Joining the Church

Many St. George parishioners came here knowing they wanted something, but were unsure of what it was. For some, it was just the next step in their Christian journey. Others were ambushed by the beauty of the Orthodox Liturgy.

We invite you to begin — or continue — your life in Christ. Here are some opportunities to learn more about and ultimately become part of the Orthodox Church at St. George Cathedral.

Often the first experience of the Orthodox Church is at a church service, by researching Orthodoxy online, or in a conversation with a friend who is Orthodox. If you are new to the Orthodox Church, we recommend

Fr. Gregory offers a weekly class for Catechumens and Inquirers into Orthodoxy. The class usually meets on Sundays after Divine Liturgy. He covers Church history, liturgy, liturgical arts, and other topics of interest to the participants.

The inquirers’ class is open to anyone — member of the parish or not — with questions about Orthodoxy. People who go on to enter the Church begin with the inquirers’ class, but there is no expectation or pressure for anyone to take the next step.

After a period as an inquirer and when determined with their priest that it is appropriate, one can then become a catechumen and begin formal preparation for being received into the Orthodox Christian Church.

A catechumen is one who is preparing for reception in the Church. In the ancient Church, the catechumenate, or time during which one is a catechumen, often lasted for as much as three years and included not only prayerful attendance in the divine services but also catechesis, or the formal instruction from a teacher (bishop, priest, or catechist).

Catechetical instruction in Orthodoxy in America does not typically last the three years which was common in the time of St. John Chrysostom, but now ranges from six months to 18 months, depending on the practice of the bishop, his jurisdiction, and the level of spiritual maturity of the catechumen. Local parish priests typically oversee the catechesis of those preparing to be received into the Church. If one is joining the Orthodox Church from another Christian confession, this period of time is also important to allow for discernment regarding those beliefs which are and are not part of the Ancient Faith. Before being received into the Church, the catechumen participates in the Mystery of Repentance by making a life confession, offering all those sins that separate them from Communion with God.

The Orthodox Church has no formal catechism – a single body of work that details the specifics of its faith. (This is one difference between the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church, who does have a specific catechism.) The primary instruction during the time of the catechumenate comes from the Holy Spirit through frequent attendance at the divine services.

Catechumens are understood to be Christians upon beginning their catechumenate, and should they die before they are baptized, they are traditionally given an Orthodox funeral.

Baptism is by immersion, to the extent practicable, in the baptismal font in the narthex of the church. In the Orthodox Church, baptism is “for the remission of sins” and for entrance into the Church; the person being baptized is cleansed of all sins and is united to Christ; through the waters of baptism he or she is mysteriously crucified and buried with Christ, and is raised with him to newness of life, having “put on” Christ (that is, having been clothed in Christ). The cleansing of sins includes the washing away of the ancestral sin.

While traditionally catechumens have been received in the Church on Holy Saturday, just before Pascha, this is not a mandatory time period. Working in close discussion with the priest, the catechumen and priest together will determine the most appropriate time for reception into the Church.

Very few “private” baptisms happen in our parish, because we consider the entrance of a new Christian into the community to be an event that’s important to the whole community.

Chrismation is the holy mystery by which a baptized person is granted the gift of the Holy Spirit through anointing with oil. As baptism is a personal participation in the death and Resurrection of Christ, so chrismation is a personal participation in the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  As the priest puts the holy oil on the eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and so on, of the new member, he says, “Sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit,” and the congregation responds, “Amen!”

For those being baptized, chrismation occurs at the same time. For those being received into the Church who were previously baptised, reception into the Church begins with chrismation.

Immediately after being baptized and chrismated into the Church, during the Divine Liturgy, the newly illumined Christian receives Communion for the first time.

Upon reception into the Church, the newly-illumined Christian continues and works to increase their participation in the Church through the Mystical Life in Christ.