Thank you for your interest in the Orthodox Church, and for your interest in Holy Transfiguration Church in particular.
If you're considering becoming Orthodox, this is the page for you.
Regardless of your background or your present beliefs, you're welcome to explore Orthodoxy at HTOC. Jesus met people where they were and asked them to follow Him; we take the same approach. We'll meet you where you are, but we won't leave you there. We want you to have the abundant life that Christ promises us, and that requires that you both believe and live according to the Gospel in the Orthodox way that has been handed down to us.
So, what's the process?
The first step in the process is the one you've already taken (congratulations!), and that is becoming interested in Christ and His Church.
We understand that it takes courage to reach out to another person about things that stir our hearts, especially something as personal as religous faith. It's even scarier to walk into a strange church for the first time. That's why we try to make our guests feel comfortable when they visit. (If you passed over that part on the previous page, go back and read it here.)
We also know that you're curious enough to have found us on the Interwebz, that you're basically open to some new ideas and experiences (or you wouldn't be here), and that you're seeking for something, maybe for something you can't even put into words yet. That's okay. Everybody's spiritual journey is different, and we respect that.
So, you're curious, open and seeking. That's a good place to start. As we said on the previous page, Orthodoxy is life. We can't get it from reading about it or watching it on YouTube, it has to be experienced first-hand and lived.
So the next steps are to attend a service. Sunday morning Liturgy is best. If you're presently committed to attending another Christian service on Sunday morning, then come see us for Vespers on Wednesday or Saturday night. These services are shorter and quieter than our Sunday morning Liturgy, and they're often a good place to experience Orthodox worship for the first time.
Stick around for a little while after the service, if you can, and introduce yourself to our priest. Fr Michael is usually on the lookout for guests, and he will always have at least a couple of minutes for you.
Arrange to sit down privately with Fr Michael over coffee sometime soon. He can answer your up-front questions, suggest some things to watch, listen to, and read, and encourage you on your path.
We expect that your first exposure to Orthodoxy at HTOC has been positive, so we encourage you to come back as often as you can. Attend both Vespers and Liturgy, if you're able to, for a fuller experience of Orthodox worship. Check out the resources here on the website for good information on Orthodoxy. And don't forget to pray about it, too: the Psalmist says, "The Lord guides a man in the way he should go." If you ask His help, He'll guide you, too.
So, you've attended a few services and talked with Fr Michael, maybe you've stayed around for coffee hour after the Sunday Liturgy and met a few of the parishioners (see? Orthodox Christians can be normal, too...), sooner or later you'll need to make a decision. And that's the next step.
The decision is: am I ready to follow Christ and become an Orthodox Christian?
By now, you should be getting comfortable with Orthodox worship, you've met a few people in the parish, you've talked a few times with Fr Michael. Maybe you've read, or listened to some podcasts, or watched some videos about Orthodoxy. Maybe you've bought an Icon for yourself or started to pray. All of this is good.
You still need to decide: am I ready to follow Christ, and am I ready to so at this church, at this time, with this congregation and this priest? This is something you'll definitely need to talk over with Fr Michael, so arrange a time to chat with him about it. If the answer is "yes," then Father will set up a time for you to be enrolled as a catechumen.
"Catechumen" means "one being instructed." And so catechumens are people who are learning to believe and live according to the teaching and practice of the Orthodox Church. Catechumens are members of the Orthodox Church, they're just not full members yet (for example, they can't receive the Eucharist at the Divine Liturgy).
People are enrolled as catechumens through a brief service that is usually performed before Liturgy on Sunday morning. Catechumens-to-be stand on the threshold of the church (literally, right in the doorway), without shoes on, without jewelry or ornamentation, and in humility. The priest reads the prayers of exorcism over them, they publicly renounce Satan and all his works, blow and spit on him(!), and then publicly unite themselves to Christ. They confess the Orthodox Creed out loud for all to hear, and then make a prostration on the ground as a first act of worship. After that, they're part of the Church as catechumens.
The purpose of the catechumenate is to acclimate people to the liturgical, social, and devotional life of the Church. During this time, catechumens continue to engage in public worship, make friends in the parish, develop a personal, Orthodox devotional life, and begin to find ways to engage in the fuller life of the Church. They continue to learn about the Faith and begin to practice it on their own with the support of others in the community. In short, you learn how to be a follower of Christ and member of His Church.
How long is someone a catechumen? That depends. Again, everyone's spiritual journey is different, and we respect that. Most people are catechumens for several months before they are Baptized and/or Chrismated and become full members of the Church.
Both you and Fr Michael will know when it's time for the next step.
When you and Fr Michael agree that it's time for you to be received into the fullness of the Church, several things will need to happen. Fr Michael will help you with all of them:
- You will agree with Father on a date for your Baptism &/or Chrismation. (Whether your are Baptized or Chrismated depends on whether or not--and how--you were Baptized previously.)
- You will need to find a sponsor or godparent. A sponsor will be an Orthodox Christian, preferably of the same sex, whom you have come to know during your time as a catechumen, and who is willing to serve as a spiritual friend for you.
- You will prepare for and schedule with the priest a "life confession." That is, you will review your whole life (taking notes), and confess all the things you can think of, from childhood down to the present day, that you have done wrong. The life confession usually takes place within a day or two of your Baptism or Chrismation.
If you are to be Baptized, it will be done by full immersion, probably on a Saturday afternoon, followed immediately by your Chrismation. If you are only to be Chrismated, it will probably be done at the beginning of the Divine Liturgy on Sunday morning. In both cases, you will be the first person to receive Holy Communion at the Divine Liturgy.
So, is that it? Yes and no...
It is the end of the journey into the Orthodox Church, but it is only the beginning of the journey in the Orthodox Church, a journey which doesn't even end with our death.
From this point on, you will continue to grow "in faith, in life, and in spiritual understanding." By now, daily habits of prayer, fasting, and Scripture reading, and routine habits of confessing, worship, and Communion are in place. They provide the foundation of your relationship with Christ and His Church, upon which you will build a life of holiness, faith, charity, forgiveness, mercy, and every other good thing. Having experienced for yourself the love of God, you can now turn and extend that same love to other seekers and encourage them to "come and see," and to follow Christ in the Orthodox way that you now hold dear.