follow along, even on the parts for the people. The service was in both Greek and English and was at times difficult to follow (and I do know ancient Greek). Much of the service is performed by the priest in the sanctuary facing away from the congregation and uttering prayers that one cannot hear, though they are printed in the worship book.
I must confess that I was underwhelmed by the service. I had expected to be lost in the mystery of the Divine Liturgy, but that was not the case.
We went for a Greek lunch following worship.