Sunday, March 4, 2012

Visiting the Coptic Church Day

Yesterday I went to the Coptic Christian Church more or less blind because the internet had failed to prepare me adaquately. There was a humorous exchange of clergymen talking about what to wear, but nothing for women, so here's a guide for you, should you choose to visit:

1- bring a headscarf. Like Eastern Orthodoxy, you'll need to over your hair during the service. A small scarf will do.

2- wear comfy shoes and clear your schedule. The entire service is around 3 hours long. Most of that will be standing (although you can sit during the sermon).

3-don't take communion. Only baptized members are welcome to communion, which you'll notice that they do shoeless, like Moses did before divinity.

4-dress nice-ish. There's a wide range of clothes--some folks (guys and girls) are in jeans, while some are dressed in suits. Pants are okay for women to wear, but it's probably better to stray on the side of formal and modest. No one wore shorts or very short skirts.

5-be comfortably with being confused. Some of the service might take place in Coptic or Arabic as many of the older people might not know English. Most Coptics in my visit were Egyptian, or generation 1.5.

6-sit with others of your same sex. Women will be on the side with the picture of Christ, and men on the side with the picture of Mary. In both cases, women sit on the right hand of the men.

7-get ready for a sensory experience. The music, which is only chanting, one cymbol and one triangle, is really layered and complex. The incense was wonderful, too, and I could smell it in my clothes and hair afterwards. Also, I got a big splash of holy water through my veil. (This proves I am not a demon or vampire.)

8-everyone is friendly. The guy who is being ordained a priest next week took time from his preparations to give me the low-down on how the service would progress (readings from the epistles, from Acts, and from the Gospels; lots of standing; the priest chooses which loaf of bread for the communion and the remaining loaves are given to all the people after the service--I love this, incidentally). Another, older woman, introduced me to people before and after the service, including a younger woman whom I could follow throughout the service on when to pray, stand or sit in silent prayer. After wards, we had lunch. Everyone was extremely hospitable.

My one sadness is that I didn't know how to donate to the church. They never passed the plate and I didn't see any prominent boxes for donations. I wish I had asked because it was a wonderful congregation and I want to support them.

But don't take my word for it--go see for yourself!

(LaVar Burton will sue now.)

1 comment:

Jamie said...

Nice! We went to a similar church in Upstate New York. I didn't know about the scarf requirement, and I did have to wear a skirt (which I brought along just in case). A very kind but strangely gruff priest gave me a purple scarf to wear. Women stood (yep, and stood a lot) on the left, men on the right. It was a fascinating service! Glad you got to go to a similar one.