Joy of All Who Sorrow

Visiting Us for the First Time

We are aware that it can seem a very intimidating prospect to visit a new church for the first time, especially a relatively small community where you can feel a little more conspicuous than in a large church or cathedral, but we promise that we don’t bite and are generally a fairly friendly bunch!

If you are reading this, and perhaps interested in visiting our church for the first time, we hope that the notes below help to make this experience easier and less anxiety-inducing experience for you.

Coming into an Orthodox Church should feel at once coming into a space radically different from a secular building or institution – a holy place, set apart for sacred purposes where one can powerfully feel the presence of God and His saints. But then, on the other hand, the flicker of the candles and the warm glow of the ikons which surround you on all sides, give an intimate and homely feeling, where like the Prodigal Son of the parable from St Luke’s Gospel (15:11-32), we are returning back to our Father’s House.

Finding the church

Our parish is situated in the grounds of a large private country house in a rural location off Low Road in Mettingham, a small village between the market towns of Beccles and Bungay in the heart of the Waveney Valley. The church can easily be found by using the postcode NR35 1TP and is marked on Google Maps. For detailed instructions for finding the church from different directions please see our contact page.

The entrance to the property is marked by a pair of ornamental brick pillars with signs for ‘College of Our Lady of Mettingham’ and ‘White House’ which are directly opposite a working farm and a series of large agricultural barns. Please note, that the church is not visible in the front of the property and is situated directly behind the White House.

There is a shingled car park area on the left-hand side immediately as you come through the entrance. Please park your vehicle here and then walk up the drive and continue on the left-hand fork beside the House. When you come to the gable end of the house, you will finally be able to see a fine view of the East end of the church. Please continue walking around the left-hand side of the church to the main entrance which is situated at the west end. If you are physically disabled, or are transporting someone with a mobility problem, please feel free to drive up to our dedicated disabled car parking pad on the North side of the church.

Entering the church

The church is normally open during daylight hours throughout the year as well as for all scheduled services. The first space you will come to after walking through the porch is the narthex. This is a small area where on the left-hand side you will see there are candles available. There is no fixed price for the candles and we simply invite people to give a donation if they are in a financial position to do so. You will also see a small box with spare headscarves for the use of female parishioners and visitors.

Although you may notice that many of the Orthodox women in our church will be wearing a head covering in obedience to Scripture (1 Cor 11:10), this is not mandatory and whilst we ask visitors of both sexes to be modestly dressed, above all else we want everyone to feel welcome in their Heavenly Father’s house without feeling that their appearance is being intensively scrutinized or judged.

Once inside the church, please do come into the central nave of the church where you are welcome to venerate the holy ikons by making the sign of the cross and lightly touching the outer frame of ikon with your lips. You are also welcome to light and place your candles in the sand trays around the church. Other than our baptismal candidates (catechumen) all lay members of the church will be in the nave area for the duration of the church services.

Children in the services

In the Orthodox Church we love children and want our married couples to have as many as possible! Unlike many other Christian congregations, in the Orthodox Church we want children and young people to experience the fulness of the divine services and to be present with their parents as much as possible in the divine services.

The Orthodox Church thus does not have a separate Sunday School which children attend whilst their parents are in church. Thus, please do not feel anxious or self-conscious if your child is making a little innocent noise. We would much rather hear them babbling to their Guardian Angel than not have them present with us in the service.

As you will soon notice, there is a real freedom and an informal formality about Orthodox worship and so people are free to move around the Temple rather than stay rigidly in one place. If your child would like to walk around a little, please accompany them and help them to venerate the ikons and light candles. If your child becomes a bit restless, as is entirely normal, then do feel able to take them outside for a minute or two to help them calm down.

If you need to change or feed your child, then you are welcome to go into the House where you will find plenty of space.

Sunday divine liturgy

Immediately before the Divine Liturgy, the 3rd and 6th hours are read, this is a pair of short services which comprises of psalms and hymns read and not sung by a single reader. Whilst the hours are read the priest will hear confessions as the people attentively listen to the reader. Once the priest has heard confessions, all the lights are turned on and the Divine Liturgy begins.

The key way in which Orthodox participate in the liturgy is to listen and pray attentively with the deacon’s petitions, the singing of the choir and the priest’s exclamations. Please feel free to join in with the choir’s responses of ‘Lord, have mercy’, ‘And with thy spirit’ and ‘Amen’ as well as chanting the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. The choir generally uses the same musical settings each week, so over time the tunes will become familiar.

Although most Orthodox Christians will stand for the vast majority of the services, it does take some time to build up stamina to stand for the full duration of the services, thus if you in anyway feel uncomfortable, and your prayer is becoming distracted, then please do sit down. Obviously, those who are elderly, infirm or pregnant, for example, should sit down whenever they need to. If possible, stand though for the Gospel reading and any time the clergy are outside the altar.

Non-Orthodox are not permitted to receive Holy Communion, but we do invite you to come and kiss the cross at the end of the service and to receive the antidoran – the blessed bread. If you are able, please also do stay for coffee and lunch after the service and meet some of the people in the community.

Please see our FAQs for answers to further questions you might have. If you don’t find the answer below, then please contact Fr Mark.