Joining the church

The traditional process of marriage is helpful for understanding one's movement toward joining the Orthodox Church. As in marriage, three distinct stages can be discerned. They are courtship(inquirer), engagement(catechumen), and the marriage itself(member).

These three stages are most helpful for understanding adult conversion. Young children and infants join the church through a different process, although the sacraments themselves are the same.


1. As an Inquirer

Introductions to the Orthodox Christian Faith vary greatly in America. Whether you randomly encounter the priest at a coffeeshop, or a friend has peaked your interest, the first step should be attending a service. It is not uncommon to find one's first experience of Orthodox worship as unfamiliar, and that's ok! If you desire to continue attending after an initial period of time, you would be considered an inquirer.

the local church

In order to truly grow as an Orthodox Christian, one must be nurtured in a community.  Is Montana your home? Great! If not, here is a directory of parishes in the U.S. that can help find the one nearest to you.

2. As a catechumen


After consistent attendance at the services of the Church, a person may feel that it is time to deepen their commitment to entry into the Church. At this point, the inquirer will express their desire to the priest, and the process for formal entry into the Church will be discerned.

The term "catechumen" is simply used to recognize that one is preparing for official reception into the Church. In the early Church, this time would have lasted up to 3 years, or longer! This is not usually the case in our time. Usually, about 1 year is the period of discernment required for a person to have time to make an informed decision. That being said, this is not a hard and fast rule. It may be longer, or shorter. Again, this is discerned in the context of pastoral work with the priest.

It is very common in America for people to enter the Orthodox Christian Church out of a previously held set of Christian beliefs. When this takes place, it is imperative to have an appropriate amount of time to sort through both one's theory of former beliefs, and the practices they may have entailed. It is critical that one enters the Orthodox Church under freedom, not compulsion, and in knowledge, not ignorance. A major event in the process of adult conversion is making one's first confession. It is common practice to make a lifetime confession, affording one the opportunity to lay all the sinful burdens of one's life at the feet of Christ before entering upon the mystical path toward holiness.

In the Orthodox Church, many have composed books known as "catechisms", however, none of them are the sole answer key. Study is honorable, and is certainly part of the catechetical process. Yet, we approach our faith primarily through the experience of the Holy Spirit, in the context of our liturgical life, both in the collective services, and private prayer and reading at home.

The catechumenate is to be taken very seriously. Once again, recall the example of engagement in preparing for marriage. The Church receives the catechumens as her own to such a degree that if they should die before proper baptism, they are still given a full Orthodox funeral service.

3. As a Member


Jesus came to them and said, "All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go (therefore) and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all the things that I have commanded you. Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen!
— The Gospel According to St. Matthew, 28:18 - 20

The Mystery of Baptism

When one receives the Mystery of Christian Baptism, they spiritually die with Christ when descending into the water, only to rise again with Christ in His Holy Resurrection. This is indicated by the Scriptural reference to being "born again" (See Gospel of John 3:3).

St. Paul expresses this mystery as follows: "... do you not know that all {of us} we who who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized  into his death? And so, we were buried with him through baptism to death, so that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, likewise we might also walk in newness of life" (St. Paul's Letter to the Romans 6:3-4)


The Mystery of Chrismation

Chrismation is the holy mystery by which a baptized person is granted the gift of the Holy Spirit through anointing with oil. As baptism is a personal participation in the death and Resurrection of Christ, so chrismation is a personal participation in the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

The Acts of the Apostles show us that a sort of confirmation was going on even in the early Church. As the Christian community expanded both numerically and geographically into many locations both within and outside of the Jewish world, the Apostles were soon not the only ones preaching the Gospel and Baptizing people into Christ. As Christianity began to grow, it was impossible for the Apostles to be everywhere to perform the Sacrament by laying on their hands, so they gave the authority to their successors to administer the Sacrament by anointing the baptized with Chrism.

The Mystery of Communion

Immediately after being baptized and chrismated into the Church, during the Divine Liturgy, the newly illumined Christian receives Communion for the first time.

Upon reception into the Church, the newly-illumined Christian continues and works to increase their participation in the Church through the Mystical Life in Christ.


Becoming an Orthodox Christian

If you think you may be interested in joining the Orthodox Church, glory to God! We recommend attending a service or two and then arranging a time to speak with our Priest.