Proper Conduct in the House of God
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory! -- Isaiah 6:3

When we gather together for worship, we're mystically transformed into that which we truly are -- the Body of Christ. Either heaven comes down to earth or earth is caught up into heaven. In either case, we're translated into the kingdom of Heaven and into the presence of Jesus Christ, the Lord of Glory who is invisibly present with us. It naturally follows that we would present ourselves to Him accordingly.

The Orthodox Church is perhaps one of the last remaining institutions in which protocol, reverence, and respect are practiced by the faithful. We're cognizant of the One before whom we stand, and the sancitify grace He bestows on His people. Both are part of who we are. 

Some of the etiquette we practice is general in nature and applies to everyone. Other etiquette is specific and applies mainly to someone who is already Orthodox. Your experience of worship will be more uplifting if you're familiar with the etiquette applicable to you. We encourage you to read it.

Church Etiquette in General
These are relevant whether you're an inquirer, a visitor, catechumens, and those who are already Orthodox.

We come to church to pray and worship the Holy Trinity in spirit and in truth. That's our main objective. We want you to feel at home and be at peace. At the same time, let us do all that we can to cultivate an atmosphere of piety in our worship. 

The clothing we wear in church ought to help lift the hearts of the faithful to heaven, away from pre-occupations with early beauty. It’s the same for our conduct.

It isn’t our tradition to wear shorts to church. This applies to anyone over 12 years of age. It isn’t proper to wear t-shirts or tank tops with slogans, logos, pictures, mottos. No sleeveless shirts/blouses or halters; a bare midriff isn't proper. Similarly, no sports, athletic, beachwear, or camouflage attire.


  • A woman’s skirt should cover the knees.
  • Blouses should be buttoned or have a modest neckline.
  • Please remove lipstick before venerating icons, the Gospel, receiving holy Communion, kissing the holy Chalice, or any other holy object.
  • Women may cover their heads or wear a hat.


  • Men should dress as they would for an important meeting.
  • A polo-style or button down shirt is acceptable, as are slacks or trousers.
  • Men should remove their hats when entering the church.

Endeavor to arrive before the service begins.

  • Always light a candle and say a prayer. Paying for the candle isn’t necessary; but a donation to the church is accepted.
  • It isn’t proper to carry on conversations after entering the Narthex. When greeting one another, talk softly, quietly, and briefly
  • Venerate the icons in the Narthex. Make two small prostrations (a bow at the waist while making the sign of the cross). Kiss the icon. Make one more small prostration. Move to the next icon.
  • There is a priority of veneration (an order): the Lord Jesus, the Mother of God (the Theotokos), John the Baptist, the patron Saint.
  • It’s the custom in some traditions to make three small prostrations before entering the Nave.
  • Find a place wherever you’re comfortable. We encourage you to move toward the front.

We worship together as a family; children belong in church, and under the guidance of their parents. Yes, kids make noise; it’s what they do. But they can also learn proper church behavior and how to pray according to their level of ability.

  • If necessary, we ask that you escort your child out of the Nave if they become disruptive. Calm them down and then return.
  • It isn't proper for a child to eat while in the Nave of the church.
  • Shoes that light up and/or make noise shouldn't be worn.
  • Toys that make noise should be left at home.
  • Children may partake of Holy Water after receiving Holy Communion, not before.

We live in an age of connectivity and mobile devices. These can easily become a interruption and a hindrance to prayer and worship. Here are a few guidelines:

  • Cultivate the habit of disconnecting from your phone while in church.
  • Switch off your mobile device before entering the Nave.
  • It isn't proper to text in church.
  • If your profession requires you to carry a phone, switch it to mute (not vibrate).
  • If you're on call, sit near the back so that leaving isn't a distraction to others.

The entire church building is dedicated to the glory of God. It is set apart for the worship of the Holy Trinity, especially the Narthex, the Nave, and the Sanctuary. These areas of the church and the liturgical objects in them are not used for common purposes.

  • Jesus Christ, the Lord of Glory, whose might is beyond compare and whose glory is incomprehensible is invisibly present with us hallowing all things. We enter into sacredness in His presence.
  • The church and everything in it form a mystical icon of the Kingdom of God. When we gather together, we become part of the heavenly Liturgy. Our worship is an image of the age to come.
  • The church is also a sanctifying place where, potentially, we encounter the sanctifying energy of grace. We stand before God who is worthy of all of our attention, devotion, love, and obedience.
  • We, the faithful, are to learn, as the Apostle Paul instructed Timothy, how to conduct ourselves in the House of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. Let us be attentive!
Church Etiquette Specifically for the Orthodox
Many customs and practices have become important expressions of worship. Some are essential, others may not be. The following are commonly observed throughout the entire Orthodox world, regardless of jurisdiction.

While we should always exhibit proper decorum in church, these guidelines are intended for reflection and our own personal correction, if needed. We should never permit ourselves the liberty of applying them in any other direction than to ourselves. All of our conduct should be guided by humility and love.

Other benefits:

  • Practicing Church Etiquette enables you to fit into any Orthodox church you may visit.
  • Church Etiquette also enables you to step into a monastery as a pilgrim and feel perfectly comfortable.

Our tradition is to stand during worship as much as we can, silently, reverently, facing the holy Table. Christ is invisibly present among us. But it’s okay to sit down if you need to. There are, however, certain times in the Orthros (also called Matins) when everyone should stand:

  • For the beginning of the service with “Blessed is our God….”
  • During the reciting of the Trisagion Prayers
  • For the reading of the 6 Psalms and the censing
  • During the reading of the holy Gospel
  • For the reading of the Synaxarion
  • During the chanting of Ode 9, the Magnificat to the Theotokos
  • For the Doxology at the end of the Orthros
  • Whenever the priest blesses the people

Our tradition is to stand during worship as much as we can, silently, reverently, facing the holy Table. Christ is invisibly present among us. But it’s okay to sit down if you need to. There are, however, certain times in the Divine Liturgy when everyone should stand:

  • During the Small Entrance
  • For the reading of the holy Gospel
  • During the Great Entrance
  • For the reciting of the Creed
  • During the consecration of the Holy Gifts
  • For the reciting of the Lord’s Prayer
  • During Holy Communion
  • Whenever the priest blesses the people

Just as the spirit wants to ascend into heaven during worship, so too the body. We’re psycho-somatic creatures. There are many physical expressions of worship in our Church. Here are just a few of them:

  • Make the Sign of the Cross when entering and exiting the church, venerating icons, the Gospel, the Holy Cross, any holy object, when invoking the name of the Holy Trinity, the Theotokos, or the Saints.
  • Bow to the priest when he blesses, censes the people, and when he asks forgiveness. A simple bow of the head is enough. It’s the proper response to receiving a blessing or granting forgiveness.
  • It’s a custom in some traditions for the faithful to touch the hem of the priest’s vestment during the Great Entrance as he carries the bread and wine about to be consecrated.
  • Address the priest as Father. When greeting a priest, place your right hand over your left with the palms up and say Father, bless. He’ll bless you. When he places his hand in yours, kiss his hand. 

The ancient tradition of the Church is frequent communion. The Divine Liturgy assumes you are properly prepared.

We also practice a Eucharistic Fast prior to receiving Holy Communion. At a minimum, the Eucharistic Fast consists of abstaining from food and water (tobacco as well) beginning at midnight before receiving communion the next morning. Medical considerations should be discussed with the priest.

While practices vary, here's how we're to receive Holy Commuion in this parish:

  • Step close to the Holy Chalice;
  • The Altar Servers will place the communion cloth under your chin;
  • State your baptismal name;
  • Open your mouth wide;
  • Close your mouth on the communion spoon and consume the Holy Gifts;
  • The Altar Servers wil touch your lips with the communion cloth;
  • Venerate the Holy Chalice when the priest offers it;
  • Make the sign of the Cross and reverently step to the side.

It's the tradition to remain standing, if you're able, until the Dismissal of the Divine Liturgy. This is done out of respect that we've been deemed worthy to partake of the Holy Body and precious Blood of Christ. 

We show proper reverence and respect to things which have been dedicated to God, sanctified, and blessed. They are imbued with grace. Physical objects, in reality, become holy through God’s blessing.

  • Antidoron (Blessed Bread) – All may partake. It’s blessed, but isn’t the Holy Gifts. Be careful; don’t allow crumbs to fall to the floor. And don’t throw any of it away. Children should be taught the same.
  • Holy Water – The faithful may partake of Holy Water after the Dismissal of the Liturgy, not before. Adults may partake only if they’ve observed a Eucharistic Fast and received Holy Communion.
  • Holy Gospel – When kissing the Gospel, make the sign of the Cross and two bows at the waist. Kiss the Gospel (and the right hand of the priest). Make the sign of the Cross again and another bow.
  • Koliva (Memorial Wheat) – Typically, a small portion is served. Ensure that all of it is eaten. Don’t throw any away. The wheat is offered to God in eternal memory of the departed. Take it home and eat it later.

We offer prayers and intercessions on behalf of all people, whether they’re Orthodox or not. There are sheets of paper in the Narthex available specifically for commemorating loved ones.

  • Names should be written on different sheets in separate columns. The Orthodox and non-Orthodox living on one sheet (different columns). On the other, the Orthodox and non-Orthodox departed.
  • The living and departed must be on separate sheets in different columns. Each of the four lists is commemorated at a different time. Write the full first name of the person only.
  • Present the names to the Deacon, an Altar Server, or an Usher. If the lists are presented before or during the Orthros, the names will commemorated during the service of the Proskomedia.
  • It’s a traditional practice for the person baking the prosphora, when bringing the loaves to church, to include lists of names of loved ones, both living and departed, as outlined above.

In our culture, we greet one another with a handshake or maybe a hug and a kiss on the cheek. That isn't the custom when greeting a hierarch. We don't shake hands with a Metropolitan, an Archbishop, or a Bishop. We bow, kiss his hand, and ask for a blessing.

Address a Metropolitan and an Archbishop as Your Eminence. Address a Bishop as Your Grace. When greeting either one, it's proper to:

  • Make a small prostration (deep bow from the waist) touching the floor;
  • Hold out both hands for a blessing (right hand over the left with palms up);
  • Say Master, bless;
  • When he places his right hand in yours, kiss his hand;
  • Then, make another small prostration.

When a hierarch is present, he's the only one who blesses. The faithful receive blessings from him. Chanters and Altar Servers bring their robes to him for a blessing. Likewise, Chanters and Altar Servers receive a blessing from him before removing their robes.

When a hierarch enters a room, it's the custom for everyone to stand until the hierarch bids you to be seated. After the hierarch is seated, then you may be seated.