Whether you are visiting the Orthodox Church for the first time or are visiting from another Orthodox parish, we'd like to welcome you home to Saint George Greek Orthodox Church.
Located in the heart of Ocean City, we are a warm, welcoming family of Orthodox Christians who embrace visitors and inquirers from all traditions, and people from all backgrounds.
Frequently Asked Questions -
What is a liturgy and how long is it?
There are four different liturgies that are celebrated throughout the year. The Divine Liturgy that we typically celebrate was written by Saint John Chrysostom of Constantinople around 400 AD. Yes, much of today's liturgy is over 1,600 years old!
A typical Sunday liturgy lasts about 90 minutes, weekday liturgies are often shorter. The first half is focused on hymns, scripture, and the sermon, and the second half is focused on the consecration and distribution of the eucharist. At Saint George, we also celebrate a service called matins or orthros just before the Divine Liturgy. Orthros lasts about an hour. Feel free to come to orthros, or arrive just before the divine liturgy starts. Our services calendar indicates the start times for both.
Is there a dress code?
Strictly speaking, there is no dress code at church. Everyone is invited to come and worship. You will find that most people tend to dress in styles ranging from business casual to dresses and suits. This reflects the degree of respect and honor that we desire to convey as we stand in God's presence, much as we would if meeting with an important political leader. Essentially we may wear our 'Sunday best' to honor God. That will vary from person to person. We encourage modesty as matter of respect for God and others. But please don't ever let a lack of nice clothes prevent you from coming to services—the important thing is for us to worship together.
Traditionally, Orthodox faithful stand the entire liturgy, which can last upwards to two hours long. Nowadays we have pews! Still, it’s good to prepare yourself by wearing shoes that are supportive and comfortable for standing. Orthodox Churches also tend to be a little less casual than other contemporary Christian denominations. Women often wear dresses or skirts, while men wear pants and collared shirts. Although it is becoming less common these days, women may still wear head coverings in certain parishes, and at certain times of the year. It's not required.
If you’re visiting though, don’t worry. Just be respectful in the way that you dress.
Various Orthodox traditions allow for those able, to stand or sit during different parts of the service. At Saint George, there are a few times where it is important to stand, if possible; during the procession of the elements through the congregation, during the reading of the Gospels, the reciting of the Creed and Lord’s Prayer, and during the distribution of the Eucharist. Otherwise, feel free to remain seated if you need to, or to stand along with the congregation. It may feel like there's a lot of up and down, but you'll get the hang of it pretty quickly.
How will I know what to do during Liturgy?
Your first visit to an Orthodox liturgy can seem strange and overwhelming, especially if you come from a Protestant or non-Christian background. Just remember that many of us have been where you are, and we love to help! You will meet greeters as you enter the church, so just let one of them know that you're visiting. They'll be happy to introduce you to people who can help answer questions and demonstrate the various things we do during liturgy. If you don't feel comfortable crossing yourself or singing the responses, that's okay. We are all here to worship, and we're glad that you've joined us.
Please remember that the most important thing you can do in liturgy is to be present. Rather than focusing on imitating the actions of the people around you, we recommend that you simply enter into worship and focus on God's beauty and majesty as revealed in the service. You'll get the hang of the actions soon enough.
I'm not Greek. Am I still welcome?
YES! YES! YES! Our services are conducted in both English & Greek (and occasionally other languages) woven in to keep us connected to the ancient roots of the Christian faith.
We are a parish under the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, and we have many families in our community with Greek heritage, but we are first and foremost a family of Orthodox Christian faithful with many different ethnic and faith backgrounds.
Whatever your background or current status, you'll find someone at Saint George who has walked in your shoes.
Am I allowed to take Communion?
Those who have been baptized as Orthodox Christians or have been chrismated (anointed with holy oil, or chrism, and received into the Church) may receive communion, if they are spiritually prepared. Others, including believing Christians from other traditions, may not. Although at Saint George, we invite the non-Orthodox to come forward during communion to receive a special blessing for visitors.
What denomination is Orthodoxy?
Orthodox Christianity pre-dates modern denominations, and together with the Roman Catholic Church comprised the original Christian Church for the first millennium after Christ’s Resurrection. Orthodoxy encompasses the fullness of the Christian faith as expressed in scripture and the teachings of the first Seven Ecumenical Councils.
The Orthodox faith has been handed down and preserved from the time of the Apostles through apostolic succession. Every bishop of the Orthodox Church can trace his ordination and spiritual lineage back through time directly to Christ's Apostles. In fact, our bishop, Archbishop ELPIDOPHOROS, can trace his succession directly back to the Saint Andrew the Apostle. That succession then continues to the priests and deacons whom the bishops ordain.
Originally, the early Christian Church was led by five patriarchs in Jerusalem, Antioch, Constantinople, Alexandria, and Rome. These patriarchs, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, made decisions together in council and operated as one until 1054 AD, when the Great Schism occurred. The four Eastern patriarchs remained in unity, but there was a separation from the bishop, or pope, of Rome. For the first time in history, the Christian faith was divided into two churches, East and West. Five hundred years later, the Protestant Reformation resulted in a split in the West as the Reformers and those who followed them broke away from the Catholic Church and, over time, splintered into multiple groups. The result in history is the existence of three branches of Christianity: Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, and Protestantism with its many denominations.
And in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all ages;
Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten, not created, of one essence with the Father, through Whom all things were made;
Who for us men and for our salvation came down from the heavens and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and became man;
Crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, He suffered and was buried;
Rising on the third day according to the Scriptures;
And ascending into the heavens, He is seated at the right hand of the Father;
And coming again in glory to judge the living and the dead, His Kingdom shall have no end;
And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of life, Who proceeds from the Father, Who together with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified, Who spoke through the prophets;
In one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church;
I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins;
I expect the resurrection of the dead;
And the life of the age to come.
Why are there so many different Orthodox churches?
For the first thousand years of Christian history, the Church was united—one Church with five patriarchal centers: Jerusalem, Antioch, Rome, Alexandria, and Constantinople. These patriarchates formed a cohesive whole, living in full communion and community with one another. Occasionally, heretical disputes(errant teachings) would occur, and the responses to these were recorded in what is now known as the Seven Ecumenical Councils. Some schismatic groups did depart from the Church at various times, yet her core was unified until the 11th century, when the Roman Patriarch separated from the rest, resulting in the Great Schism.
For the nearly thousand years after the Great Schism, the other four patriarchal centers have remained in full communion and virtually identical in practice to the Apostolic Church since New Testament times.
In the United States—a very young country—immigrants from all over the world came from their old countries and established churches according to their ethnic backgrounds, still under the oversight of the bishop of their country of origin. Thus there exist Russian, Greek, Syrian, and other Orthodox churches in neighborhoods, but we all have the same faith. All of the bishops worldwide recognize that there should ultimately be a unified oversight of the Orthodox Church in North America and are working together to determine the healthiest way to address the current situation.
Do you believe in the Scriptures?
Absolutely! We believe the Bible to be the inspired word of God. The Bible and Holy Tradition are the two sources of authority in the Church. Holy Tradition is defined as the working of the Holy Spirit in the Church over time. In fact, the New Testament as we know it today was not officially recognized until the early fourth century. It was within this context, guided by the Holy Spirit, that the 27 books of the New Testament were canonized in the early 300's. Essentially, Holy Tradition within the Church gave birth to the New Testament.
As Fr. Thomas Fitzgerald writes, “The Holy Scriptures are highly regarded by the Orthodox Church. Their importance is expressed in the fact that a portion of the Bible is read at every service of Worship. The Orthodox Church, which sees itself as the guardian and interpreter of the Scriptures, believes that the books of the Bible are a valuable witness to God’s revelation.”
Do you believe that the bread and wine are the literal body and blood of Christ?
The Orthodox Church celebrates the Holy Eucharist as the divine mystery of Christ’s real presence. This was the universal belief of all Christians until the 1500's, when the Reformation led to multiple denominations in the West and conflicting doctrines. However, unlike other faith traditions, we do not attempt to define precisely what happens during communion. Rather, we trust and believe that Christ is truly and mystically present in the elements.
What is a “liturgy”?
The Sunday morning service at an Orthodox Parish is called the "Divine Liturgy." At most times of the year, we follow a liturgy compiled by St. John Chrysostom who lived in the 4th century.
What’s with the constant singing?
As the Psalmist reveals, 'While I live I will praise the Lord; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.' Most of the service is chanted or sung. About the only speaking you will hear is the short sermon(homily) that the priest gives and some of the readings. The most important thing is that we focus our hearts and minds on the the Eucharist (i.e. Holy Communion). The presence of Jesus Christ in our lives is the focus of our gathering...nothing else!
Do they speak English?
Yes! Although we do conduct our services in a variety of languages, English is prevalent at our parish home. Please remember that Greek-Americans have been in the United States since before the United States was founded. The people that have come from traditionally Orthodox countries such as Greece, have not only contributed significantly to the development and success of the United States, they have become some of the most prominent and successful citizens of our nation. As a parish that was founded by Greek immigrants, we are proud of our heritage. We're just as proud that we have become a diverse and inclusive parish family that includes people from all backgrounds.
When you join us for worship, you may even run into some people who you never even knew belonged to this parish!
There are paintings everywhere!
When you attend an Orthodox Church for the first time, you will notice painting on the walls called icons. From time to time, people may be confused by Orthodox icons because of a misunderstanding of the second commandment from the Old Testament: "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth" (Exodus 20:4). However, when we learn what they are and what they mean, we can appreciate how vital they are to our relationship with God and His Saints. As windows to heaven, they act as guideposts on our way to the Kingdom of Heaven!
Why are you all praying to Mary and the Saints?
We believe in the teachings of Jesus Christ. Those who are righteous and holy are fully alive! If it is appropriate for one another to ask for words of encouragement and prayer, it's also appropriate for us to ask for the help of those who were close to God in their lifetime for their prayers. We are never saved alone. We also need help through life. If we believe that God gives us eternal life, why would we not ask for the help of those who have attained it?
Why are you all kissing those paintings of Saints?
To put it simply, if you love someone, it's appropriate to greet them 'with a holy kiss' (Rom 16:16). Both the living and the departed are greeted with a kiss. This is also a way that we show love and respect for the saints of God. In many parts of the world, people still greet one another with a kiss. Perhaps the fact that we are often taken aback at this is a reflection of how our culture has become disconnected from one another.
It seems too Catholic!
While the Orthodox Church may have certain similarities with that of the Catholic Church, they are certainly not the same. Outwardly, there are several similarities between Orthodox and Catholics: you’ll see bishops, priests, and deacons who are dressed in vestments, they use incense, and many parts of the worship are formal and ceremonial. Also, like the ancient Christians, we make the sign of the cross. However, once you get past the externals, you’ll begin to find many differences.
Why the pomp and circumstance?
All of the display is not to be 'showy.' In fact, if one were to look for a church who can trace it's origins to the worship of the biblical age, the Orthodox Church is what you are looking for. For Orthodox Christians, worship is something that we offer to God. It is also a reflection of the worship that is taking place in heaven. That being the case, the Orthodox Church has simply never had a reason to make major revisions to their way of worship to something less biblical in order to stay modern, culturally relevant, or entertaining.
Why does the priest face away from the people?
Christians have faced east while praying from the time of the Apostles. The priest is no exception to this rule, and most church buildings will be designed so that everyone is facing east together. The priest is not putting on a show, but praying with the people. Unless he is reading from the gospel, or blessing the congregation, he faces East like everyone else.
Can I receive communion with everyone else?
Only members of the Orthodox Church can receive Holy Communion. This takes places after we have been Baptized & Chrismated in a canonical jurisdiction of the Orthodox Church. Unfortunately, this means that if you are not an Orthodox Christian, you may not receive communion in the Orthodox Church. Please remember that all are welcome to receive a piece of the blessed bread (antidoro) at the end of the service.
Am I welcome to visit Saint George?
You are always welcome at Saint George! The Orthodox Church is not just concerned with spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we believe that hospitality is an essential task of the Christian life! At Saint George, we have both greeters and parish council members to greet you in the narthex along with fellowship volunteers during coffee hour. Even if we didn't have people to volunteer for these ministries, there is always someone willing to help and greet visitors at Saint George.
Before you leave, make sure that you get a chance to speak with our priest to introduce yourself and to make an appointment.
Come join us!
We hope that you can join us for Liturgy and fellowship.
The parishioners of Saint George look forward to welcoming and meeting you! To learn more about the process of becoming an Orthodox Christian and to begin your journey, contact us today: CLICK HERE!
An ever-growing number of persons from various backgrounds are becoming interested in the Orthodox Church. These individuals are discovering the ancient faith and rich traditions of the Orthodox Church. They have been attracted by her mystical vision of God and His Kingdom, by the beauty of her worship, by the purity of her Christian faith, and by her continuity with the past. These are only some of the treasures of the Church, which has a history reaching back to the time of the Apostles.
In our Western Hemisphere, the Orthodox Church has been developing into a valuable presence and distinctive witness for more than two hundred years. The first Greek Orthodox Christians arrived in the New World in 1768, establishing a colony near the present city of St. Augustine, Florida. One of the original buildings in which these immigrants gathered for religious services is still standing. It has recently been transformed into St. Photius' Shrine by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese. The Shrine, named in memory of a great missionary of the Orthodox Church, honors those first Orthodox immigrants. The chapel serves as a national religious landmark, bearing witness to the presence of Orthodoxy in America from the earliest days of its history. The next group of Orthodox Christians to emerge on the American Continent were the Russian fur traders in the Aleutian Islands. They, too, made a great contribution.
The Orthodox Church in this country owes its origin to the devotion of so many immigrants from lands such as Greece, Russia, the Middle East, and the Balkans. In the great wave of immigrations in the 19th and 20th centuries, Orthodox Christians from many lands and cultures came to America in search of freedom and opportunity. Like the first Apostles, they carried with them a precious heritage and gift. To the New World they brought the ancient faith of the Orthodox Church.
Many Orthodox Christians in America proudly trace their ancestry to the lands and cultures of Europe and Asia, but the Orthodox Church in the United States can no longer be seen as an immigrant Church. While the Orthodox Church contains individuals from numerous ethnic and cultural backgrounds, the majority of her membership is composed of persons who have been born in America. In recognition of this, Orthodoxy has been formally acknowledged as one of the Four Major Faiths in the United States. Following the practice of the Early Church, Orthodoxy treasures the various cultures of its people, but it is not bound to any particular culture or people. The Orthodox Church welcomes all!
There are about 5 million Orthodox Christians in this country. They are grouped into nearly a dozen ecclesiastical jurisdictions. The largest is the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, which has about 500 parishes throughout the United States. Undoubtedly, the Primate of the Archdiocese, His Eminence Archbishop Iakovos, has been chiefly responsible for acquainting many non-Orthodox with the treasures of Orthodoxy. His selfless ministry, which has spanned more than thirty years, has been one of devotion and vision. Filled with an appreciation of his Hellenic background and guided by a spirit of ecumenism, Archbishop Iakovos has recognized the universal dimension of Orthodoxy. He has acted decisively to make this ancient faith of the Apostles and Martyrs a powerful witness in contemporary America.
The Orthodox Church embodies and expresses the rich spiritual treasures of Eastern Christianity. It should not be forgotten that the Gospel of Christ was first preached and the First Christian communities were established in the lands surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. It was in these eastern regions of the old Roman Empire that the Christian faith matured in its struggle against paganism and heresy. There, the great Fathers lived and taught. It was in the cities of the East that the fundamentals of our faith were proclaimed at the Seven Ecumenical Councils.
The spirit of Christianity which was nurtured in the East had a particular favor. It was distinct, though not necessarily opposed, to that which developed in the Western portion of the Roman Empire and subsequent Medieval Kingdoms in the West. While Christianity in the West developed in lands which knew the legal and moral philosophy of Ancient Rome, Eastern Christianity developed in lands which knew the Semitic and Hellenistic cultures. While the West was concerned with the Passion of Christ and the sin of man, the East emphasized the Resurrection of Christ and the deification of man. While the West leaned toward a legalistic view of religion, the East espoused a more mystical theology. Since the Early Church was not monolithic, the two great traditions existed together for more than a thousand years until the Great Schism divided the Church. Today, Roman Catholics and Protestants are heirs to the Western tradition, and the Orthodox are heirs to the Eastern tradition.
Christians of the Eastern Churches call themselves Orthodox. This description comes to us from the fifth century and has two meanings which are closely related. The first definition is "true teaching." The Orthodox Church believes that she has maintained and handed down the Christian faith, free from error and distortion, from the days of the Apostles. The second definition, which is actually the more preferred, is "true praise." To bless, praise, and glorify God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is the fundamental purpose of the Church. All her activities, even her doctrinal formulations, are directed toward this goal.
Occasionally, the word Catholic is also used to describe the Orthodox Church. This description, dating back to the second century, is embodied in the Nicene Creed, which acknowledges One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. From the Orthodox perspective, Catholic means that the Church is universal and also that she includes persons of all races and cultures. It also affirms that the Church has preserved the fullness of the Christian faith.
It is not unusual for titles such as Greek, Russian, and Antiochian to be used in describing Orthodox Churches. These appellations refer to the cultural or national roots of a particular parish, diocese, or archdiocese.
Diversity in Unity
The Orthodox Church is an international federation of patriarchal, autocephalous, and autonomous churches. Each church is independent in her internal organization and follows her own particular customs. However, all the churches are united in the same faith and order. The Orthodox Church acknowledges that unity does not mean uniformity. Some churches are rich in history, such as the Church of Constantinople, while others are relatively young, such as the Church of Finland. Some are large, such as the Church of Russia, while others are small, such as the Church of Sinai. Each Church is led by a synod of bishops. The president of the synod is known as the Patriarch, Archbishop, Metropolitan, or Catholicos. Among the various bishops, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople is accorded a "place of honor" and is regarded as "first among equals." In America and Western Europe, where Orthodoxy is relatively young, there are a number of dioceses and archdioceses which are directly linked to one of these autocephalous Churches. For example, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese is under the care of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. While the Archdiocese enjoys a good measure of internal autonomy and is headed by an Archbishop, it owes its spiritual allegiance to the Church of Constantinople.