We just started the "Getting to Know our Neighbour's Faith" small group at the Ottawa Mennonite Church. Today was our first visit. We went to St. George & St. Anthony Coptic Orthodox Church. Their website is http://www.orthodoxy.ca/ . It was a beautiful liturgy. We were welcomed by Fr. Mikhail Fam and Fr. George Mikhail, who invited us to stay after the service and talk, and connect during the week if we wanted.
Some personal impressions:
- I didn't quite know what to expect when I arrived. The uncertainty of the unknown at times invites a bit of 'fear' ( of 'acceptance', or 'faux pas'). I forgot to ask in advance, for instance, if there were instructions for the dressing costumes, particularly for visiting women of the group. Luckily they had scarfs that served as veil.
- The liturgy is filled with visuals. From the images to the symbols to gestures, it was beautiful to see how rich they were. (In contrast with the Reformed branches of Christianity, many of which removed the symbols as they collided with the alleged 'idolatry' of Roman Catholicism).
- Historically, Reformed churches tried to remove the 'special status' of clergy and laity. In the service at St. George & St. Anthony the Fathers and Deacons were at the front, but looking at the liturgy, the participation of 'clergy' in Reformed churches is not much different in general than what I witnessed.
- Clergy and Deacons at the altar were all male. There might have been about 80 people in the congregation, with a good mix of all ages. A large room with glass allows parents with small children to follow the service.
- I didn't quite know what to expect during the service. I did notice that there was lots of reading of Scripture ( Hebrew Bible and New Testament ). Readings of the liturgy were documented in a book available at the pews and also projected on screens. These readings had the text in Greek, Arabic and English. Readings of Scripture were in Arabic and English.
- The sermon spoke about the Parable of the Sower, which was the reading of the Gospels. To me it sounded clear. I liked it. (It seemed easier to understand and accept what I was hearing, as if I didn't have much 'filters' in my ears for being of a Christian background... ) The Father spoke, among other things, that there were conversations about what it meant for a church to be 'of Jesus Christ'. And that he thinks a church must be 'evangelical' and 'missionary' (in the context of the Parable). Very nice.
- The Father gave us a book and a few booklets about their tradition. The booklets are addressed to youth.