Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Visiting St. Mary Coptic Orthodox Church of Palatine

Outside of St. Mary Coptic Orthodox Church of Palatine

I went to a Coptic Church in Palatine. I have been interested in the Coptic Church for a long time. I love studying faith traditions that go back to the early Church. The Coptic Church was founded by St. Mark who brought Christianity to Egypt during the reign of the Roman Emperor Nero. Yep, that is old. Within a half a century Egypt was one of the important centers of early Christianity. Their influence is still felt in our churches today. The Nicene Creed was authored in part by St. Anthansius who was the pope of Alexandra.

Yep, I said the pope of Alexandria. The Coptic Church still has it’s own pope. I tried to see him last year when he was in Ohio but a flood preventing me from getting to the church he was at.

So I went to the St. Mary's in Palatine. It was grand. Everyone looked like they were from Egypt or at least the Middle East or North Africa. Everyone was welcoming.

The wall molding and paintings reflected the vegetation of Egypt. The icons were beautiful. During the first service the priest was all in white and did not look that different from priests in the West. During the second service another priest presided and he was all in black with the round black cap I associate with Coptic priests. I never understood a single word of the second service!

The Coptic Church gave us formalized theology, monasticism, and so many writings. The church was active in the Ecumenical Councils and the Church was one of the first to experience schism. Today the Coptic Church views itself as a bridge between the Roman Catholic church and the Orthodox Churches of the East. They need allies because they are also a church under attack. While the official line is that Egypt is a multicultural nation that respects religious diversity the experiences of Copts in Egypt is very different. So the Coptic Church in America is not just a church that is preserving a particular form of worship and teachings. It is struggling to preserve a culture in Diaspora.

The first liturgy lasted three hours. It was in English, Arabic and Copt. The second service was in Copt. During both services the men and women sat on different sides of the church. The women all wore head coverings. The service was chanted and the chanting was wonderful.

I had a great time worship at St. Mary’s and wished I had more time to return to this wonderful church.

Inside St. Mary Coptic Orthodox Church of Palatine

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