Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States
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Why doesn’t Your Grace want the Church Readings to be read in Arabic on the Sundays? I am sure Your Grace has justified reasons for such a decision. However, there are some people especially among the elderly who do not understand English. Some of them cannot even read Arabic. Please, reconsider your decision.

Arabic is my native language; and that of  of preference. Although I feel much more comfortable communicating in  Arabic; it is not the language of this country in which I am to serve the Lord. Therefore, I had to adapt and train myself to using the English language.

In the Holy Book of Acts 2: 1-11 we are told the disciples received the Holy Spirit and then spoke in many languages. If the One Church had spoken only ‘one language’ in Biblical time, there would have been only a few converts other than those in Jerusalem and the surrounding areas. In fulfillment of the prophecy of the prophet Joel (Joel 2:28,29) concerning the Holy Spirit, the words spoken by the Apostles were in the actual languages of the people who had come to Jerusalem from all over the empire for the Feast at that time. I believe that there was a very valid reason for the ‘many languages’.  God had meant that at the time of the Feast, those of other languages would come to learn of the Lord Jesus Christ in their respective languages. Then further on in biblical history, those people had established new churches as recorded later on in the Holy Book of Acts.

When people immigrated to this country, they understood fully well that it would require learning a new culture and language. Arabic is not a fluently spoken language in any city here in the States. If our beloved Church is to grow in this land and if we are to evangelize others, we must also speak their language. Gradually adapting the Divine Liturgy (part Arabic, part English) had a two-fold purpose. One, was to slowly acclimate Arabic speakers to the English language. The second purpose was, to also give a chance to  those who spoke only English (particularly young children who knew English only) to begin to comprehend the Divine Liturgy.  Part English, Part Arabic was in no way intended as a comprise between the two languages; nor a goal in itself.

The younger generation and new converts and those ‘testing the waters’ of our faith need to understand the entire Divine Liturgy in the English language.

As for those who prefer the Arabic language, I whole-heartedly encourage and endorse a special Divine Liturgy for them. The Divine Liturgy could be scheduled to begin before work on a working day for those who work. For the elderly who want and need the comfort of an Arabic liturgy, they can attend the Wednesdays or Fridays Divine Liturgies in Arabic. Most of them do not work; and all they need to attend the Divine Liturgy is transportation.This is a simple thing, which with little patience and continued prayer, can be worked out to everyone's satisfaction. I would encourage any Church to serve the needs of its congregation.

If the deacons do not have a good command of the English language, there are many practical solutions for this other than just refusing to attend or compromising the Readings. These deacons could attend the Hymns Retreat and eventually teach  others. The Diocese holds these retreats annually for such purposes. If this is not feasible; or no one wants to make the effort required, then you can seek out the help of those in your church who do know the Hymns in English and ask them to teach those who do not. They can do that individually or in groups.

A lot of those who complain about the use of English in Church rituals occupy jobs which demand both written and spoken English.

A lot of people are complaining about feeling isolated and un-welcomed. Also,what about  the many, many youth who grew up here and do not know Arabic? The stranger that frequently walks in the church invited or uninvited? The new converts who do not know the Arabic language nor the congregation present in church? Remember that to those entering newly into the faith, not only Arabic is unfamiliar; but the Divine Liturgy as well; unfamiliar in many aspects to the youth who are just beginning to learn the meaning our Coptic Church places on the word "mystery".

There is no easy solution to transition. It is accomplished gradually by accepting changes. It has taken more than 10 years to move to praying completely in English in our Churches. I think it is now the "Time of the Children" and "The Time for Evangelism".

Please pray with me that the Coptic Church will continue to grow in the United States, with members from Egyptian origin as well as American converts. The future of our Coptic Church also depends upon the youth of today. I pray that we all realize that in order for the youth to truly love the Coptic Church and grow spiritually, they must understand its teachings.
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