I'm a bit down & depressed about coptic hymns

edited December 1969 in Hymns Discussion
Hi All,
I really want to share my problem with you.
I like coptic hymns so much, & I love to teach it as well. Unfortunately I see that nowadays the coptic hymns started to disappear, & people are not interested anymore to learn them. I'm a deacon in my small church, & unfortunately people (even deacons) don't want to put any effort to learn coptic hymns at all. I have always tried to teach them but they don't like to learn because they think it’s too hard & due to time restrictions, we will never get the chance to say the Coptic hymns anyway. I used to love Coptic hymns to bits, to the point of learning everyday. But now I’m just down, frustrated, disappointed, I stopped learning now because I don’t see any point of continuing. Does this situation happen often in other churches? What do you think I should do? Do you think I should continue learning hymns even though we never get the chance to say them?


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  • I can definitely relate with you on this. I've attended the same small church my whole life and watched it grow, but my biggest thing against them is that they just don't seem to care. When I go to other churches where I see the youth (which is my age group) getting involved, that's when I really feel a desire to learn the hymns. But DC is right, you should not let that prevent you from doing what you want to do. It is better for you to do that with the possibility of influencing them than just falling under the influence of the people at your church.

    Btw DC where have you been? This is the first time I see you post here in a long time.
  • The problem is that there is no improvement at all, every now & then there are fights & problems.  The problems were big enough that abouna decided that we will not learn big hymns to avoid problems with the people. I just really envy the youth that are involved in hymns & try their best to learn as many hymns as possible. It was my dream to always learn hymns & actually chant them at church. But I don't see any possible way of doing this at much church. I also can't go to another church because we have only one church in our city. So I really don't know what to do, I feel extremely frustrated :( :( :( when I saw the video of Cantor Ibrahim Ayad saying that we should try our best to learn hymns & actually chant them at the church, I felt extremely jealous, I even sometime ask myself: Why does God allow these things to happen? Why does the silly people have power to put down the effort that we put into doing something & at the end we end up doing what they want & not "what is right to do"???? I've been praying about this subject a lot, but until now nothing happened, it just gets worse & worse. I personally get a significant spiritual benefit from coptic hymns, but now I just can get that benefit. I can learn the hymns & say it by myself at home, but again, I feel that it is not like chanting them with the congregation at church. What's your opinion in what I'm saying?
  • I know exactly what you are experiencing. I completely understand the frustration. The only thing I can really say is that you do not know why God has you in that spot, and you should actually try to take comfort in the fact that God decides which church you will be attending and when He will have you change churches if that is a part of His plan. Even though saying this does make me a hypocrite. But I know what I say to be true. " The LORD is good to those who wait for Him." -Lamentations 3:25
  • Dear Christ4000,

    I have been in your shoes and will try to help you by sharing my own experience.

    I used to learn many hymns, often difficult and long ones, with a small group of guys at my church. Year after year, special occasion after special occasion, the time would come for us to say them and we wouldn't. Why? Simply because the "uncles" of the church did not know them.  This caused some to despise the "uncles" and others simply stopped "dressing." We were missing the point. I became frustrated, as you are, because I never got the chance to "pray" these hymns. I put pray in quotations because I later realized that although I was telling myself I wanted to praise God with this beautiful hymn, really I wanted to glorify myself.

    Think about it, you say these hymns and everyone immediately notices you and those saying it with you. Most of the congregation doesn't know it and probably most deacons will remain silent. Is this how the Body of Christ should pray? We should pray in unity. We can go through our whole lives as acolytes frustrated because this hymn was skipped or we didn't get a chance to chant this hymn. I can only imagine the look on the angels' faces! We are told they chant - "Holy, Holy, Holy. . ." Nothing complex and they are never frustrated. Maybe you will never say those beautiful hymns you learned, but you have to really ask yourself: Why do I want to chant them? To glorify God? Because they sound good and beautiful? Because others will realize how great my voice is?. . .

    Am I telling you not to learn any new hymns? ABSOLUTELY NOT. Hymns are both praises directed toward God and a means for us to grow spiritually. When taking them as the former, we can direct these hymns to Him at anytime and at any place. When taking them as the latter, we should be growing spiritually as we learn them, we should meditate on their meaning, etc. That should be enough.

    I always say that when people see that those who chant these long hymns are humble and spiritual, both the beauty of the hymns will be realized and resistance to saying them will cease.

    Do not be discouraged if people are uninterested or the services too short. Prayer is prayer, he who is spiritually mature can benefit from all types of prayer.
  • Ekhrestos anesty
    Dear Christ4000
    Sometimes the evil one uses loving hymns and serving as a means to fight us and not let us grow, so what do we do! In spite of that, we still learn more hymns, longer and more complex and defeat it. Even if the only reason is to sing it at home.
    Now, this is where I disagree with Unworthy1. I appreciate he spoke from experience, but don't let thinking about humility and meekness quench your fire to learn, teach, and sing in the church. In the church, you have a duty of teaching the congregation, and while we all speak of humbleness in ignoring what we know, no one speaks of how to be a humble teacher as st. Paul teaches us. If you learn the long hedan, then say it, even on your own, don't care what people will think and pray to attain humility always, and other deacons will be jealous and start learning, and congregation with time will meditate. You have to say the bebnewma next Sunday, and I'm sure if your church doesn't have a projector people can and should follow through kholagies and they'll notice a beautiful hymn. The Lord on the altar deserves to be served FOREVER, ie for a long time in our prayers. He commanded to pray without boredom. Abouna should respect you on this. Now I'm lucky to have the sort of abouna's we have in our church, and they defend deacons from the rows of congregation...
  • With all due respect, ophadece, I do not agree with your approach to chanting hymns.

    1. You are advising him to say the long hiten on his own even when others tell him not to and no one else knows it. How is that good?
    2. Why do you think he has a duty to teach the congregation against their will?
    3. Saying hymns to encourage others to learn them because they are "jealous" is not the right aim. Hymns should lead them to repentance, not buying the latest Ibrahim Ayad CD so they can learn new hymns.
    4. Meditation is not only through long hymns.
    5. Time does not increase the quality of our sacrifice of praise.
    6. I disagree with the idea that long hymns break up the usual and boring services and throw in some "spice" -- this is no different then when people say let's play with more instruments and change up the tunes, etc.
    7. There is no divide between "deacons" and the congregation but it seems this insistence on long hymns perpetuates an imagined one. We pray as ONE.    

    For clarification, I never said he should not learn hymns, teach them, or pray them. . .I was merely inviting him to think about what his real desire is in saying these hymns. Is it to praise God? Praise the self? Preserve the hymns?

    (please correct my errors)
  • Let's change the initial statement and see if it ushers the same responses:

    From:  Statement 1-- "I'm a bit down & depressed about coptic hymns"

    To:  Statement 2-- "I'm a bit down & depressed about deacons not doing anything of service in the church".

    The first statement has no meaning because statement 2 has not been uplifted into proper conduct and service for the diaconate in the churches.  You cannot do anything of substance about statement #1 until statement #2 has been fixed.

    If statement #2 is not fulfilled and statement #1 is, by facade fixed, then the function of chants and hymns are based on hubris, pride, and stupidity.

    The uncles are upset because the "kiddie deacons" are trying to upstage them (because it is a stage production and not prayer and expression of ministry and service).  The uncles are guilty of the "stage production" aspect as much as the "kiddies".

    The "kiddie deacons" are upset because they don't have a chance to stage a rock concert.

    The congregation is upset because they have to endure "kiddie deacons" with nasal voices trying to drag things that they cannot understand.  They are also annoyed by all the back and forth talking, walking, and staging that the "kiddie deacons" do.

    The priest is upset because of all of the above facts and that he is dragged into all of this melodrama.

    I did not hear the words:  service and ministry at all.  The chants and hymns are an expression of that basis.

    I did see the word:  JEALOUS.  This bothered me a lot, because it expresses the more base emotion in a psychological slip of the tongue.

    ZEALOUS and JEALOUS are not synonymous.

    Of course you know I was going to chime in with my repetitive call for duty.  I do not see duty being carried out, and hence, I really don't care about statement #1.  It is baseless, and an expression of the misdirected aspirations of "kiddie deacons".

    I like that term "kiddie deacons".  I will be using it a lot going forward.  It is an expression of how silly it is to give a "kiddie" the title:  "Deacon".
  • [quote author=Unworthy1 link=topic=11563.msg139141#msg139141 date=1307510108]
    With all due respect, ophadece, I do not agree with your approach to chanting hymns.

    1. You are advising him to say the long hiten on his own even when others tell him not to and no one else knows it. How is that good?
    2. Why do you think he has a duty to teach the congregation against their will?
    3. Saying hymns to encourage others to learn them because they are "jealous" is not the right aim. Hymns should lead them to repentance, not buying the latest Ibrahim Ayad CD so they can learn new hymns.
    4. Meditation is not only through long hymns.
    5. Time does not increase the quality of our sacrifice of praise.
    6. I disagree with the idea that long hymns break up the usual and boring services and throw in some "spice" -- this is no different then when people say let's play with more instruments and change up the tunes, etc.
    7. There is no divide between "deacons" and the congregation but it seems this insistence on long hymns perpetuates an imagined one. We pray as ONE.     

    Ekhrestos anesty
    Dear Unworthy1,
    I can understand your disagreeing with me, and there is no harm in that. I still disagree, and here I will try to answer the 7 questions/remarks as I personally think:
    1. I am advising Christ4000 to sing the hymns praying them. Even if that means he has to do it solo, this at least will indirectly show others that they "have to" learn to be as well as Christ4000 is.
    2. A deacon has duties. One of the duties of deacons is to teach the congregation. Against their will, or along with their will is not the issue for me. The issue is how to convey the message of the importance of these hymns singing them, and praying them. If you keep saying long hedan every week, people will learn them. If you keep singing long psalm 150 every week, people will learn it, and so on...
    3. Some people will argue that buying the latest cantor Ibrahim Ayad is not wrong. At least, it distracts from buying the latest Rihana, Ali G, and the like. In fact, my love to the Coptic church, and serving in it, started by listening to a couple of Coptic hymns twice or three times when I was 21, namely khan oushod and arebsalen. Some people used to serve in Jesus' time because they were jealous of what the apostles were doing, and of course you know what Jesus told the apostles then.
    4. No it is not; but it is just one of the ways.
    5. It does. Jesus told them "could you not stay up with me an hour longer?" The longer the prayer is, the harder the insistence and the demandingness with God, and the more He listens. He likes that by the way.
    6. I didn't allude to that actually. Long hymns can be boring in themselves. YES THEY ARE BORING. That is the evil one's idea playing with our mind. Agbeya is boring. Going to church is boring. Service is boring. If you didn't ever think of those statements, then blessed are you being protected by God from them, but I have been time and time again... no dare I say every week, and every big occasion.
    7. There is. We pray as one of course, but there are different duties, and hence there is a divide.
    Dear ilovesaintmark,
    Interesting interpretation for the whole situation. Can't agree more. Thanks...
  • I would have to say that someone who sings in the choir is NOT a deacon, if they have not received an ordination to one of the minor orders.

    All of these serving in the Church, including the congregation, should be under the authority and leadership of those who are properly Deacons, and those who serve them as Sub-Deacons, who together keep order in the Church so that the priest might concentrate entirely on the service of the Altar.

    Unless someone in the choir has been given authority and responsibility to teach hymns, or even to sing at all, then they should be silent. If there is a need in the Church then this should be addressed with humility and prayer. I doubt there are many congregations where there is not some need for some improvement or development in some aspect. But this is never facilitated by one person taking it upon themselves to 'solve' the problem. And I say this as someone who has always been eager for action!

    I would be most disturbed, as would all of my fellow priests in the British Orthodox Church, and I do not doubt in most Coptic Orthodox congregations, if someone suddenly started participating in a unique and uncustomary manner. All things should be done in order, and it is not good order for any member of the choir to decide to sing a solo, or to sing any part of the service in a manner that is not in common with everyone else. The liturgy is neither the time nor the place for dealing with differences of opinion. The choir should always be under the complete control and authority of the Priest and (proper) Deacons.

    What should we do when we see some lack? Pray about it, then pray more. Then ask yourself, if you consider that some other servants are lacking in insight, 'How could I change myself to become the best servant I possibly could?'. That will provide more than enough opportunity for reflection about personal holiness, devotion to spirituality and sacrifical service of others.

    Say to yourself, when I begin to live as a proper servant should then I will see more clearly about these things.

    This does not preclude learning hymns. But it should make us hesitant to push ourselves forward. When we have become holy, spiritual and servant-like then perhaps God will be able to use our voices.

    Before I became a Deacon and Priest I found it beneficial to condemn myself saying, How can I imagine being ordained to these ministries? I do not live as a deacon or a priest should! Let me first start to live more like a deacon or priest and then consider these ministries rather than desiring them while being a hypocrite.

    I do not believe any member of the choir should push themselves forward or consider themselves a teacher, unless their priest has specifically given them that service. It is better to submit to those who are senior in age and ministry, even if we disagree with them, indeed it is better to submit until we do not disagree with them but offer our service humbly as if to God, and waiting His will.

    I would try and ask one of the elder deacons to teach ME a hymn. I would offer him a CD of a short hymn and say that I had great difficulty learning it and would very much appreciate it if he could learn it and teach me. I would not presume to teach him. I would rather learn it a little wrong from his mouth and submit to him than have learned it perfectly myself and invite him to submit to me. This might not suit your immediate circumstances. It might be that you need to find some other way to humble youself in service before your elders and seniors. It is through humility that we allow and encourage others to exercise their own ministries. This is why humility towards priests, bishops, deacons and elders is necessary in the congregation of God.

    Father Peter
  • Ekhrestos anesty
    Dear FR. Peter,
    Thanks for your clear statements. IN the hope of my words not being taken out of context, I should say that I presumed Christ4000 is one of the senior deacons. Of course I never meant for anyone to sing solo oblivious to the customs of the church, or to disagreements with authority especially abouna. In addition, the church instructs deacons when ordained to live a proper life, to learn hymns, and to teach the congregation the Word of God through both leading prayers, and serving as deacons...
  • This is quite an interesting thread, some insightful responses from all.

    I am in a similar position as the OP - I attend a very small church, with only two or three other deacons my age and a handful of families that attend regularly. I love learning hymns and have done so from a young age, and totally understand the OP's frustration at the apathy that is prevalent in others towards learning and preserving the spiritual treasures that Coptic Hymns are. I've been there, and at times have felt as if all was futile: that my best efforts to teach and encourage the others to learn hymns and to chant them are to no avail, that people are more interested in a quick service with the absolute minimal inclusion of hymns possible.

    I used to think like this at times, and would wrongly blame God and despair that I attended such a tiny church, and grew angry at what I believed was a lack of zeal for hymns, and quite jealous of other youth who were encouraged to learn by others. I longed for a cantor or teacher to teach me, to taste discipleship which is an essential experience that one misses out on when learning through recordings.

    There was no one available to teach me, and so I was forced to learn from audio recordings. But after a while, merely learning them for myself was not satisfying my zeal for Coptic hymns: I began to teach the other few deacons once a week. I am the eldest of the group, and would frequently have to fight tooth and nail to get them to attend the classes - it took a long time for them to appreciate the wealth and treasure we truly have in our hymns. And it is an ongoing process. But there reached a point that when I did not force them to attend a class, or did not bother gathering them to hold a class, they came to me and asked if we could have a hymn class. While initially I sought them, they began to seek after learning hymns themselves, and their love for hymns grew.

    Now I am away at university away from my church, but whenever I visit home we have a hymn class with no (or very little ;D) encouragement or arguments needed. The guys will frequently contact me about learning a hymn and rites etc., and will go out and download the audio and actively learn the hymn.

    My advice to the OP is to certainly continue to endeavour in your efforts towards promoting and learning as many hymns as you can. Don't give up on trying to convince your peers to set up a hymn class, believe me, although it may take some time, people always grow to love Coptic hymns. They are a truly wondrous heritage that plays a key role in our spirituality and worship.
  • Ophadece, I don't disagree with your sentiments but a singer is not a deacon. And even one who is properly ordained as a deacon may not exercise any ministry apart from the priest. Certainly not a teaching ministry.

    A corporal in the army may have a certain degree of responsibility but only as his sergeant and his captain give permission. A private should do nothing at all without permission.

    I was a subdeacon for 10+ years. I know what it is to be filled with zeal. But in my experience it is never good to force an issue, however well meant, or to assume that we know best. This is why, even as a priest, I always take the advice of others, especially fellow priests and bishops, but also trusted deacons and faithful.

    God will work out His will in His way and in His time. We must be prepared ourselves when He calls.
  • EKhrestos anesty
    Dear FR. Peter,
    Trust me, what you say is what I mean exactly. IT just doesn't come across this way. PLease keep me in your prayers for I have a very important exam on Tuesday...
  • Dear ophadece,

    I will not respond to your defense of the 7 points I disagreed with to prevent a back and forth argument. In the end, the emphasis by many on hymns causes more harm than good - to the person's own spiritual life and those he disagrees with. We are babies trying to eat adult food. How can we realize the true beauty of the longer hymns when we haven't meditated on the short ones? We can't. But we try. The emphasis should be placed on reaching the heavenly state in prayer by even the simplest of means. I also echo the words of Fr. Peter - most of those who assume authority do so by their own will. 99% of those serving in 'tonyas' have no right or authority to decide what is chanted and what isn't - yet they think because they learned a few new hymns, have a powerful voice, play the cymbals with some skill, they can start doing as they please. This is not humility. This is not service.

    I still hold that when people see that those who chant these long hymns are humble and spiritual, both the beauty of the hymns will be realized and resistance to saying them will cease.

  • Ekhrestos anesty
    Thanks Unworthy1, I don't disagree... keep me in your prayers for Tuesday as well please
  • The prayers of the saints be with you, ophadece. Remember me when you pray as well.
  • U1,




    My Dear Father,

    Great, Excellent, and Outstanding--as usual.

  • I am glad that we are in agreement.

    May we all be true servants above all else.
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  • Ekhrestos anesty
    Thanks all and keep praying for me please...
  • May the Lord have mercy on you and grant you His perfect peace.
  • EKhrestos anesty
    Thanks very much abouna. I felt obliged to say thanks although I know I may be diverting the course of this thread to my personal issues... thanks again everyone
  • Peniwt Petros (Baniwd Batros - just for you Ophadecee) - Fr. Peter,

    I think you are speaking of a different situation than the one brought up.

    The situation, initially described, happens in many churches. Mine included. Let's clear any assumptions.

    In my case, the priest told me to teach an advanced class. And the deacons who teach the youger deacons (again under the priests' directions) asked me to teach them a class. There is a hunger and a huge need for deacons who can lead a service. In my church, the priests have to divide the deacons who can lead Pascha and Good Friday services (and they continue to do so every year) so each church has adequate coverage. Yet in reality, only a handful can lead while all the other deacons (even those who teach the younger deacons) can not lead. And every year they ask me to teach them. And every year only one or two actually come to the advanced class. And every year there is a mix up or catestrophe in during the service or there is a shortage of educated deacons. It is not about my humility (although I always try to grow in humility). It is about the deaconate service itself.

    I agree with ilovesaintmark. The core of the issue is statement #2. Deacons, myself included, are not doing anything of service in the church. We all claim to be singers, or chanters, or readers, or simply lay people who love our Church but how much do we really learn and do? God's words in Hosea 4:6 describe our problem: "My people are destroyed from lack of knowlege". I can honestly say that less than 0.0001% of Coptic deacons (ordained or not) know more than 5% of our Coptic hymns. That means more than 99% of Copts know 5% or less of the hymns. And the congregation usually is content with this. In my eyes, if 99% of the Church ignored 95+% of the Bible, we would be outraged and work to correct this. Yet, when it comes to hymns, if a group of deacons say 6% of the hymns, the congregation yells Armageddon. World War III starts and the priests have no choice but to instruct the deacons to stop saying longer hymns. In the end, it is the deaconate service and hymnological tradition that suffers.

    The definition of complacency is "a feeling of contentment or self-satisfaction, especially when coupled with an unawareness of danger, trouble, or controversy." It is my observation that the congregation is complacent with our liturgical hymonological routine. They are most often unaware of how their behavior is coupled with trouble and the service is subjected. The same is true of deacons, myself included, who refuse to educate themselves and serve the way God wants us to. (ie, a burning zeal fueled with personal sacrifice, not just lip-service).
  • I'm definitely with you in what you are saying Remenkimi, I believe that our father cantors spent a lot of time learning copitc hymns so that they can hand it down to us.  Unfortunately nowa days we just take it easy & say "It does not matter too much if we don't say this hymn or this hymn", if we stop chanting our hymns in the church we will lose those hymns.
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