On April 1, I was baptized and christmated into the Eastern Orthodox Church. Since then, I have been attending a local Antiochian Orthodox Church. Recently, I have started reading H.H. Pope Shenouda's book on the nature of Christ. This has led me down a rabbit whole of this whole discussion regarding Chalcedonian/Non-Chalcedonian, Miaphysite vs. Dyophysite, etc... I must say, from what I am reading online, in the Nature of Christ book, etc. I find the Christology of the Coptic Church to be very convincing. I think overall, I have no quarrels with Coptic Theology. I have met some wonderful Coptic Christians. I love how the Church has flourished under persecution. I love the asceticism, the monasticism, the plethora of information on Coptic Orthodoxy, etc. All of "these things" I have experienced in the Coptic Church is very very different than my experience in EO.
With the exception of the Priest whom I have known for close to 6-7 years, I find it hard to find theological answers, the people at the parish seem cold and distant, even when I have tried to put myself out there and introduce myself, etc. it was like pulling teeth... The issue at hand and what I need some direction and guidance on, the more I think about it, I am concerned, that they seem shallow and insignificant.
My issues with the Coptic Church are as follows:
1) It does seem to emphasize the ethnic nature of it (Egyptian).
2) The nearest Coptic Church is ~35-45 minutes from my house vs. the literally 2 minute drive to the EO Church I am attending.
3) I worry about making the wrong choice. There is that voice in the back of my head that says - They (Coptic Christianity) could be schismatics... They don't accept all of the Ecumenical councils like the rest of Christendom, etc...
4) The "foreignness" of the liturgy and the use of other languages, and the separation of men and women during Liturgy, will hinder the chances of my wife and kids becoming Orthodox.
5) And lastly, no offence in any way, shape, or form - The music and chanting throughout the Liturgy, I find to be horrible. I find it to have this "whining" "nasally" tone about it. Its difficult to follow/let alone sing, and because I tend to be so musically inclined, its a REAL hinderance for me...
I know this is a weird topic/discussion, but I would love to hear your thoughts, feedback, guidance, and suggestions.
Thank you in advance for your time and consideration. I look forward to learning with you all.
Welcome. I am a convert and would be willing to help you out.
1. Kind of, but not really. They are newer immigrants, but compared to Eastern or Greek Orthodoxy, Copts are less "clanny" about ethnicity. They are welcoming and more open about their church and faith. But, sometimes to the point of ignorance. Although it's better than telling everyone how great they are. Oh yeah, and they were separated from Eastern Orthodox and Catholic churches for 1600 years, then ruled by Muslims, English, French, German and Italian invaders. I would think an ethnicity that has been oppressed for almost two millenia may have some difficulty in a secular, western nation with a completely different culture.
2. Really? I drive 51 miles with my wife, a 4 year old and a 2 year old. That's a lame excuse. Understandable, but not really an excuse.
3. Find it yourself. The reason I converted to the Coptic church from Catholicism is because I felt it and I believed it. Having some poorly educated layperson or Priest from Eastern Orthodoxy talking bad about Copts probably suffers from two things spiritually: Theological / ethnic ignorance or a new convert who is too ignorant to look for themselves. You aren't either, so look within yourself and not what others say.
4. I speak English, not Arabic. My children only speak English. There are hundreds of resources to learn the Divine Liturgy in English. There are TVs right near the iconstasis in 99% of churches, with English, Coptic and Arabic on the screen.
Sunday School is done in English, Bible studies are done in English and Arabic. Activities for your wife and children won't be done exclusively in Arabic. Would I go to Egypt and create an English only Sunday School? No.
Just because they speak Arabic during the Liturgy does not mean everything is only in Arabic. And a lot of Bishops now require Priests to do portions in English. My Priest barely speaks English, but can read the Liturgy in English. It works. Plus, you'll learn the structure fairly easily.
Unless you live in New York or New Jersey, the church will either have an all English Liturgy, or will be partially in English. I converted in 2010. I heard an English sermon about 5 times. If you read, follow the Liturgical calendar of the church, the language becomes less of an issue. And the Antiochian church is also a native Arabic speaking church. I know it's gone now, but if this were 1973, you'd be having the same problem with your church.
The separation thing is less common. I sat in the far back end of the left side of the church when I converted, far from my wife on the other side. Now, I serve as a Reader. I don't believe the seating arrangements will hinder your childrens faith.
The Priest, then the Deacons get communion first. A lot of Priests will then give communion to children, elderly or handicapped people first regardless of their gender, so that is a "t" tradition. They usually don't do all men on one side and all women on the other. Post-Covid, we usually just form a single line at the base of the Altar. If they do commune from both end sanctuaries, how would that hinder things? You can still take the kids with you or split them.
I come down from the Altar and help my wife with the kids. It's our job as parents to bring God to our family. The church is the vessel of our faith. The church itself will not impact if your kids become Orthodox. You will.
When I pray and sing like our Priest, my children understand I am praying because I am teaching them. Sunday school helps to teach them, and being part of the a church community helps them. They aren't going to get much out of Liturgy if they're still little ones like mine, but they will begin to understand based on your own behaviors towards your faith.
Also, people in their 20s to 40s with kids usually sit with their spouse and kids. If I am not serving one week, I am usually in the cry room or sitting with my wife and kids. You don't have to sit separately. That's not exactly a Canon law.
5. Keep in mind what the influences are in Coptic hymns. The sounds are common for that part of the world.The tones are eerily similar to other Eastern religions. The nasal thing is just how they do it. People say I sing with a western voice in Eastern tones. They sing from their nostrils and throat, we sing from our diaphragm.
Also, men tend to overdo the nasal thing. I learned the hymns from nuns. I even asked if it was ok if I don't scream the hymns, or was that required or something? It isn't. I can completely understand what you mean. At least they have vigor for their faith. How many college and high school kids sang with that must gusto in our churches?
It's due to Arabic having much different infliction and pronunciation when campared to English. They are singing English in an Arabic tone. Google the Coptic hymns in Coptic and you'll actually hear how they should be sung because that's their original language.
I started writing music in 1997. Just think of it as more a lot more minor notes. There is a great app called "Coptic Hymns in English" which is geared more towards how you and I would sing.
I sang the second one during Holy Week. That isn't me. This is so you can hear not everyone has the exact same voice. The first is a Liturgical hymn that is optional, but is one of my favorites because of the melody.
Feel free to PM if you have any questions. Best of Luck, and a Blessed Pentecost to you and your family.