WELCOME TO THE HILL
Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to visit us.
Welcome to St Peter & St Paul Church located in South Coast of NSW, Australia! We are located in Berkeley, a suburb of Wollongong, 45 minutes south of Sydney. We would absolutely love for you to come by and visit us at anytime. Our Church is welcoming of everyone from anywhere.
If this is your first time to visit, please feel free to just walk in during one of our service times, else if you prefer please contact Fr. Daniel at any time through the "Contact Us" page. Our Liturgy @ the HILL begins 8:30am on Sunday, afterwards we have a hearty meal in fellowship, and a children's program - KIDS @ the HILL - that runs from creche to High School. Families with children are most welcome to any service, so please do not worry about the noise - Fr. Daniel's own children are far louder!
As a first-time guest you may be more comfortable first attending our Friday evening "re-Charge" service which centres around a Bible Study @ 7:00pm where you will discover an authentic, rich, and practical interpretation of Scripture. Afterwards you will find refreshments, friendly faces, and family-friendly atmosphere. Please inquire about child minding for any of our services.
Please have a browse through our FAQ below, and if you have any other questions just ask.
1. What could possibly take 2 hours?
Just so you know, the liturgical prayers we now use (written by St. Basil) are the shortened version of the original 5+ hour liturgy of the early church. You will probably ask yourself several times during the service “is there a concise way to say this? Can extra adjectives be deleted?” Although you may not see it at first, each prayer is intentional and very critical to the liturgical service. Don’t forget that the center of our life as a church family is the Eucharist; each prayer is vital in preparing us to receive the Body and Blood of Christ.
2. Simon Says, “Stand up!”…Simon Says, “Sit Down”
In the Orthodox tradition, the faithful stand up for nearly the entire service. Really. In most Coptic churches, there will be pews or rows of chairs. In any case, if you find the amount of standing too challenging you’re welcome to take a seat. No one minds or probably even notices; you’ll likely see others doing it as well. Don’t lose heart, standing gets easier with practice.
3. The Sign of the Cross.
To say that we make the sign of the cross frequently would be an understatement. We sign ourselves any time we mention the Holy Trinity, whenever we venerate an icon, and on many other occasions in the course of the Liturgy. You’ll notice it a lot when you hear specific words like “worship” or “glorify.” There is no set rule of when you should and shouldn’t, it’s a personal thing. We cross with our right hands from left to right. Traditionally we hold our hands in a prescribed way: thumb and first two fingertips pressed together, last two fingers pressed down to the palm. Can you figure out the symbolism? Three fingers together for the Trinity; two fingers brought down to the palm for the one Person of Christ that is both fully human and fully divine, and his coming down to earth. This, too, takes practice. Don’t worry: a beginner’s imprecise arrangement of fingers won’t offend God.
4. Kissing in the Church.
Alright, I know what you’re thinking. The Orthodox church is supposed to be super strict…how then can we allow kissing at church? The reality is we kiss stuff. It’s an expression of love - sincere affection. We kiss icons, the relics of saints, and a priest’s hand when greeting him. We even greet each other shortly after the sermon during the liturgical service. You’ll hear the deacon say “Greet one another with a holy kiss…” (1 Peter 5:14). It’s not a secret handshake that only Orthodox people know, don’t worry; just follow the lead of those around you: both palms touching with thumbs crossed over each other, touch the hands of your neighbor and then kiss your own hand. Repeat. Exchanging the kiss of peace is a liturgical act, a sign of mystical unity between the entire congregation. It’s a reminder that Christ’s Spirit is what unites each of us although we may not know each other very well. Don’t worry there is also a time for coffee, chatting, and fellowship later.
5. We’re not just breaking bread at the Olive Garden
The entire liturgical service is focused on one main event, which is the Holy Eucharist (or Communion). In the Orthodox Church, we believe that the Eucharist is the actual Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. Communion is reserved for those who are baptized in the Orthodox Church. This is not a way to exclude people, but the Eucharist is the Church’s treasure, and it is reserved for those who have united themselves with the Church. It’s kind of like reserving marital relations until after the wedding (baptism). Towards the end of the liturgy, everyone lines up and receives the bread (Body of Christ) and wine (Blood of Christ). If you have any questions about this (and you will) please just ask our Priest. As a primer have a read of John 6.
6. Can we bring friends or our children:
Of course! God welcomes everyone, and so do we. The focus of our Church is every individual. So please feel free to bring anyone with you that may also be interested. That means the youngest child, to the greyest elder. We understand that it is often difficult to contain loud children, but please do not let that be an obstacle. In the first place, most of us have young families (Fr. Daniel himself has 2 very loud children), so we all understand. We also have a children's room to the left of the Church, which is sound-proof but at the same time has speakers and open windows so that you can still be part of the worship. Children are the life of the Church, and as such we follow the words of Christ: "Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven."
7. Music, music, music.
Traditionally, Coptic Orthodox use cymbals and a triangle during the service. Old school, we know. You will also notice that more than half of the service is sung by the congregation… if you’re comfortable, sing along! Participation is key if you hope to stay focused during the liturgical prayers. Now the hymns of the church pack a lot of meaning, not only in the words but also in the tune itself. Each season of the church has its own tunes and hymns.
8. Wait, is that smoke?
Don’t worry we have it under control. The smoke you see is actually the incense that the priest releases from the censor. In the Orthodox Church, incense represents prayers and repentance that ascend into heaven. Each time the priest passes by with the censor, your prayers and those of everyone in the church are rising before the throne of God Himself. Don’t believe it? “Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.” Revelation 5:8
9. Our Champions the Saints
A constant feature of Orthodox worship is veneration of the saints and in particular, the Virgin Mary. We often address her as “Theotokos,” which means “Mother of God.”The saints who have departed this world are still alive, and very much a part of our Church. We believe that they are the victorious church (since they have finished their race and received the prize of eternal life) and we are the struggling church. We do not pray to saints, contrary to popular belief, but we ask for their prayers on our behalf the same as you would ask a spiritual father or friend to pray for you. We also believe that the Church is Heaven on earth and that although the saints are not with us in the physical church they are with us in the heavenly Church, praying with us and for us.
10. Where does a non-Orthodox fit in?
Come and experience how the earliest & original Church worships! You may or may not know this, but there is a multiplicity of Orthodox churches: Coptic, Greek, Romanian, Russian, Antiochian, Serbian, and on and on. There are about 250 million in the world, making Orthodoxy the second-largest Christian community. But even though these Churches are the different ethnic expressions of the same faith, each Church is called to not only nourish its faithful but also to sanctify its community. At St. Peter & St. Paul's, the liturgical services are completely in English. That’s because we want to share the treasure and spiritual depth that the Orthodox Church has. This is simply because the Orthodox Church from the very earliest Church went out into the world regardless of one's culture, language, or colour. In addition, you’ll always find someone who can answer any questions you might have along the way. Orthodoxy seems startlingly different at first, but as the weeks go by it gets to be less so. It will begin to feel more and more like home, and will gradually draw you into your true home, the Kingdom of God. Come and check it out for yourself, especially now that you have the inside scoop.
(Adapted from a list created by Frederica Mathewes-Green & modified by Fr. Anthony Messeh)