Lessen Arabic Influence in North American Orthodox Churches

I tend to feel angry when I hear Arabic in any service in the Coptic Church in North America, especially during Vespers or Matins or the Liturgies, even though I understand it, but can not speak it fluently. Now I have children and I worry about their spiritual development in the Church which is very important and complements spiritual home life ...because of the heavy emphasis on Arabic.

I love the doxologies, but when the head deacon has every second verse in Arabic it irritates me and neither me nor my children can sing along continuously because of interruptions in Arabic.

I know that every language glorifies God, but we are not in Egypt or Saudi Arabia, we are in English- speaking and -living North America.

Many of our services are in Arabic and it seems English services or translations seem to be a concession... as though it were a disability that has to be accommodated...we are like a minority among a minority and this ought not to be so.

I visited a Church once in Covena, California and found that their Liturgy was beautiful...all English ...-and the Coptic was all in the right place...Tai Shori, Hitens, Agios, End if Service Hymn, Etc were still retained in Coptic. The Priest spoke/chanted beautufully with little or no accent. I wish all North American Churches were like that. Why are others so heavily dominated by Arabism even after nearly 4 decades in North America?

I love my church and I serve the youth in it and the priests do their best to chant in English though it seems difficult at times.....The priests try to integrate both English and Arabic but I feel that Arabic robs the English speakers of the full participation in Orthodox life. Humility is needed to know that others are benefiting from Arabic... but at what price?

Why not emphasize that English is the primary language in North America and ask those weak in it to keep learning it as opposed to expecting the English speakers to learn Arabic. Why not make Arabic Liturgies the concession and special times perhaps one or two days during weekdays or once a month for those who can't pray in English?

The North American Church in many parishes seem very heavily Arabic Culture dominated and it is increasingly bothering me. I want to participate fully with my children in worship, in meetings, in Bible study, in service, in fellowship in my English language in North America. If I were in Egypt, I would expect and accept services to be dominated by Arabic language and culture, but why must those of us suffer for Arabic in North America?

Has anyone felt likewise and what are the solutions?

Is it right to leave and go to another Coptic Church that has younger English speaking priests? These Churches, though seem to ve missionary Churches where even the Coptic hymns are forsaken.

I cant seem to find a parish that is English-speaking-dominated while retaining the Coptic Hymns.


  • Dear metouro,
    I agree with a lot of what you said. However, I go to completely white-washed liturgies where Arabic has been completely eliminated and now people are pushing for English to an extreme as if it's a mission church and the Coptic becomes pretty neglected. In the end, the congregation doesn't chant any louder in the English than in Coptic or Arabic. The overarching problem is, language honestly serves as a facade and therefore, a valid excuse. 

    However, I understand your genuine concern for you childrens' spiritual growth, but you shouldn't feel that irritated when Arabic is chanted. People from Egypt deserve to hear some of their mother tongue for part of the liturgy as long as the priest is capable. Egyptian immigrants are often unable to learn English at all because of age and other reasons. Many came to America to escape religious persecution and to pray freely without having to worry about getting attacked in a church or getting killed for what they believe. So for us to completely eliminate Arabic is ultimately ignorant to the amount of work it took for those Egyptians to fight for their religious freedom to pray in a language they understand and in the way they would like.

    I am not much of a fan of Arabic myself, as I believe that Arabic is the least important out of the three languages prayed in the diaspora. However, it is necessary. Many Coptic churches around the United States are trying to cater to both immigrants and natives alike by splitting their congregation and having 2 liturgies: one entirely in English and the other entirely in Arabic. That's a valid alternative but keep in mind that Coptic will completely die in the process due to linguist extremists that favor their mother tongue too much over the other languages. Also, cliques tend to be formed as a result with half the church attending one liturgy and the other half attending the other. Both halves never end up relating to one another and it ends up creating a big gap in communication.
  • These are very fascinating observations
  • Dear P,

    I'm not against using Arabic to help immigrants.  However, I disagree with your assessment that language is a facade.  The facade is precisely the encouragement to create a choir rather than engage the assembly to chant.  But I can assure you based on my parish that if you are consistent with English even if people are not able to chant with you loudly, they will eventually learn it and chant it.  This was the case for us when we were for instance chanting "Amen, Amen, Amen, Your Death Oh Lord".  Originally, we would only chant it in Arabic or Coptic.  But relatively recently, we took a stab at English, and it was not good the first couple of months.  But afterwards, you start to hear the congregation get louder and louder until it has become quite a standard.

    So the whole argument of "facade" is only when you just seem to give up.  What is a facade is making distinct "mission church" and "church".  All parishes are missions.  So, I find it sad that people simply think English "messes up" the liturgy.  We need priests that are stronger in their service.  Consider Fr. Athanasius Iskander's story:

    Furthermore, while we assist immigrants, part of our mission and service for immigrants is to teach English.  A day in the week for Arabic liturgy can be acceptable, but what good does it do that you infiltrate the Sunday liturgies with Arabic to encourage slowness in their learning of the language to help them take control of their lives in this country?  I sympathize with metouro in his complaints.
  • Dear minasoliman,
    It is most definitely a facade...you're speaking extremely idealistically. I'm talking about completely English liturgies and our church has been doing it for at least 2 years now and nobody chants along...it's literally maybe only 3 or 4 deacons in the front row. The only people who do not see it as a facade are, in fact, the linguist extremists who are too busy caring for what language the liturgy is chanted in in the first place. So it actually is a facade in the big scheme of things, especially considering the many multilingual families at churches (not saying that there are more multilingual families than monolingual families but I'm saying many multilingual families exist). 
    As for Fr. Athanasius's story, that is a completely different scenario. He's talking about his struggle of introducing English in the liturgy, emphasizing the importance of the language in its total absence. I'm not saying that language has no importance, but what I am saying is clearly the problem is more than just language, given it has not changed how people participate in chants even when the deacons completely cater to the congregation's will. These people will overplay the role of language as a justification for not participating, even when there are responses chanted in their languages.
    Mission churches is a misnomer because you are correct, all churches are for mission. However, the problem is, these people are linguist extremists who just want to get rid of everything other than English (yes, even Coptic) and they try to claim their mission is to attract people to the church. Perhaps yes, but mission is a lot more than language...it's a lifestyle. By actions, by love, by tons of other things...language is the most superficial form of mission if anything. As Francis of Assisi says, "Preach always [through actions]: if necessary, use words." His words hold truth, the actions are going to grab the hearts, not the words.
    Finally, I understand that Arabic is probably the least important of the 3 languages. But that does not give an appropriate reason to exterminate it on Sundays. Who ever delegated Sunday liturgies to be English? Who ever described Arabic as "infiltrating the Sunday liturgies"? I think we are forgetting the bigger picture here: the liturgy isn't some customized event for me or for my family, it's for an entire congregation. People have different spiritual needs and it is the priest's duty to fulfill them. Sunday is the Lord's day for everyone in a church. What makes it more fitting to chant English only on Sunday and cater only to part of the congregation's spiritual needs but completely neglect Arabic and neglect the rest of the congregation's spiritual needs? I understand the context of their learning of the language but you must remember, some people come to America and are literally unable to learn new languages, whether it be to a learning disability, illiteracy, or what have you. So they need some Arabic. I'm not saying make the whole liturgy Arabic...not at all...I'm just saying you have to give like 60/70% English and the rest should be Arabic (with Coptic at the appropriate times...Hiten, Shere, Agios, Ke to Epnevmati, etc.)

  • Hi this might sound obvious to some but are there theological reasons for praying in Coptic or Arabic or English or Spanish? 

    Elsewhere on the forum some have pointed out that both Coptic and Greek seem to have layers of meanings for certain words and also several words to describe one concept. 

    In some of the other threads some have mentioned that Coptic hymns, icons, language have a unique Coptic theology that's transmitted and only understood if Coptic is retained as a language or if there's a particular Coptic version of the icons or hymns. 

    Does "Coptic Theology" require the Coptic language or Coptic sounds and icons to be communicated?

  • edited July 2014
    Look, I don't mind Arabic or even Coptic.  But I have to think of others.  The fact of the matter is that while you could start with 60-70% English, and you do have the essence of mission-oriented culture by example, but the trend is inevitable.  Eventually, your parish will require that the 70% becomes 80, and then 80 becomes 90, etc.  It may take decades.

    Is there a reason why your congregation after 2 years is unable to chant?  Why are the members of the assembly demotivated to chant?  Are there not programs to teach their children how to chant?  If only the same number of people chant Coptic as much as English, then is this not telling of how engaged in teaching the parish leaders are?


    There are instances when certain terminologies get lost in translation.  But in my experience, while I may like to know and delve into the meaning of my chant, from what I see, I'm afraid we tend to like the musicality and the sound of the language, rather than learning the meaning of what I chant.  When we do a Tasbeha in English, I feel we benefit a whole lot more, in comprehending almost everything that we say.
  • Thanks minasoliman this is a very good point.
  • Dear minasoliman,
    Let the increase of English happen eventually on its own. We shouldn't catalyze the movement too quickly, especially with such a high flux of people coming from Egypt and there is already currently a high population of Egyptian immigrants in American churches. If it takes decades, we wait decades...60-70% means most of the liturgy anyways...unless you open a church with the mindset of having all English liturgies and the congregation of the church is completely supportive of it.

    I have no idea why they have been unable to chant...it probably comes down to a couple factors like parents not singing so they're leading by example and people taking the Eucharist for granted. There are many programs teaching children how to chant: between Mahragan and weekend deacon lessons.
  • +

    Hi "p",

    I actually serve in one of these all-English churches.  I've noticed that the attendance is incredible, and people who have left the Church for decades in some cases, and years in others, are slowly returning. Every one of these churches in my diocese has grown immensely in less than a year. My own particular parish, for example, had communion taking a good half hour within two months, and the Church is not in an area not served by other churches (there are two other churches within 25 minutes of us). I don't think the issue then can be reduced to issues of parenting or lack of attendance at mahragan! I think something very real is going on.

    What I'm suggesting is rather than broadly generalising to understand the need and context of each service and that there is a pastoral responsibility to identify the specific needs of a particular parish. I'd be happy to write more about it, but I don't want to just ramble. :)

    Keep me in your prayers,

  • Hello Metouro

    I really understand well your problem. You wish your kids to grow up understanding the liturgy, vespers, doxologies etc; and Arabic isn't their mother tongue, so what kind of upbringing will they have in the Church? 

    I just have one small question:

    Why doesn't it bother you that half is also in Coptic or English? I mean to say: your kids (and yourself) do not speak or understand Coptic either - surely when Coptic is always present in our Church. 

    First, you have to count your blessings that you have a Coptic Church.
    2. The Holy Communion, Agpeya, & Confession - and spiritual life in the Church will be most beneficial to your kids. These 3 things do not require Arabic or Coptic.
    3. Is it the knowledge of God, or knowing God that is important to you?

    Knowing God comes from engagement in the sacraments. Then there's the knowledge of God that comes from speaking Arabic to understand an Arabic Bible. I think its safe to say that if there is Bible Study in English, and your kids are consistently going to Bible study, then they'd also have the right knowledge of God and relationship with God that any normal parent would hope to have for their kids (and yourself also).

    I really do not see that you have a problem.

    Most orthodox Churches are going to be a bit nationalistic. Let's not forget: we are the Christian Orthodox Church of Egypt, not America, not Bahrain, or Canada. Egypt is in fact part of our Church. Can you separate the Egyptianness from your own personality? I'm sure having Egyptian parents has influenced who you are and has shaped your personality to some degree. As much as no one wants that you lose elements of your personality that has taken shape thanks to your Egyptian roots, likewise, no one wants to remove the Egyptian nature of our Church that has also made her personality what it is today. 

  • edited September 2014

    Forgive my intrusion, but @Zoxsasi - is the Church's role a cultural role or is it to teach the faith?

    Forgive me, but it's the role of the people to preserve a culture, it's the role of the Church to save souls. To suggest that a person does not have a problem simply because you do not have a problem with the arrangement, is not entirely understanding the real dilemma.

    For example, Saint Mark did not preach to the Egyptians in Coptic. He preached in Greek. Should the Coptic Patriarchate then have preserved everything in Greek? We did not. We translated to Coptic because it was the language of the people and we retained both at one point because people still spoke both. Today, the majority of the congregation cannot distinguish the Coptic from the Greek, they just say whatever everyone is saying and understand only when praying in the vernacular.  

    When we pray, we are not supposed to be spectators, we are supposed to be participants. If we are not praying with understanding (which is what the psalm says), then what are we teaching? The discussion that Saint Paul has about speaking in tongues is the same issue that we are actually dealing with today. Saint Paul asks, "How do you say amen at the giving of thanks (e.g. Eucharist) if you don't even understand?" The Amen means that you agree, that you are affirming something to be true, you are saying "so be it". If you don't even know what they are saying, how are you agreeing? 

    So we can discuss until kingdom come how much of what language to pray and for how long as that is an issue that must be dealt with in each parish, but let's not reduce the issue to telling someone that they need only participate in Sacraments and be satisfied. The Holy Spirit gave the Apostles the gift of tongues so that each could pray and understand in their own language. If there was a duty of us to preserve a holy language or a cultural heritage, then surely we would all have inherited some Aramaic and the apostles would have insisted that those to whom they preach keep some portion of their prayers in the language of the Lord. 

     Let us not confuse our own preferences and the will of the people with the duty and role of the Church. The mission of the Church is to save souls, not preserve a particular culture. 

    As Anba Serapion put it so beautifully, "Orthodoxy is above all culture, but it is expressed through culture." 

     We have no duty to promote any particular culture but that of the people whom we serve. We seek to be Orthodox in our own context, not in the context of only one history.

    Pray for me,
  • edited September 2014
    Maybe the focus on Coptic today is a legacy of nationalist identity politics that helped build the modern Egyptian nation? Even theology can be "nationalized" and National Identity "spiritualized". The teaching and living of the Orthodox Faith is then claimed to be dependent on that National identity (for example have we not heard that the unique aspects of the Church theology "can only be preserved in Coptic"?).

    On a side note here's an interesting quote. In a section concerning the liturgical usage of Coptic, Dr Hany writes:

    "Liturgical texts that have survived are scarce and mostly in the form of prayers and bilingual Sahidic– Greek lectionaries. Apparently, Greek was the predominant language in the Church of Alexandria’s liturgy at least till the tenth century."

    Dr Hany N Takla, "Coptic Literature: Copts writing in their own tongue" in "The Coptic Christian Heritage: History, Faith and Culture", edited by Lois M. Farag (New York: Routledge 2014).

    But other historical narratives by other writers state that Coptic language was crucial to the identity building of Coptic Orthodox communities after Chalcedon and then also after the Arab invasion...

    Does anyone have more information on Greek in the liturgy or Greek as the language of the Church till the 10th century?
  • edited September 2014

    We still use some Greek, which is not understood in Egypt, because it was a major language of the apostles, so your point isn't totally watertight.

    That being said I largely agree.


    Be careful what you wish for. Pushing for an English-based Orthodox Church (such as the one @antonypaul serves) is laudable, but can often instead lead to a Protestant-influenced church (such as the church in Covina you refer to in your OP. Please no one get offended from this, I have no first-hand experience, this is only from what I have heard, and may be wrong.)
  • What is the Church is Covina?  St. Paul's?  I do not believe that is Protestant-influenced.  They're simply all-English translated from Coptic prayers.  I have not witnessed any use of Evangelical hymns when I visited that parish, and I applaud them for their all-English services.
  • There is an immense difference between the sort of church Fr. Antony Paul is speaking about and those so called "mission" churches whos sole mission (not found in the mission statement) is rebellion. Fr. Antony Paul services an Orthodox church, with Orthodox practices, Orthodox theology, Orthodox Dogma, and in English. In like matter that St. Paul, when preaching to the gentiles brought them to proper practice of the faith (such as his commandments against Hellenistic practices) but did not necessitate that they learn Hebrew, although Christianity was (at that time at least) Judaism. The Apostles saw themselves as Jews, yet understood divine economy was greater than language. 

    As long as the faith, and practices, and spirit of the church are properly translated into English, it is laudable, and in the same vein as the Apostles to establish churches based solely on the vernacular. 

    As I understand, the church in Covina is serviced by a priest who used to post here. In order to skirt flattery, lets say hes not protestant. At all lol. 


  • Dear Friends,

    @AnthonyPaul - I think you are over-philosophising this my old friend. 

    I agree with you that if for me its not a problem then it doesn't mean its not a problem for someone else. Very true. But my 2 cents is that praying in Arabic isn't a problem so long as you have a translation with you. Why is arabic a problem and not Coptic? I understand arabic better than Coptic - and Im sure everyone else does!

    Dear Fr Anthony Paul - Most orthodox churches are nationalistic - we are the Orthodox Church of Egypt. It sure bugs me that some things we do in Church in our Church have nothing to do with religion and are strictly cultural based; but these events are outside the liturgy. During the liturgy, if Arabic IS used, then I might as well just read the translation as i'm doing with Coptic (whenever that language is used).

    My point, dear Father, is that growing in Christ is profoundly affected by the sacraments - notably Holy Communion, Confession - whether one speaks English or Arabic is not going to change the efficacy of these sacraments in your spiritual life.
  • @antonypaul,
    We are called the Coptic orthodox church for a reason. If the Coptic church translates everything to English, the Greek does, the Ukrainian does etc, so why aren't we all united? Why does it always have to be the Coptic church to be on the receiving end of that eternal argument? Have you seen other churches translating their liturgies?
    secondly st. Paul's argument is exactly what we are talking about. We should teach people Egyptian second and third generations as well as newcomers Coptic. God rejoices at how much we offer and sacrifice in order to get close to Him through His bride. Things shouldn't be made too easy for everyone at the expense of the core identity of the church. No communion for women or men dressed inappropriately or boys growing their hair long.. oh sorry I forgot, this is not church teaching, it's the Bible and it doesn't serve the purpose nowadays as long as churches' success is measured by the size of the congregation.. narrow gate? Not sure, just make it as wide as possible to accommodate as many people as you can.. there's no such a thing as identity of the church, or following the Bible our way..

  • I prefer not to speak for others; however, Fr. Antony Paul is emphasizing the need in UNDERSTANDING our praises. (cf. 1 Cor 14:15, Ps. 47:7). Regardless whether the language is in Coptic or Arabic the importance is having an understanding and a relationship with the words of the hymns. We are not parrots. 

    What disturbs me is when I see many people are so adamant in preserving our heritage/language, as opposed to our DOGMA. Many of our youth, do not even understand the simple doctrines of our Orthodox faith. Fr. Athanasius Iskander's story is the story of all High School/youth servants. These youth come to our church and feel so distant. Any servant who has personally dealt with the problems of the youth cannot advocate arabic/coptic at the expense of english. Pope Shenouda said it clearly in the article referenced in Mina Soliman's post, the youth will flee to other denominations if we continue to speak in Arabic. I will like to add, instead of fleeing to other denominations they have abandoned their journey in getting to know Christ. We will be judged.  

    Fr. Athanasius Iskander was 100% correct in speaking to the blessed Anba Rewais...."We had a wonderful friendship. One day during his visit, I stormed into the room where he was sitting alone and in total frustration I told him: “You know Sayedna that myself, Your Grace and Abouna Marcos will all go to hell?” He was startled but as usual very quietly asked, “Why?” I told him, “Because of the children that we are losing on a daily basis!” I then laid my case before him: “Unless we seriously start to adopt English in the service we will lose the new generations!” He told me: “I agree!” (read the article enclosed in Mina Soliman's post). 

    As a word of advice, look at the people, (Pope Shenouda, Fr. Athanasius Iskander, Fr. Anthony Paul and Mina Soliman) who are advocating more English/understanding for the youth. These individuals have not abandoned the orthodox faith at the expense of adapting to times. These individuals are the first advocates of our doctrine. However if you really want to preserve our FAITH (which is essential, not culture!!!!!) we must be more English based. Our Faith is essential. As you know, Coptic is not FAITH, but simply our heritage and culture. Orthodoxy is maintained and we are worried about people's salvation right now....so please put that first even before culture.  
  • edited September 2014
    Dear ophadeece,

    You asked the question if the Greeks do English and the Ukrainians do English, and the Copts do English, what's the difference?  Why don't we all unite?

    If you ask me, assuming that Greeks and Ukrainians and Copts are One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, that is the Orthodox thing to do, to have one geographically united Orthodox Church.  If we continue separating ourselves based on ethnic divisions, while it's permissible now due to immigration issues, in the future, there is no excuse.  Our Coptic liturgy for instance is a result of the Jewish and Gentile communities that converted into Christianity in Egypt, and does later on have some Arabic influence in it.  I am an advocate for making all things English while keeping the Coptic rite now.  To have an intellectual curiosity of the Coptic language is something that should be allowed to develop on its own, but not associated with the Church.  Orthodox Christianity exceeds culture, as Fr. Anthony said.  To culturalize Orthodoxy as "Coptic vs. Greek" is like telling the convert, "here's a soup menu of Orthodoxy in this city; choose your flavor of Orthodoxy to be baptized into".

    If we are serious about Orthodox ecclesiology, to split a city of Orthodox churches into Coptic, Armenian, Syrian, etc is NOT okay.  It's permissible now, but a couple of generations later, it will actually be an encouragement of racial churches, and prone even to racism.  The practice of ethnic churches we are doing today should not be the norm, but only a concession for immigrant cultures, and a concession means that it should be done away with some time later.

    Some hymns that use Coptic are not difficult to comprehend.  Other times, using Coptic seems to be, as Meena Hanna said, like being mindless parrots, rather than intellectual members of Christ's body.

    Forgive me.
  • @minasoliman


    @ReturnOrthodoxy @minasoliman

    The Church in Covina is that of St John, not St Paul. I don't think it is served by any priest that used to post here. I know St Paul's is good and served by Fr Kyrillos, but it is located in Tustin not Covina. I obviously don't want to dwell on this sort of naming of individual churches, but Covina was mentioned by the OP, so I thought it was a point worth making.
  • I'm afraid I may not have explained myself better. We in the Coptic church use St. Basil, st. Gregory or St. Cyril and a unique prayer book and a unique psalmody and a unique kholagy, and they are already translated so why on earth is there a need to abandon Coptic altogether? Instead of holding on to it and teaching the younger generation we give it up completely in order for them to stick to orthodoxy? Seriously? I know orthodoxy through the Coptic church and her rituals and customs including the language. The simple-minded illiterate monks were taught orthodoxy through the Coptic tasbeha sung the same every morning, evening and night. Oh simple-minded? Sorry guys, I forgot that we live in the west and it's the 21st century so the Coptic of the Coptic church doesn't fit. It's offensive and driving people away.. indeed we have to pander to people in their likes and avoid their dislikes such as the Coptic language, the overnight tasbeha, and of course the long hymns. You know what? These things are not prerequisites for entering eternal life.
  • edited September 2014

    I agree Coptic language is important for maintaining a Coptic identity, but whether you like it or not, some people (ie Copts) just don't want to identify as Copts anymore. No matter how hard you try convincing them. They can still be saved as long as they are Orthodox (like our Armenian, Ethiopian, etc brethren). So why would you deny them salvation by insisting that they must be Coptic?

    I'm genuinely interested in what you think, because your position just doesn't seem logical to me, and I know you're an intelligent guy :)
  • I think I have to admit that Coptic is not but a mere burden. It should Of course be abandoned by the Coptic church. Coptic is detrimental to the salvation of people's souls.
  • @ophadece

    Enough sarcasm! :)

    Actually I don't even agree with any of your sarcasm. Coptic is only a burden for some people so it is not "not but a mere burden".

    It should not be abandoned by the Coptic Church, but parts of the Coptic church in the diaspora may decide to cease to be Coptic. Thus allowing them (and not the Coptic Church) to abandon Coptic language.

    Coptic is not (directly) detrimental to salvation, but it is non-essential, unlike Orthodoxy, Eucharist, etc.

    I believe I have only stated self-evident truths in my posts, so I don't know how there could be any argument.
  • St. Basil's liturgy, St. Cyril's liturgy, St. Gregory's liturgy, the midnight Tasbeha, the vespers, the morning prayers, the agpeya are all translated in English. There's no need to Copticize converts when they have all these beautiful hymns and prayers translated from the mother Coptic church for edification.

    If I speak in tongues, but have no understanding, then it profits me nothing. But if you want sarcasm, and not address the issues professionally, two can play that game:

    "For God so loved the world, He sent His only begotten language Coptic, that whosoever speaketh it shall not perish but have everlasting life." Efnoute 3:16
  • Hi Zoxasi,


    Peace and grace to you.

    You asked, "Why doesn't it bother you that half is also in Coptic or English? I mean to say: your kids (and yourself) do not speak or understand Coptic either - surely when Coptic is always present in our Church. "


    I love the Coptic language insofar as the hymns are repeatable (and beautiful) and that any one, including converts who are not Egyptian, when they hear, Agios (which is actually Greek) or Tai Shori, or the Hitens or many of the others, can very quickly memorize these always-repeated hymns and can read what they mean in a book or see them on the screen as in the case of so many Churches.  And many converts actually WANT to hear some of this ancient language.  BUT if the priest were to start to converse or preach in Coptic, read the synaxorion in Coptic, read the Bible in Coptic, or consistently try to hold a conversation in Coptic, then that would be completely unuseful.   In Arabic-cutluture dominated Churches, this is what frequently happens with the Coptic language. 


    It is also, perhaps the solcial environment- the people- one seems to have to go out ofhis way to speak to others in Arabic and feel that it is rude not to do so because the people are Arabic and Arabized in their speaking and mannerisms.  In North America, it is my opinion that this should not be the case.   At times, may god forgive me, it alsmost feels  like I am embarking on racism against my own people, my own fellow copts.  And I am Egyptian, ethnically. 


    I become, out of zeal infuriated, when a white person or a non-arbic speaking person who is a convert to Coptic Orthodoxy and they are dedicated servants when I see them drowning in a culture of Arabismand they have to feel like a minority in their own country. 


    I once also aked a couple of young Arabic Speaking Deacons (who know English very well) why we say in the 41 Keryei Eleison's we always end the third one with "Ya Rub Orham," or "Ya Rub Esma3na" instead of "Lord Have mercy" or "Lord Hear us and have mercy" or why we always say "Amen, Amen Amen Be Mawtika Ya Rub Nobashir...." responses in Arabic... when it bothers the English speakers and converts.   The response they gave me was that converts have to adapt to the Church , and not the Church to the converts.  I don't believe that, in the case of language. 


    It is not the Arabic Orthodox Church.  It is the Coptic Orthodox Church.  In Arabic speaking countries in the Arab world, the Coptic Orthodox church must have Arabic as its primary language.  In North America it must NOT.

    "Is it the knowledge of God, or knowing God that is important to you?"


    The Bible says that Faith comes by Hearing.

    "Then there's the knowledge of God that comes from speaking Arabic to understand an Arabic Bible."


    Why in the world would anyone need to understand the Arabic Bible in North America?  The New Testamnet was written in Greek.  Our fluency is in English.  The Septuangint is also now widely available in English.  Secondly, the Arabian language of the Bible is the formal Arabic which is as far as any English speaker is concerned, is like a completely different language that conversational Arabic.


    I think its safe to say that if there is Bible Study in English, and your kids are consistently going to Bible study, then they'd also have the right knowledge of God and relationship with God that any normal parent would hope to have for their kids (and yourself also).


    This is true and we do.  The problem is that we don't feel fully integrated in the Church life.  The Enlgish speakers are "accommodated" in the liturgiecal life in the some Churches, as well as in Church functions, social events, Revivals, etc. 



    "Most orthodox Churches are going to be a bit nationalistic. Let's not forget: we are the Christian Orthodox Church of Egypt, not America, not Bahrain, or Canada. Egypt is in fact part of our Church. Can you separate the Egyptianness from your own personality? I'm sure having Egyptian parents has influenced who you are and has shaped your personality to some degree. As much as no one wants that you lose elements of your personality that has taken shape thanks to your Egyptian roots, likewise, no one wants to remove the Egyptian nature of our Church that has also made her personality what it is today." 


    That is why we keep the Coptic Language in the Church.  There is no reason to make Arabic dominateWe are not the Coptic Church of Arabia or the Arabic Church of Egypt.


    Perhaps it is time for some congregations to follow the path of the British Orthodox Church.  Most of them are converts, including their clergy, led by Bishop Angelos, yet still under the auspices of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt.


    The Church will not reach out properly and fully to those outside of the Church, to non-Egyptians but will be on a mainly enclosed path serving mainly only Egyptians and Arabic Speakers if Arabism continues to dominate... and that would be a shame, given its rich spritual Orthodox heretiage.
  • Hi Qawe, beloved of Christ...

    You said, "be careful what you wish for. Pushing for an English-based Orthodox Church ..can often instead lead to a Protestant-influenced church ..."


    There are some Arabic spekaing Coptic Churches that are also protestant in their teaching.  It is not language but Orthodoxy we are speaking of.  One can stick to the Church Fathers, most of whom were not at all Arabic Speaking, but were Greek, Latin, and Coptic in langugage and ethnically and they gave us Orthodox for the most part, not the Arabic Culture which invaded Egypt in the 7th century an dthe langugage of the land/ Churchdid not beign to change until sometime in the 12th century A.D.  The height of Orthodoxy was given to us in languages PRIOR to those years.  Many Arabs practiced Orthodoxy and had the right faith delivered to them in other langugages and they practiced it in their Arab culture, using the Arabic Language, but its roots are not the Arabic languge or cutlure.  If One abides by the Fathers and the Orthodox teaching, it will not matter what culture or langugagedominates, but it is important that Orthodoxy is integrated in the culture where one is practicing it- by that I mean, practice Holy Orthodoxy as taught by the Fathers and the Church in English mainly if in North Amerciaand in Arabic if in Egypt 

  •  The last sentence first paragraph in my reply to Zoxasi above should read "In Arabic-culture-dominated Churches, this is what frequently happens with the ARABIC language."

    Peace and grace.
  • If I no longer live in Egypt (though Egypt lives inside me) I should not feel as though I am forced to pretend that I live in Egypt just because I want to offer the right worship to God. I know some people feel that their hearts and mouths can not fully and joyfully express their love for God as intimately in English as they can in Arabic; but why does that have to mean that Copts who love God through Orthodoxy in North America have to be forced to Adapt to Arabic? That ought not to be so in North America.

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