Friday, February 8, 2008

Pope Shenouda, Floods and a Journey Cut Short

Well H.H. Pope Shednouda has recovered. He consecrated a church in Texas and then on Thursday consecrated St. Mary’s Coptic Orthodox Church in Columbus Ohio. I find this man incredible. He was a monk, an author, a political prisoner. He stood firm against the demands of the communist who ravaged Ethiopia. Under his guidance and care the Coptic Church has grown around the world. He has been active in promoting Christian unity and has reached out to Rome, the Eastern Orthodox Churches and protestant denominations. I wanted to see this man and here he was next door in Ohio. So I decided to drive to Columbus to witness the consecration. I of course first called the church to make sure I would not be intruding, they graciously invited me.

Back at work I was excited. I told folks what I was going to do. Barb O’Conner, the leader of JustPeace immediately asked if she could join me. Barb had a special interest in the trip. A couple of years ago she took an educational trip to Turkey, the Holy Land and Egypt. While in Egypt she went to a number of Coptic Churches. So it was set, I had a traveling companion.

While at work I found out that my interest in the Coptic Orthodox Church was not as unique as I had guessed. Dr. Kumfer had served in a Ruthenian Catholic Church and explained some of the liturgy of Eastern Churches so I would have some point of reference. Dr. Fleischacher compared the early Coptic Church to the Roman-Carthage traditions that influenced St. Augustine. I kept missing Dr. Deville who is a deacon in the Ukrainian Catholic Church. Barb told me about St. Barbara and the Hanging Church in Cairo. Sr. Anita reminisced of her studies in the Vatican and coming across the Coptic Seminary in the Vatican Gardens and then getting a tour of it! Yep, I hang with some interesting folks. However, I suspect Sr. Anita was visiting with the Egyptian Catholic Copts and not the Egyptian Orthodox Copts, still, pretty cool!

So I got home Wednesday evening from class. I could not go to sleep right ways because I still had Dr. Fleischacher's Systematic Theology lectures cluttering up my brain. He lectured on St. Augustine’s writings on angels and on Methods of Systematic Theology. He talked about sources of meaning. This was divided between Conscious Acts and Content, understanding and understood, judgment and deciding. This was all placed in the context of realms of knowledge finally leading to the steps of meaning. I would love to say it was all crystal clear to me but really I felt like I was Alice in Wonderland, without the pretty dress! Nope couldn’t sleep after that. Bottom line, I went to bed at midnight and got up at 4 AM to go see the Pope.

We have had a very strange week of weather. We had snow, then thunderstorms, fog that was unbelievable and then melting. Still, we were going to Columbus. I picked Barb up at 5 AM and we were on our way to Ohio. It was dark and we could not see the fields. However, once in Ohio county sheriffs stopped us from using three different roads. Signs and blockades stopped drivers. The roads disappeared into lakes from the flooding. We turned back and stopped at a restaurant for breakfast. While there locals were talking about the flooding county-wide. Our pilgrimage was over, we did not see the Pope. When I finally got home I found out how extensive the flooding was in Ohio, the trip was doomed before we started.

Still, it really was a good trip. Barb had contacted a friend in Egypt to tell him what we were doing. She carried with her a peace calendar from an organization consisting of Jewish, Muslims and Christian peace advocates. She also showed me photos of St. Barbara Coptic Church in Cairo and the Hanging Church. This is the church of the pope in Cairo though officially the headquarters is in Alexandria. She also showed me a photo of an icon of St. Barbara.

When I got home I saw what the rains and snow did to Fort Wayne. Foster Park was under water, all four entrances and the golf course. Headwaters Park was doing what it was designed to do, be a sponge. It was under water. It was kind of ironic. Water stopped us from seeing the Pope of the Desert. Still, I felt connected to him and to the St. Mary’s Orthodox Coptic Church of Columbus Ohio. I enjoyed my brief adventure with Barb and Cathi was very happy that we got back safe. At the very least there was nothing routine about our day!

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