Maria, as a freshman at South Christian, is taking Church History this semester, and one of their assignments is to visit a different church and write a report about it. Some of her friends were going to a Baptist church nearby, but we decided to go to St. John Chrysostom Russian Orthodox Church downtown. John dropped us off at the small white church in the middle of a downtown neighborhood this morning with nothing but a cell phone and a dollar bill in my pocket. The first person we met when we walked in the door was a 1960 graduate of South Christian and she made us feel welcome. She explained some things that were going on like how the priest was speaking in Russian at times because there were some actual Russian people there today.
We read a bit about the Orthodox Church last night, and this article proved to be very helpful - it was true! People kiss the icons! You stand almost the whole time! The priest chants and the choir sings in a capella harmony nearly the whole time also which was actually quite soothing. The priest and the deacons come in and out and in and out of the 3 doors in the front following the same liturgy every week. The deacons spread sweet smelling incense around continually by swinging a golden censer at the end of 3 chains in everyone's direction. I noticed a cute little old lady peering out from behind somebody at the new people in the church (us) and I later talked with her and found out she was the oldest and the only original member of the church, and her parents were from Belarus, or "White Russia." When the priest was getting ready to offer the Eucharist to only the Orthodox who have confessed their sins to the priest and have fasted since midnight, he chanted about the fast and said something about Snickers bars! I did ask Maria later to make sure I wasn't hearing things. His "teaching" was about the Council of Nicea - it was the only time he didn't chant. The Orthodox Church believe that it most effectively holds to the traditions and beliefs of the early church.
The service lasted almost 2 hours and afterwards, we were invited to come downstairs for fellowship. Several people told me of how they went to different churches - reformed, charismatic, etc. - and then found their way here. They called it "their journey." There was so much to take in in our visit, but maybe this is more than you ever wanted to know about the Orthodox Church.
Maria and I left the basement fellowship together after our 2-1/2 hour visit and started walking up the street together. Just then, John pulled up in the red van and we got in with the rest of the family, smelling together like sweet incense. The rest of the family said we reeked.