By John Ellis
Schoolteachers and Methodists started their new year last week. The Coptic Church celebrates its new year this week. To mark the occasion, a service of Raising the Evening Incense was held in St Margaret’s Church, Westminster Abbey, and the Revd David Tatem, our Ecumenical Secretary, and I were privileged to represent the United Reformed Church.
The Coptic Church dates its origins to missionary work by St Mark in Egypt and is part of the Orthodox part of the Christian family. They have recently installed their 118th Pope since St Mark. Around 20,000 Copts form their community in Britain and Ireland and our preacher was the General Bishop for the United Kingdom, His Grace Bishop Angaelos. Greetings were received from Her Majesty the Queen and the Archbishop of Canterbury, and addresses given by representatives of the British Government and Westminster Parliament.
Particularly poignant this new year were our thoughts for those Christians in Egypt who have suffered as a result of the Arab Spring and the recent persecution of the Christian community. We were given a sheet listing over 80 churches and other Church properties that have been attacked in the last month. There were also the names of 18 Christians, one as young as ten, who have been attacked or killed.
The steady, ancient liturgy and the words of the sermon both indicated that there will be no retaliation of violence for violence and the Coptic Church intends to continue its work as it has for 20 centuries, in times of peace and of strife.