Welcome from our Priest.
Beloved, Christ is in our midst!
On behalf of the dedicated parishioners of St. Gregory American Coptic Orthodox Church, I welcome you to our parish website. Soon, I hope to welcome you to one of our many services. From Divine Liturgies in which we worship the Holy Trinity and realize our potential as the Body of Christ to community service events in which we serve Christ in the people around us, there is something for everyone. In the meantime, I invite you to look around and benefit from the resources we offer. When you’re ready to schedule a visit or a more in-depth meeting, remember that there is always a place for you at St. Gregory.
With love in Christ,
Fr. Moses Samaan
The One True God
We believe that God is one fullness of perfection; we believe that He is a perfect Spirit, timeless, without beginning, all-powerful and all-wise. God is everywhere, sees all, and knows beforehand when something will happen. He is good beyond measure, just and all-holy. He needs nothing and is the reason for everything that exists.
We believe that all things are under God’s control; that is, He provides for every creature and guides everything to a good goal. God loves and looks after us as a mother looks after her child. For this reason nothing bad can befall a person who trusts in God.
The Holy Trinity
We believe that God is one in Essence and Trinity in Persons (i.e., the one true God has appeared to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is the Trinity, one in Essence and indivisible. The Father is not born and does not proceed from the others. The Son pre-eternally was born of the Father, and the Holy Spirit eternally proceeds from the Father. We believe that all the Persons of the Holy Trinity are equally in divine perfection, greatness, power, and glory. That is, we believe that the Father is true and perfect God, the Son is true and perfect God, and, the Holy Spirit is true and perfect God. Therefore, in prayers, we simultaneously glorify the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as one God.
We believe that the entire visible and invisible world was created by God. In the beginning God created the invisible, great angelic world, otherwise known as Heaven. As stated in the Bible, God created our material or physical world from nothing. This was not done at once, but gradually during periods of time which in the Bible are called “days.” God created the world not out of necessity or need but out of His all-good desire to do so in order that His other creations might enjoy life. Being Himself endlessly good, God created all things good. Evil appeared in the world from the misuse of free will, with which God has endowed both angels and people. For example, the Devil (Satan) and his demons were at one time angels of God. But they rebelled against their Creator and became demons. They were cast out of Heaven and formed their own kingdom called “hell.” From that moment on, they tempted people to sin and became our enemies and the enemies of our salvation.
Our Lord Jesus Christ
We believe that the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, came down from heaven for our salvation. He came to earth and took on our flesh by the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary. Being God from all eternity, He in the time of King Herod took on our human nature, both soul and body, and is therefore truly God and truly man, or the God-man. In one divine Person He combined two natures, divine and human. These two natures will remain with Him always without change, neither blending nor changing from one into the other.
We believe that our Lord Jesus Christ, while living on earth, enlightened the world by His teaching, His example, and miracles. He taught people what they should believe and how they should live so that they may inherit eternal life. By His prayers to His Father, His complete obedience to the Father’s Will, His sufferings and death, He defeated the devil and redeemed the world from sin and death. By His Resurrection from the dead, He laid the foundation for our resurrection. After His Ascension in the flesh to Heaven, which took place forty days after His Resurrection from the dead, our Lord Jesus Christ sat at the right hand of God the Father; that is to say, He received equal power with God the Father and since then together with Him governs the face of the world.
The Holy Spirit
We believe that the Holy Spirit, proceeding from God the Father from the beginning of the world, together with the Father and the Son gives existence to all creation, gives life, and governs all. He is the source of a grace-filled spiritual life, both for angels as well as people, and equally with the Father and the Son is worthy of all glory and worship. The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament spoke through the prophets. Then in the beginning of the New Testament, He spoke through the Apostles and now lives in the Church of Christ, guiding her pastors and people in the truth.
The One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church
We believe that our Lord Jesus Christ founded the Church on earth for the salvation of all who believe in Him. He sent the Holy Spirit to the Apostles on Pentecost. Since that time the Holy Spirit abides in the Church, that grace-filled community or union of believing Orthodox Christians, and preserves her in the purity of Christ’s teaching. The grace of the Holy Spirit abides in the Church, cleanses those who repent of sins, helps the believers grow in good deeds, and sanctifies them.
We believe that the Church is One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. She is One because all Orthodox Christians, although belonging to different national, local churches, are one family together with the angels and saints in Heaven. The oneness of the Church depends on oneness of Faith and Grace. The Church is Holy because her faithful children are sanctified by the word of God, prayer, and the Sacraments. The Church is Catholic because what we believe is the same teaching held to be true by all Orthodox Christians, always and everywhere. The Church is called Apostolic because it preserves Apostolic teaching and the Apostolic succession. From ancient times, this Apostolic succession passes on without interruption from Bishop to Bishop in the sacrament of Ordination. The Church will remain of our Lord and Savior until the end of time.
The Parousia or Second Coming of Jesus Christ
We believe that before the end of the world Jesus Christ, accompanied by angels, will again come to the earth in glory. Every person, according to His Word, will resurrect from the dead. A miracle will occur in which the souls of people who have died will return into the bodies which they possessed during their earthly life. All the dead will come to life. During the General Resurrection, the bodies of the saints, both those resurrecting and those still living will be renewed and become spiritualized in the image of the Resurrected Body of Christ. After the resurrection, everyone will appear before the Judgment of Christ, to receive what he is due, according to what he has done when he lived in his body, good or evil. After the Judgment, unrepentant sinners will enter into eternal torments and the righteous into eternal life. This will begin the Kingdom of Christ, which will have no end.
Come and See.
New visitors will find there are many new things to experience in a Coptic Orthodox Church service. Feel free to go at your own pace, ask any questions you want, and know you are most welcome to “come and see.”
Standing or sitting?
The traditional posture for prayer and worship in the Orthodox Church is to stand, as before the King of the universe! In many churches in Egypt, there are typically no pews in the churches. Chairs or benches on the side walls are usually reserved for the elderly and infirm. In America, we build our churches with pews or chairs, so you may sit. However, it is appropriate to stand during the Gospel reading, the Anaphora through the Institution Narrative, the distribution of the Holy Mystery, when the priest gives a blessing, and at the Dismissal.
Lighting candles is an important part of Orthodox worship and piety. We light candles as we pray, making an offering to accompany our prayers. Orthodox typically light candles when coming into the church, but there are times when candles should not be lit. Candles should not be lit during the Epistle or Gospel readings, and during the sermon. You do not have to be an Orthodox Christian to light a candle and pray!
What are Orthodox worship hymns like?
Between 65–75% of the traditional Coptic Liturgy involves congregational singing. Coptic Christians do not use musical instruments with the exception of the cymbals and triangle, which are used simply to keep musical time. A choir of deacons leads the congregation in harmonious chant, usually in Coptic and English. Our hymns are solemn, prayerful and intended to lead the faithful to worship the living God.
Are non-Orthodox visitors welcome?
Yes, absolutely. We are a community made up of both cradle-born Orthodox Christians and those who have converted to the faith. We are very comfortable with newcomers, inquirers, and visitors. Anyone who wishes to discover ancient Coptic Orthodox Christianity is welcome. If you have questions, the parish priest will be happy to answer them. So don’t be afraid to ask questions about what we do and why.
When you enter a church, someone will greet you and direct you to a place to sit. We have books of our Divine Liturgy in English, Coptic, and Arabic to everyone. In addition, we have a large Powerpoint presentation that updates continuously during the Liturgy with the prayers. You may follow the service text, or, if you prefer, simply close your eyes and enter into the Church’s beautiful worship of God.
Following the Sunday Divine Liturgy, you are invited to join us for a “coffee hour” which is a good time to get to know our parish members and meet our priest.
Can non-Orthodox receive the Holy Eucharist?
Orthodox priests may only serve the Holy Eucharist to baptized members in good standing of the canonical Orthodox Church, who have recently confessed, and fasted before partaking of the Holy Eucharist. This is the ancient tradition of the Holy Church for the 2,000 years of its history. The Orthodox Church understands the Holy Eucharist as a mystery of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, not simply as a memorial, or merely in a spiritual sense, as many other non-Orthodox Christians do. Rather than trying to accommodate to often varying “interpretations” or revisions of this and other doctrines of the ancient faith, we simply ask that you respect the ancient, apostolic tradition and join us in receiving the Eulogia (blessed bread), at the end of the Divine Liturgy.
How long are the services?
On Saturday evenings, the Evening Raising of Incense service (Vespers) is generally 30–45 minutes in length, including a short homily in Arabic or English. On Sunday mornings, a similar service is celebrated before the Divine Liturgy. Afterwards, the Divine Liturgy is approximately 3 hours in length with an English homily at approximately 9:30 a.m. and the Distribution of the Mystery of the Eucharist from 11:00–11:30 a.m. We understand this may seem like a very long service, but we know that when you have participated in an Orthodox service you will feel like you have truly worshipped the living God.
Is there a dress code?
The general rule for men and women is to dress appropriately, modestly and respectfully, as before the living God. We ask that you not wear shorts, mini-skirts, tank tops, low-cut or strapless dresses (unless covered by a sweater, etc.).
Is childcare provided?
Each parent is responsible to take care of their child. We encourage children to be present in Church for the services. This participation is part of a child’s spiritual formation. However, if your baby or child gets fussy, talkative, or has a melt-down, please take him or her out of the nave until he or she is ready to return quietly.
Is Sunday school for children available?
Yes, immediately after the Sunday Divine Liturgy, we provide Sunday school in small groups for children in grades K through 8, as well as meetings for youth in high school and college.
If you are a non-Orthodox person interested in joining the Orthodox Church the outline below will give you the general shape of the process of becoming Orthodox:
- Attend services faithfully and get to know the community. (At this stage there are no expectations, in terms of supporting the church or participating in church activities, other than faithful attendance.)
- Join the catechumenate – those who are receiving instruction. (The catechumenate usually lasts about a year though the time can vary.)
- Be received into the Church. This is done either by full immersion baptism or by chrismation – sealing with holy oil. (The form of reception, baptism or chrismation, is determined by the Bishop.)
If you would like to learn more about this please contact Fr. Moses.