About St. Paul's: A Las Vegas Orthodox Church
Saint Paul the Apostle Orthodox Church of Las Vegas, Nevada is a parish of the Diocese of the West, Orthodox Church in America. We are under the episcopacy of His Eminence, Archbishop Benjamin, Archbishop of San Francisco and the West, and the ruling hierarch of the Orthodox Church in America is His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon, Archbishop of Washington, Metropolitan of all America and Canada. Our parish Rector is Archpriest John J. Dresko. (biography) Our parish son, Deacon Stephen Osburn, Jr., is attached to serve at the altar of St. Paul Church.
Our parish is named after the Holy Apostle Paul, counted along with the Apostle Peter as Leaders of the Apostles and teachers of the world. This apostolic patronymic is only fitting as the true history of our Las Vegas Orthodox parish, as a part of the greater Holy Orthodox Church, begins at Pentecost. The parish was originally founded in Las Vegas under then Archimandrite Nikolai (Soraich), who was consecrated Bishop Nikolai, Bishop of Sitka and Anchorage and Alaska in 2001.
The parish was established on November 13, 1988 and the present temple was consecrated by His Beatitude, Metropolitan Theodosius with His Grace, Bishop Tikhon, and a gathering of other clergy and faithful in attendance on May 13, 1995. Our annual parish feast day is June 29th.
The architecture of our temple is based on the design of the Church of Saint Hripsime in Etchmiadzin, Armenia, a 7th century church which is still standing to this day. As is traditional from the earliest of structures built specifically for Christian worship, the Sanctuary (Altar) is at the extreme eastern end of the building, the direction of the light, symbolized in the rising sun. The Narthex (Vestibule) is at the west end of the building, the 'dark' end representing the darkness of sin. The Nave (main body) is situated between the two. The Nave's interior is traditional and accordingly you will find no permament seating (pews). Some chairs are provided for those who cannot stand for long periods. The presumption is that the only appropriate bodily position for the worship of God is on one's feet or prostrate with one's face to the ground.
The iconography (religious 'pictures') is traditional in style with examples from a variety of Orthodox cultural traditions. The iconostasis, the prominent screen that separate the Nave from the Sanctuary consists of two tiers. The upper tier traditionally consists of icons of the twelve major feasts of the Church year along with icons of the Crucifixion and Resurrection to the left and right of center, and, in the center, the icon of the Holy Eucharist. The lower tier features the Royal Doors in the very center with the icon of our Lord Jesus Christ to the right and of the Theotokos (Mother of God) to the left. The arrangement is as follows, from left to right, St. Nicholas the Wonderworker (from whom the West has derived the figure of Santa Claus), Saints Constantine and Helen, our Patron Saint Paul the Apostle, the First Martyr Stephen, and the Holy Virgin Mary. To the right of the Royal Doors we begin with our Savior, followed by the Archangel Michael, the Forerunner and Baptist John, Saints Simeon and Sava of Serbia, and on the extreme right are depicted the Saints of America.
Just as a note of interest, the Narthex, even as you will find here, was a large and spacious place. It is here that Catechumens - those being instructed for reception into the Christian faith - received instruction while preparing for Baptism, and also where Penitents excluded from Holy Communion stood.
Some Notes To Our Visitors
You are welcome in our Church! We are thankful for everyone who God sends, in His divine providence, to our spiritual home. Those who would like to learn more about the ancient Christian faith should feel free to contact a member of our clergy. Our Church welcomes all who have a sincere desire to follow the Founder and Head of our ancient Faith, our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ.
If you are an Orthodox first-time visitor without a parish of your own we encourage you to join our active membership. Simply ask the usher, someone on duty at the candle stand, or one of the clergy.
Our parishioners welcome you after the Divine Liturgy to join us in our Community Hall next door for a cup of coffee and conversation with our parish family of greater Las Vegas. You will find people from most every walk of life and of great cultural diversity. We are one family in Christ bound together in one common faith.
Some Notes On Good Order in Orthodox Worship
We gather here together in this temple as a parish community in a single ancient faith for a singular purpose - the worship and glorification of God. It is thus that we ask you to please refrain from any unusual or disrespectful behavior while you are here in our place of worship as this distracts the Faithful from our purpose in being here. Distracting clothing, smoking, standing with hands in pockets, conversing, excessive or flamboyant bows and other behavior, which draws attention to oneself, is discouraged.
The use of flashes, or other artificial lighting with cameras, video camcorders, movie cameras, etc. is not permitted, since such is a definite distraction to Faithful praying and participating in worship in our church. The use of high-speed film for available light photography, and any filming that does not involve moving about the church or into the view of parishioners is allowed. In other words, be discrete and respect the place you have entered.
A Note on the Reception of Holy Communion
Please understand that non-Orthodox visitors, regardless of your Christian affiliation or confession, are not permitted to receive Holy Communion in the Orthodox Church. Reception of the Divine Gifts identifies a person with the Orthodox body of believers exclusively. It has been thus since the first Mystical Supper in the upper room. While no one at all is considered worthy of Holy Communion, including the clergy, the Orthodox Church does not admit any Orthodox person to Communion who is not prepared. An indispensable element of preparation for Holy Communion is considered to be regular participation in the Mystery of Holy Confession. Another indispensable element is total fasting, preferably from the preceding evening, but at least from the midnight prior to morning reception of the Mystery of Holy Communion. Orthodox visitors are encouraged to contact the Priest prior to the Divine Liturgy if they intend to receive the Mysteries.
A Note on Candles and Commemorations
You will find in the Narthex a small candle stand where candles may be purchased for a donation. These candles are lit and placed in one of the candle stands within the Nave accompanied by our prayers. The candle is at once a small offering and a symbol of our own lives. The warmth of the flame is our faith casting light upon a world darkened by sin. We are consumed and our life here is temporary, thus it is that we must shine brightly with the Uncreated Light of God while the time is given to us. It is the favorite lie of our adversary the devil that there is 'plenty of time'. Our Orthodox visitors will also find that we offer prosphora at the candle stand for a donation. Accompanied by the list you provide the Priest will remove particles from the loaf for the health or blessed memory of your loved ones. The loaves must be received in the Altar well prior to the Great Entrance and they will be returned to the candle stand for you to pick up after the Divine Liturgy.
Thank you for joining us online and we hope you visit us when in Las Vegas. Our faith is ancient and it is founded upon the love of God who so loved the world that He sent His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to us that we might by His example learn to truly live and, by His death and resurrection, to be freed from the tyranny of sin. We genuinely hope that you find Him here in our midst.