music, choirs, and women

I am new to the Coptic Orthodox Church. I would like some help in understanding my place as a woman Copt.

All the music notes (no pun intended) I have seen seem to be directed to men. Are women allowed to form choirs and sing praises to God - within the context of Coptic liturgy?

I read somewhere, recently, that in the early days of St. Mark's see, some musical traditions taken form the religion of the Pharoah's included men and women singing back and forth. Seems like the early Copt church embraced this - adopting it to praises to God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Does anyone have more information on this. Would you be so knid as to point me in the right direction?

God bless you,



  • The Coptic Church does not discriminate between men and women in its Coptic Hymns. As a matter of fact, there are several ranks that a Deaconess can attain very similar to what a deacon can attain.

    From Sacraments of the Church, H.G. Bishop Mettaous
    From the thirteenth century, the service of consecrated deaconesses in church was abolished, but due to the urgent need for the service of women in church, His Holiness Pope Shenouda III, decided to revive this rite, on the Feast of Pentecost in 1981, by consecration of a large number of deaconesses for the service of Cairo churches. Today, many bishops have also consecrated deaconesses for the service within their dioceses.

    Coptic Hymns are not meant to be prayed by the leading deacons while the congregation listens either. They are meant to be chanted by the entire congregation to join the entire church in prayer. If you take a look at any Coptic Service Book, you will note that there are "Congregation Responses".
  • Thank you, Michael,

    Would you be so kind as to point me in the right direction to find more information, and help me understand the "deaconess" role in music. I thought it had to do just with "social services" type things...

    Appreciate the help.

  • hi frannie!
    although i can't help you with info on the role of a deaconness within the church, i'm a Coptic canadian female youth, and i know we most definately need more musical service! some churches have youth choirs, but i know that in canada for example, we would benefit from expanding with that type of service. if you have a gift for music and singing, please do share it with the youth! it would be great to see more english praise and worship recordings coming out, from Coptic youth.
    God bless ;D
  • Hello Helani,

    I am not sure how much help I could be in music and the Coptic church. I struggle with the songs in Arabic and Coptic as it is.

    In English, I know many scriptures put to music, many psalms, etc. I am just not sure how it would be received here at St Mark's. I am a newcomer - been here for about 6 weeks. I won't be baptised and christmation -ed until the new baptismal is finished and consecrated - probably October. So, until then, I don't feel I should do much... except keep leaning, and waith upon the Lord, even if I have been an active christain for most of my adult live. Pray.. and I will keep seeking what Abba in heaven wants me to do. If you like, I will start writng down the songs and chorius I do knopw, and remember... maybe get a friend to tape them for you. My voice, however, is horible.. really... (singing is not my gift or talent.... I am "make a joyful "noise" catagory.. (smile)

    Peace be to you

    Are you in Toronto?

  • Peace and grace,

    Frannie, blessed sister in our Lord,

    I think to truly understand the the role of not only women in Orthodoxy, but the congregation (women included) one has to go back to the word Liturgy. The word literally means -work of the people-, there are other churches in which the priest is allowed to pray the Eucharist (Liturgy/Mass) without the attendance of the people. In Orthodoxy it is not so, but rather the people -must- be present and activly participating in the services. A priest is not allowed to pray the Divine Liturgy alone, it is not fit, for it is the work of the people. Regarding the deaconess,' it is as you have mentioned, their function was that of serving as public servants to the widows, virgins, etc... They were also allowed to be psalters (rank of deacon responsible for chanting). I wish you the best on your path to the fullness of truth (Christ our Lord in the Orthodox Church), may God bless and be with you.

    A Sinner
  • Dear Irinine, blessed sister in the Lord,

    God have mercy on me, a sinner. Thank you so much for your kind reply and for welcoming me to the church. It feels lonely at times, as if I were a stranger in a strange land. But the Spirit comforts me. Also people are beginning to be friendly - especially the youth (boy do I feel old!). Abouna has always been very kind and gracious to me.

    You are right, the Coptic Liturgy (work of the people) and Hymns Book has "congregational" responses, songs, etc. I just find it difficult to learn the songs. Some are in Coptic (which seems very close to Greek) and I do well with understanding these words. I still rememeber much of the Greek volcabulary I learned in graduate School many years ago. The music is most difficult for me. The hymns and responses in Arabic are, well, incomprehensible to me, as well. I just read the English portion out of my copy of the liturgy.
    Actually, the Liturgy at St. Marks' is done in all three languages. They move between Arabic, Coptic, and English as we do the liturgy. I actually participate well in the English portions... ummm, wonder why... (smile).

    I will pray for you, dear sister, as you have asked: Oh God our Father in Heaven, bless my sister, a sinner (as I am). Keep her close to Your heart, and deal kindly with her. Remember Your great kindness and steadfast love in ages past. Remember the love you lavished upon Sarah, Rebeccka, Ruth, and Ester. Remember the great favor You lavished upon Mother Mary, the Second Heaven. And especially remember the awesome and measureless love You graced upon us through the Deeds of Your only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. So, dear Father-God, deal with us not according to our deeds, but according to Your great love and grace, and the great Deed of Jesus. Please transform our hearts so we would love only as You would have us love. In the Name of Jesus Christ I pray, Amen.

    Thank you again, dear sister, for the help with the liturgy, and for welcoming me to the Church.

  • Peace and grace

    In Christ Frannie,

    >God have mercy on me, a sinner. Thank you so much for >your kind reply and for welcoming me to the church. It feels >lonely at times, as if I were a stranger in a strange land.

    I must admit that it is a difficult road that is ahead of you, you wil face many hardships. Then again, narrow is the gate and difficult is the way. At times things will happen that might not make sense (I'm sure you might have experienced it), but do not let it trouble you. One thing you will learn in dealing with copts is patience . As far as loneliness goes, just think of it as if you're practicing strict asceticism . I'm sure you will do fine, may God continue you bless you and guide you, and comfort you. I am sure in no time everyone will come to know you and be amiable.

    >Also people are beginning to be friendly - especially the >youth (boy do I feel old!).

    Sounds like it has already started .

    >I just find it difficult to learn the songs.
    >The music is most difficult for me.

    Coptic chants are very difficult to the untrained ear, many converts have found them almost impossible, but do not be disheartened. What I have heard works best is constantly listening to the chants; while driving, working around the home, ect... (not to mention that this is edifying) Till then however, just pick a vowel and stick to it .

    >Actually, the Liturgy at St. Marks' is done in all three >languages. They move between Arabic, Coptic, and English as >we do the liturgy. I actually participate well in the English >portions... ummm, wonder why... (smile).

    This is how it is at my church as well, but we also an entirely english Liturgy on Saturday. Perhaps there is an english Liturgy at St. Mark's, have you asked? Unfortunately the number of converts in the church does not allow for entirely english Liturgies to meet their needs , but hopefully with the lead of people such as yourself more and more will come to the fullness of truth and both be blessed by the church that has exchanged blood for its faith and bless the copts within the church by their zeal and piety. May God be with you, and if there is anything that I can do, please let me know.

    PS Thank you for the prayer, it is one of the nicest prayers I have ever been blessed with.

    A sinner.

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