At St. Joseph of Optina our church services are conducted in a combination of English and Church Slavonic, with some of the readings done in Russian. Although we are the Russian Orthodox Church, we are a multi-ethnic parish with members who are from not only Russia, but many Eastern European countries, and a number of converts to the faith who are right here from the “deep south” and from other parts of the country.
We are Hampton Road’s only traditional Orthodox Christian community celebrating according the Old (Julian) Calendar and following the traditional practices of the Russian Orthodox Church. Some example of these traditional practices are that women wear head-coverings and skirts or dresses while in church and we encourage modest dress of everyone for services. We make regular private confession prior to receiving Holy Communion, stand during church services, and our choir and clergy chant without the use of accompanying musical instruments.
While many Christian communities today practice what is called “open communion” wherein any who describes themselves as Christian may receive Holy Communion in a church that they are visiting the Orthodox Church limits the reception of the Holy Mysteries (Holy Communion) to those Orthodox Christians who have been baptized and chrismated, and in our Church those who have gone to confession prior to receiving the Holy Mysteries.
All this may sound a bit foreign to many non-Orthodox Christians, particularly those who have spent their whole life in the West, but this is the way Orthodox Christians have worshiped and lived the faith given to us by our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ and the Holy Apostles almost 2,000 years ago!