Are Orthodox People Christians?
Yes, we are Christian. Many people confuse us with Orthodox Jews, but the similarity of names is purely coincidental. Actually, Orthodox is a Greek word meaning “right worship” and “right faith.” Greek Orthodox & Russian Orthodox are the same religion. The Orthodox Church is actually a “family” of churches, consisting of many ethnic groups. In California (the Bay area) we have Orthodox parishes that are Greek, Antiochian, Serbian, plus the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) which is historically Russian.
Don’t you have to be ‘ethnic’ to be Orthodox?
You don’t have to be ‘Ethnic’ to be Orthodox. Converts are welcome in our parishes, and a large proportion of the services are conducted in English.
How large is the Orthodox Church?
We are the Second largest Christian Church in the world. Our total membership is estimated at 200 million - and rapidly increasing, due to the current religious revival in Eastern Europe. In California, and many other states, we are officially considered the fourth major faith.
Is the Orthodox Church active in the Ecumenical movement?
We have been active in the Ecumenical Movement. As Orthodox, we feel we should do everything possible to promote Christian unity. At the same time, our adherence to Christians Tradition has sometimes made our participation difficult.
Are Orthodox Christians Catholic?
We are Catholic, but not Roman Catholic. Catholic is a Greek word that means “according to the whole.” We believe that we profess the Christian Faith in its fulness. The Western Church (headed by Rome) was with us until 1054, when East and West split, primarily over the increasing authority of the Pope.
Are Orthodox Christians Evangelical?
We are Evangelical, but not Protestant. Evangelical comes from the Greek word meaning ‘Gospel’. We are very Gospel centered - in fact, a Gospel Book is always kept on our Altar Table. But we are not Protestant, since we have never had a Reformation; our history goes back unbroken to the early Church. Our ‘Official Translation’ of the Bible is the Original. The Orthodox Church is the only church in Christendom that has read the New Testament in the original language since it was written. Some parts of it were actually written to churches in Greece ( 1 & 2 Corinthians and 1 & 2 Thessalonians).
Does the Orthodox Church follow any type of tradition?
We follow the Traditions of God, not of men. The Bible itself could be described as “Tradition written down.” Unwritten Tradition has also been preserved in our Church, from the Apostles themselves. As St. Paul said, “...stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.” ( 2 Thessalonians 2:15) We are Conservative, but not Fundamentalists To properly interpret the Bible you have to take the literal parts literally and the symbolic parts symbolically.
Tradition is our guide for telling which is which. Even the early Christians knew that Genesis and Revelation contain a lot of symbolic language. Orthodox Church Buildings are Christian Temples Like the early Christians, our religious practices are based on Old Testament sources, fulfilled in Christ. These include synagogue worship, ceremonial meals (like the Last Supper), and the ritual of the Temple. Early Christian worship, as described in Revelation, chapters 4 & 5, includes vestments, incense, bowing down in prayer, etc. Our Icons (‘holy pictures’) are not idols Icon and Idol are both Greek words - with very different meanings. An idol is literally an image of God that is ‘dreamed up’ by human beings. By contrast, the Bible calls Christ Himself the icon or ‘image’ of God seven times (example, Colossians 1:15).
Are your priests married?
Married men are ordained to our Priesthood. Ever since New Testament times, most of our priests have been married. (Titus 1:5-6) Priest is just a shortened form of the Greek word Presbyter, meaning ‘Elder’. We call them ‘father’ as a natural term of respect for an elder in the Christian family.
Do you have a weekly Sunday Service?
Our Sunday Services are called the Divine Liturgy. A Liturgy is a service done by a liturgist (leitourgos) - in other words, a priest who leads his people in formal, “liturgical” worship. In New Testament Greek, Christ and St. Paul are each referred to as a leitourgos. (Hebrews 8:1-2 and Romans 15:16) Our Liturgy is analogous to what other churches call the Mass, or Lord’s Supper.
May I visit your church?
You are welcome to attend Orthodox Services. Visitors are frequently seen at our churches and they are welcome to come and experience Orthodox worship with us. To receive Holy Communion one must be Orthodox, but at the end of the Liturgy, you may come up with the rest of the congregation to receive blessed bread from the priest in token of Christian fellowship.
Are there other Orthodox churches in the North Bay?
The following is a list of Orthodox parishes in the North Bay that are affiliated with the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas:
Nativity of Christ Church
1110 Highland Drive
Ignacio, CA 94949
Sts. Constantine & Helen
1224 Alabama Street
Vallejo, CA 94590
St. Nicholas Church
102 Ross Ave
San Anselmo, CA 93901
Protection of the Holy Virgin
95 Mountain View Ave
Santa Rosa, CA 95407
Holy Assumption Monastery
1516 Washington St
Calistoga, CA 94515
Monastery of St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco & St. Eugene’s Hermitage
135 Balboa Ave
Point Reyes, CA 94956
Orthodox Skete of the Holy Virgin of Kazan
2335 Victoria Dr
Santa Rosa, CA 95401
Patriarch Athenagoras Orthodox Institute
2400 Ridge Rd
Berkeley, CA 94709
St. Nicholas Ranch & Retreat Center
38526 Dunlap Rd
P.O. Box 400
Dunlap, CA 93621