St. Tikhon Orthodox Christian Mission
19035 Plaza Drive, Parker Colorado 80134

What to Expect

Icon of Christ the Pantocrator
Icon of Christ the Pantocrator
Icon of Christ the Pantocrator

We welcome all who seek God, and we love to welcome visitors to our Church. Since Orthodox Christianity is unfamiliar to most people in this area — it was new to many of us as well — we have written this to help you know what to expect.

What You will Find

On Sunday morning we usually have around 30 people in Church, including some children.  The Divine Liturgy, which lasts approximately 1- 1/2 hours, expresses the entire Christian faith in a continuous song of praise and prayer  to God. Since it is focused on God, we do not seek to be amusing or entertaining.   Much of the service is the same every week, so worshippers can learn it easily and participate,  by singing along or by prayerful attention. Worshippers are surrounded by icons (pictures of Christ and the saints), which remind us that we are participating on earth in the worship of all the angels and saints in heaven. The entire service (except for the sermon) is sung or chanted in melodies of Russian origin. No musical instruments are used. The words are from Scripture or ancient Christian texts.  All our services are in English, with a few short parts done in languages of some traditional Orthodox cultures out of respect and gratitude for their preservation of the faith.

The Divine Liturgy

 The normal Sunday morning service is called the Divine Liturgy. With sermon, it lasts about an hour and a half. It includes a series of litanies (petitions), praises - from the Psalms and the Beatitudes; a procession with the Gospel Book; hymns to the Triune God and for the saints of the day; readings from the Epistles and Gospels; a homily (sermon); the Great Entrance - a procession in which the clergy carry the gifts of bread and wine to the Altar; the Nicene Creed (the symbol of the Faith); the Eucharistic prayer; the Lord's Prayer; Communion; and hymns of thanks for the reception of Communion. 

A Word about Communion 

Only duly prepared Orthodox Christians are permitted to receive communion - the Eucharist.  For us it is a visible sign of unity--with the Church and with other Orthodox Christians.  We believe that to receive it in a community to which one does not belong is improper.  If one does not accept all that the Churches believes, teaches and worships, one is not united with the Church.  In other words, in Orthodoxy, the Eucharist is the result of unity, not the means by which unity is achieved.  

Inside the Church

The Great Entrance (procession) about to start.
The Great Entrance (procession) about to start.
The Great Entrance (procession) about to start.

Incense, candles and vestments are part of the imagery of heavenly worship in the Book of Revelation. In the Liturgy we participate in the worship of the angels and saints in heaven. Many people buy candles and place them in the church as an offering of light to the Lord, who told us to let our light shine.

Standard, formal prayers and hymns are used rather than extemporaneous or modern ones because they contain the accumulated insights of many centuries of Christians, and most of them are packed with Biblical quotations. They are repetitious because that way they become rooted in our hearts. They are chanted or sung rather than spoken so that our conversation with God will be special and so that we do not focus on the personality of the individual reader or chanter.

The Church Building and Worship

Normally an Orthodox Church is divided into three distinct parts: Narthex (entry way), Nave (sanctuary) and Altar. The narthex symbolizes the created world, made and blessed by God in the beginning as “very good,” but now fallen.  The nave (sanctuary) constitutes the Mystical Body of Christ, made up of Her members both past, present, and yet to come. The Altar area, joined to the nave by an icon screen (iconostasis) shows the Kingdom of God—the Kingdom to come, but in Christ and the Church it is a reality already accessible to the faithful.  The central, or “Royal,” doors of the iconostasis lead from the nave to the Altar Table, the Throne of God. On the left side of these doors is an icon of the Incarnation, the first coming of Christ as a Child, born of the Virgin Mary. On the right side of the Doors is an icon of Christ as He will appear on the Last Day, in glory.  In front of the Royal Doors the faithful receive the Eucharist, partaking of the Messianic Banquet to come, and are united to Christ. 


Icons (Greek: image) on the walls of the church depict scenes from the Holy Gospel, sacred Church history, or saints. Icons are also placed on stands in the church for veneration by the faithful. Icons are not merely decorative art. They are neither subjective nor sentimental, but a window into the spiritual world. Veneration is not to the paint or wood of an icon but to that other world from which shines Christ Himself. 


Our Customs Explained

Many customs are important parts of Orthodox worship. Although some of these are shared with Protestant and Catholic faith traditions, many are unique to Eastern Christianity. The information below is meant to help newcomers understand the behavior they are seeing during services, but not to feel pressured to conform in all things.

Standing vs. Sitting

You will immediately notice that in our church, most people stand for worship. (In Orthodox countries there are usually no pews in the churches, just chairs or benches on side walls.) However, those who need to sit for any reason - fatigue, illness, infirmity, pregnancy - are always welcome to do so. For those who wish to know, the most important time to stand is during the reading of the Gospel. Newcomers are not required to stand throughout the entire service, and are often not used to standing that long. Please feel free to sit down at any time if you need to.


Lighting candles is a regular part of Orthodox worship. We light them as we pray, making an offering to accompany our prayers. Anyone who comes to the church may light a candle (found near the front door of the church) and place it in the candlesticks at the front; the best time to do this is before the service begins.

Because we stand rather than sit in pews for our services, it is common to see people enter and leave the sanctuary for a few moments during the service, and it is not as disruptive as it would be in a church where everyone sits in pews. Leaving the service briefly is actually encouraged when parents need to take their children out for a short break.

We want all visitors to feel welcome. When you arrive, come inside and find a place to stand or sit where you are comfortable. Please do not misinterpret any lack of interaction by our parishioners before or during our services as coldness or rejection. Although some people do talk to others a bit before services begin, we are generally somewhat silent at that time, as we prepare our hearts and minds for worship. We are very friendly and will greet and engage visitors after the service, including inviting them to eat lunch with us after the Sunday Divine Liturgy.

We dress modestly and not in a flashy way when we come to church, and normally are better attired for Divine Liturgy than for other services. Women are encouraged not to show too much skin or wear very tight-fitting clothes. Men are expected not to wear hats in church, and both men and women are expected not to wear shorts. However, in general we ask that visitors simply use their best judgment and taste when coming to worship, understanding that formal “Sunday Best” attire, although appropriate, is not required.

Women cover their heads for church services in most Orthodox countries. However, in our culture this is not done as frequently. You will notice that in our church some women cover their heads and others do not. We leave this decision up to each parishioner, and visitors and newcomers are not required to cover their heads.

We cross ourselves many times during services, especially whenever the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) is mentioned. It is a means of blessing ourselves. A person looking around on a Sunday morning may notice that different people cross themselves at different times, and in somewhat different ways, although all Orthodox cross themselves from right to left, rather than from left to right, as Catholics do. We do not expect newcomers and non-Orthodox visitors to cross themselves, although they are welcome to do so.

Parents often bring little snacks for young children to keep them occupied and quiet in church. This is fine as long as it is discreet and the parents clean up any leftovers.

Communion is the most important sacrament in the Orthodox Church, and is the highpoint of each Divine Liturgy. As we believe it is truly the Body and Blood of Christ, we treat it with great reverence. Orthodox adults and older youth who wish to receive it must be prepared by fasting, appropriate prayers and a recent confession. Orthodox babies and children may receive it without these requirements. During this part of the service, visitors can stay, watch, and just stand aside while others line up for holy communion. Our catechumens (learners) will be doing the same.

After Communion at the end of the Divine Liturgy, it is traditional for those who have received it to eat a piece of blessed bread and take a sip of wine afterwards, as a means of clearing the Body and Blood of Our Lord from one’s mouth and throat. The bread used for this purpose is blessed, but is not the Eucharist (Communion) itself. Many times a parishioner will offer a piece of this bread to a visitor as a sign of hospitality. There is nothing wrong with accepting it because it is not the Eucharist. (If dietary restrictions do not allow you to eat it, you may abstain when offered.) Also, since the bread has been blessed, it is wise to take precautions when eating it so that crumbs are not trampled underfoot.