Parish Handbook

“There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.  There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord.  And there is diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.” (1 Corinthians 12:4-6)

The purpose of this section is to acquaint you with the many aspects of our parish life and to invite you to participate in the life of the Church. It is meant to help join the parish together in the common ministry of the building up of Christ’s Church. We hope that the information it contains will be helpful to you. Covered are areas such as:

• Worship
• Educational Programs
• Fellowship
• Stewardship
• Parish Council
• Parish Ministries
• Membership 

We continually pray for the Holy Spirit to inspire us to be a loving and nurturing Christian community. We are grateful for your interest in St. Paul the Apostle Orthodox Church and encourage your involvement and commitment.



Orthodox Christianity

The Orthodox Church was founded by Our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ. It is the ark of salvation and sanctification for all mankind. It is the continuation and extension of Christ’s prophetic, priestly, and kingly power.

Guided by the Holy Spirit, the Orthodox Church is the household of God with Jesus Christ at its head. The Church has struggled for more than two thousand years to bear witness in various cultural and historical settings to His birth, crucifixion, and resurrection.

The Orthodox Church’s faith, discipline and worship are based on the Holy Scriptures, Holy Tradition, the Seven Ecumenical Councils, and the Holy Fathers. The Orthodox Church is One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. The Orthodox Church is hierarchical and conciliar in form and function. Bishops are appointed to guide, rule and teach their flocks. Priests and deacons assist them in their sacred work. While the bishop is the divinely appointed teacher of the Faith, the entire Church membership–bishops, priests, deacons, and laity–are the guardians of the Faith. The Church is a eucharistic society, with the profession of the Nicean-Constantinopolitan Creed and reception of Holy Communion being the on-going criteria for membership in the Church.

History of the Church in North America

Orthodox Christianity in North America was first established in Kodiak, Alaska in 1794. For more than two hundred years, Orthodox Christians in the United States and Canada have attempted to live the fullness of this sacramental and sacrificial tradition as the indigenous Church. Worshipping God in Trinity while witnessing to the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the heritage of the Orthodox Church in America.

Our Parish as a Continuation

Saint Paul the Apostle Orthodox Church is a parish of the Diocese of the West, Orthodox Church in America. We are under the episcopacy of His Grace, the Most Reverend Benjamin, Archbishop of San Francisco and the West, and the ruling hierarch of the Orthodox Church in America is His Beatitude, the Most Blessed Tikhon, Archbishop of Washington and New York, Metropolitan of All America and Canada. The Rector of our parish is the Priest Paul Hamner.

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 parish, as a part of the greater Holy Orthodox Church, begins at Pentecost. 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 joyous gathering of other clergy and faithful in attendance on May 13, 1995. The exterior design of the temple itself is inspired by a famous 7th century Armenian church. Our annual parish feast day is June 29th.

As members of St. Paul’s Orthodox Church, we are encouraged to strive to be illumined and transformed into the Image of Christ in our communal and personal lives. We are also encouraged to take up our cross daily and follow Him, to bear witness to His image that is in us, and manifest Him to each other and to our neighbors through our words and deeds.

For Further Information

Please obtain a copy of our most recent parish newsletter entitled The Messenger which contains notices of forthcoming Feast Days, events and activities. It is our monthly forum for keeping the parish informed as well continually educating ourselves on the Church and her life. The newsletter is published monthly and distributed electronically to parishioners and friends of the parish. Hard copies are available in the church vestibule. As a member of the parish, you will also have access to The Orthodox Church, the official publication of the Orthodox Church in America, which is available online at and in hard copy in the church vestibule.


Liturgical Services

At the center of our parish life is the celebration of the Divine Liturgy. At the Divine Liturgy we rededicate our lives, encounter the Word of God, offer the Holy Gifts and partake of them for the healing of our soul and body. The Divine Liturgy is celebrated every Sunday at 9:00 am. In preparation for the Sunday Divine Liturgy, parishioners are encouraged to attend the Saturday Great Vespers service which prepares us for the Divine Liturgy. Vespers is served on Saturday evenings at 5:00 pm.

Annual Major Feast Days are commemorated with a celebration of a Festal Great Vespers and Litiya on the eve of the feast day beginning at 6:30 pm and Divine Liturgy on the day of the Feast at 8:00 am (except weekends, when liturgies are served at 9:00 am). Minor Feast Days or Saints Days are commemorated with the celebration of the Divine Liturgy at 8:00 am. The Feast of the Nativity of Christ and Theophany have their own liturgical character, and the schedule is in the monthly calendar on this web site and in The Messenger. All liturgical services are announced in the weekly bulletin or monthly newsletter.

Great Lent is an opportunity for all Orthodox Christians to examine their Christian life and to come closer to God through prayer, fasting, almsgiving and participating in the Lenten services. Lenten serviceos include the Canon of St. Andrew of Crete during the first week of Lent; the Presanctified Liturgy served on Wednesday and Friday evenings at 6:30 pm during Lent; There is also the Akathist to the Theotokos served on the fifth Friday of Lent, as well as the Lazarus Saturday, Palm Sunday, and Holy Week services leading up to the Paschal celebration.

The celebration of Pascha commences at 11:30 pm on the eve of the Pascha (Holy Saturday night), with the Nocturn Service, the paschal procession, Matins Service and Divine Liturgy. Afterwards, individual “baskets” of paschal food, prepared by parishioners, is blessed. Our tradition has been for parishioners to break the fast with one another in the church hall. Later on the afternoon of Pascha, the Agape Vespers are celebrated at noon.Please refer to the “Monthly Calendar” page for the annual schedule of services for Lent, Holy Week and Pascha.

Sacramental Life

All parishioners are encouraged to prepare for and partake of Holy Communion at every Divine Liturgy, as well as during the year at other Divine Liturgies on Feast Days and at the Presanctified Liturgies during Great Lent. In preparation for receiving Holy Communion on a regular and frequent basis one should receive the Sacrament of Confession regularly and in consultation with the Rector. Other preparations should include attendance at Saturday evening Vespers, the reading of the Pre- and Post-Communion Prayers either at home or in church, and the keeping of a Eucharistic Fast. For Orthodox Christians, it is traditional to fast from all food and drink at least from midnight until receiving Holy Communion at a Divine Liturgy celebrated in the morning. To receive Holy Communion at a Presanctified Liturgy, you should abstain from food and drink from at least mid-day. Please see Father Paul should you have any questions about your own individual manner of preparation.

All active parishioners are expected to make a personal Confession at least twice a year–once during the Christmas Advent season and once during Great Lent. Regular communicants are expected to make a Confession more frequently.

Confessions are heard after every evening service or by making an appointment with Father Paul.

Altar Servers

Young men between the ages of 6-17 have a unique opportunity to serve God’s Church by becoming altar servers. The altar servers are divided into two teams of an equal number of boys. They are managed by Senior Altar Servers Mark Stransky and James Brophy, who serve as mentors and are responsible for overseeing and training the younger servers. They will be required to attend an orientation class and periodically attend training sessions. Altar servers are encouraged to serve at all services. This ministry helps our young men develop leadership skills and responsibility, as well as being a peer ministry to one another. If your son is interested in becoming an altar server, he should contact Father Paul.

Pastoral Services

The following is a general overview of the pastoral services available. If you are in need of any of these services, please contact Father Paul.

Home Blessings

All parishioners have the opportunity to renew their dedication to Christ in their homes by having their homes blessed each year following the Feast of Theophany in January. A sign up list will be available for those wishing to have Father come for this beautiful blessing. If you would like to have your home blessed sometime during the remaining part of the year (i.e., a new home), please contact Father Paul.

Your home should be prepared for the blessing in the following way:

An icon or cross, a lighted candle, and a bowl of sanctified water blessed at the current year’s Feast of Theophany, should be placed on a table covered by a clean, white tablecloth. (Sanctified water will be provided if you were unable to bring some from the church.) Turn off all stereos, televisions, appliances, and other distractions. Lights should be turned on in all rooms if it is dark. All family members should plan to be home for the blessing. All who are present should stand by the table where the service takes place and are welcome to join in the singing of the responses. The first names of immediate family members and those for whom special prayers are to be offered should be clearly printed on a sheet of paper, with a clear distinction between the living and the departed. If it is your custom or desire to give a gift to the priest, please present it in an envelope at the conclusion of the home blessing.


All baptismal arrangements are made by contacting Father Paul. It is requested that at least a three-week notice be given to schedule a date. No baptisms will be scheduled over the phone; a face-to-face meeting with Father is required.


Preparations for the Sacrament of Marriage are to be made by contacting Father Paul before determining the date or planning a reception. Weddings are held on Sunday afternoons unless there is an outstanding mitigating circumstance and are notperformed on Saturdays nor any fast day of the Church except by specific blessing by the Archbishop. As part of their ministry, and by request, the adult choir is usually available to sing the responses at weddings.  The parish hall is available for use by the wedding party.


The funeral of an active parishioner generally consists of the visitation and Panikhida (Memorial) Service held in the Church on the evening preceding the day of the Funeral. On the following morning, the Funeral Matins is celebrated in the church followed by the interment. All of the church-related funeral arrangements are made by contacting Father Paul.


A general Memorial Service is celebrated during designated Memorial Saturdays during the year. Be sure to consult the monthly Newsletter for the specific date. In addition, Memorial Services are held during Great Lent and at other times throughout the year according to the liturgical practices of our Orthodox Church. If you would like to have your loved ones remembered at the Divine Liturgy, submit a written list of the names to be commemorated when you come to the Service.

Memorial Services can also be scheduled for other times by contacting Father Paul.

Hospital & Shut-In Visitations

Father Paul makes regular hospital visitations and home visits to “shut-ins.” It is important that he be notified whenever someone is sick or has been hospitalized, since local hospitals do not inform him when parishioners are admitted. Arrangements can be made by contacting him.


Our parish offers a comprehensive schedule of educational programs for all ages—from eighteen months and up. For further information about each of our educational programs, please contact Father Paul or our Education Coordinator, Nadine Wood.

Church School

The spiritual formation of our next generation of church members is very important and is a priority at St. Paul’s. The Children’s Educational Program places emphasis on learning and experiencing the Orthodox Christian life by becoming familiar with the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, by appreciating and celebrating the Major Feast Days, and by learning and living the history, doctrine and dynamic spiritual tradition that prepares them to become mature and responsible teens and adults. The Children’s Educational Program is open to all preschool through college and young adult aged and is held weekly on Sunday mornings after the Divine Liturgy from September to May, with some exceptions as indicated in the newsletter and/or bulletin. The youth in the program also participate in other events such as the annual Christmas program and other seasonal activities. If you would like to enroll your child in the program, please contact our Education Coordinator.

Adult Educational Program

The Adult Educational Program is offered for everyone beyond college age. It consists of guided programs of study dealing with spirituality, worship, doctrine and Church history. The Adult Educational Program sessions are held weekly on Wednesday evening from September through May, with some exceptions as indicated in the Newsletter and Bulletin. There will also be monthly gatherings of groups to help build community and fellowship as well as to deal with specific needs. These will be announced in the Monthly Newsletter.  For further information, please contact Father Paul.

Adult and Children’s Libraries

In addition to the weekly Educational Programs for both children and adults, our parish offers an array of Church-related educational materials in the form of books, videos and CDs in the parish’s adult and children’s libraries. All parishioners are welcome to borrow any of the materials found in either library.


Father Paul has an active program of instruction for the catechumenate (those desiring to become Orthodox). The instruction is personalized and scheduled individually with each catechumen. If you might be interested in studying the Faith, please contact Father Paul.

Lectures and Other Educational Programs

Throughout the year there are seminars, retreats and a variety of lecture programs offered at our church or within our diocese that provide educational opportunities for learning, growth and fellowship. These offerings are announced in the monthly Newsletter and weekly Bulletin. Some information is posted on the parish bulletin board (located in the parish hall), and/or announced by Father Paul at the Sunday Divine Liturgy.


Healthy fellowship among parishioners is an essential part of a thriving parish community. To help foster closer ties among parishioners while simultaneously developing a more effective, efficient, Christ-centered church environment, our parish relies on a number of small groups in ministering to our larger parish family. The ultimate goal is to encourage personal Christian growth that begins with involvement in parish life and evolves into a genuine commitment to parish life. There are various groups and ministries that parishioners can become involved. Simply talk to Fr. Paul of a member of the Parish Council.


“Stewardship” is the managing and caring for the property and affairs of another. Since everything we have is on loan to us from God, we are called upon, as servants of God, to be wise and faithful stewards of all that we have. Our entire life is a gift from God! He asks that we offer back to Him in grateful appreciation the first portion of that with which we have been gifted, in the form of time, talent and money.


Financial Commitment Campaign

Beginning in September, the Stewardship Ministry of our parish requests parishioners to make a financial pledge to the parish by completing a commitment card. Your financial commitment enables the parish council to plan and budget for the parish’s expenses and programs for the upcoming year. We know that the tithe (10 percent of our income) is the minimum offering expected of us in the Scriptures, however, we recommend and encourage a personal commitment of at least FOUR percent of your monetary net income to the parish. Whatever you decide to give, let it be a first portion percentage gift that is your expression of thanksgiving to Him Who has created us, blesses us with the material needs required for our sustenance, and continues to love us beyond measure. Please see Father Paul for further information.

The amount you offer is never published though a personal report of your offerings for tax purposes is sent to you annually at the end of each calendar year.

Wills and Bequests 

Please consider leaving a gift to St. Paul’s when you make your estate plan. A planned gift is a wonderful way to leave a legacy and often offers great tax benefits. Through this service, you can remember the church in your will giving back to God some of what He has blessed you with during your lifetime. Please see Father Paul for more specific information.

Time and Talent

At St. Paul’s, we strive not only to support our parish financially but to support it with our time and talent as well. It is our goal to have each parishioner pledge three percent of our time per week (five hours) in support of our church programs and activities. Only through actual involvement can we bare witness to our commitment to serve God and to serve our neighbor as Christ loves and serves us. We ask each parishioner to accept this challenge and offer their God-given gifts of time and talent back to God in order that we as a parish may fulfill our mission of spreading His Word.

Some of the many opportunities available include:

• Serving as a church school teacher or substitute
• Singing in the choir
• Being a Reader
• Hosting a coffee hour
• Church weekly clean-up
• Donating food to the local food bank
• Making food for the Annual Parish Festival
• Helping with parish maintenance
• Driving elderly parishioners to church
• Assisting with the lighting of candles and the collection of offerings
• Welcoming guests
• Decorating the church for major Feast Days
• Inviting and bringing new people to our church
• Visiting the hospitalized and homebound


The operation of our parish life is directed by Father Paul and assisted by the parish council. The parish council consists of the priest and nine parishioners elected to staggered three-year terms. The officers of the council consist of the president (the rector), vice-president, Secretary and Treasurer and, together with the priest, act as the Administrative Ministry of our parish. The three officers are selected from among the nine parish council members by the parish at the annual meeting held each year in December. We function in support of specific and active ministries: Charity, Stewardship, Buildings and Grounds, Education, Outreach, Fellowship, and Communications. If you are interested in any of these ministries or wish to serve on the parish council, please speak with Father Paul.


If you are interested in becoming a member of our parish or if you are considering becoming an Orthodox Christian, please speak to Father Paul. He will assist you with your journey and, with the assistance of our parishioners, make your integration into our parish life a joyful, spiritually-rewarding experience.

To become a parishioner of St. Paul’s Church, you are requested to:

• Be or become an Orthodox Christian.
• Complete a personal data questionnaire for parish membership.
• Partake of the Sacraments of Confession and Holy Communion.
• Make a financial pledge for the current year.