Trundling Past 40

On the 24th January, 1969, a number of historical events occurred…

Richard Nixon was President of the United States and the war in Vietnam was dragging on…

Martial law was declared in Madrid, Spain, the University of Madrid was closed down and 300 students were arrested under the regime of General Franco…

TV’s favorite shows (in black and white) were Gomer Pile, Star Trek and High Chaparral…

The race between Russia and America to be the first to land on the moon was hotting up…

Time Magazine reported on how much the life of a negro in America had improved: only 27% of negros were below the poverty line!

On that same day, a more joyous event occurred that affected the lives of tens of thousands of Copts who had, or were, to migrate to Australia:

The Nematalla family, headed by the recently ordained Hegumen Fr Mina, pulled in to Melbourne on an ocean liner on their way to their destination in Sydney and stepped on Australian soil for the first time. Shortly thereafter, using korban bread baked on the ship as it drew into port, the very first Coptic Orthodox liturgy was prayed in Australia. These events were to be repeated two days later in Sydney Harbour, where this time, Fr Mina and his family had come to stay.

And thus, the Coptic Orthodox Church in Australia was born.

A few days ago we commemorated the 40th anniversary of this landmark event. Anniversaries are a time for celebration of achievments, and it is not uncommon on occasions such as this to list facts like the number of Churches opened and marriages conducted. But I think it should also be a time for self-reflection.

A Church is not really about the number of buildings built or acreage owned. It is not about successful services established, nor even about converts won or congregations grown. Christ never seems to have been interested in that sort of thing, and His Apostles, if their writings are anything to go by, did not measure their mission in these terms. That’s not to say that these things are not important – they are, in that they are the scaffold we use to build the true structure of the Church. But no one builds a building and then lives on the scaffold!

The true Church building exists is the hearts and lives of its members. Every good deed, every honest word, every act of compassion, every willing self-sacrifice, every sincere repentance and every genuine prayer is a brick in the Church of Christ. God does not need physical temples in which to dwell – He wants our hearts for His abode.

So how would the balance sheet of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Sydney over the past 40 years fare on these criteria? They are not tangible, and therefore not measurable, but they are the only true indicators of success for a Church. There are Churches that are mere shells – beautiful exteriors encasing spiritual emptiness. We pray for our Church never to become one of those.

Well, you are part of your Church, and thus partially responsible for its performance: so what would your report card look like?

Fr Ant

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15 Replies to “Trundling Past 40”

  1. It is a fact that people as a community makes the church and not the arrival of a first priest or bishop , definitely as well not buildings and other materialistic structures ….. certainly a priest has to come at that time because the community started to get bigger at the late sixtieth….somebody has to donate the first land to build our church ….. the bottom line ,it is a fact all the Coptic community build our community churches with their efforts, time and money and by the help of God ….it is a fact that Both our spiritual and social life of our Coptic church community in this part of the world have been affected in the last few years by the way priests handled the spiritual , ritual and family affairs of our community and churches ….the impact is so hard that trust and faith was diminished not only between the community and clergymen and its church way of handling their affairs and interests but among the community as a whole …..it is a fact that the priests were not doing good to look after the spiritual aspects and interests of our Coptic community even before the arrival of the bishop to this part of the world ???!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!we had hopes that by the arrival of the bishop things would be getting better but i believe most of us do agree things did not improve and we got backwards in both our spiritual and financial affairs as a community ???!!!!!!!Equally a lot of of people of our Coptic community must understand that the work load of the priest is heavy ” i believe needs to be reviewed “and people must understand that priests have to look as well after other people needs ….people must learn to share to make life easy for the priest and other members of the community …… just referring to that the other day i experienced something,i went to confession and i was lucky that a child was only before me and his turn came and he entered …..oh mate after more than two hours he came out and out of curiosity i asked him mate how old are you ?? he answered ten years old , i said , mate you must have a lot of problems ????!!!!!!!!! imagine somebody sleep on the phone for more than four hours ” half working day ” to complain about his wife or whatever ?????!!! oh mate too much !!!?? may our Lord Jesus Christ look after our churches and own affairs and interests as always i say to fall in the hands of God better than falling in the hands of humans , amen ……

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  2. ‘We are all part of the Church, and thus we are all responsible for it’

    I like that!! We ALL need to take responsibility for the performance of the Church, be it in regard to spirituality or otherwise. We are all accountable, not just the priests or the bishop. Abouna, I think that is the smartest thing said, particularly in the current climate.

    You say that ‘the church is not just the building’, but ‘the building’ is what I personally chooose to measure the success of the Church because I believe the spiritual aspect lies with each individual, and everyone is responsible for their own spiritual life.

    Sure we do feed on the deep spirituality that emanates from the Church, there is no denying that. It can be found in any parish anywhere, it just has to be sort diligently. But it is each person’s responsibility to take it in and make it grow. Our failure to do so is not a result of the Church’s lack of spirituality.

    People often like to blame priests when they fail or find it difficult to grab what the Church has to offer. It always seems to be the priest’s fault when ‘I come to Church but just don’t feel it’. This results in the bringing down of the Church as a whole. But the fact is, it does not matter what priest resides where, neither does the onus of our spiritual life lie on our priests, even though we would like to believe that. The truth is priests are seldom to blame, and more often than not it is our failure to grasp the beauty that is radiating from the Church (I guess in a way, blaming priests for our faults is like blaming God for everything that goes wrong in the world, it is not true, and neither does it mean that the world is completely bent).

    So I choose to measure the success of the ‘building’, being the people, the culture and the society. It has been a successful 40 years in my opinion, and Fr Mina would be proud.

    To measure the chuch in Sydney for its religiosity or spirituality is not effective. I believe we all need to take responsibility for our own spiritual lives and not blame the Church for lacking spirituality at every bump in our own life journey.

    Also, one other way people like to measure the success of the Church is to compare it to other Coptic churches established elsewhere. This I also think is not effective. Each Church in each region is unique in its story, in its journey and in its society. Therefore we cannot compare the church in Sydney to the church in Egypt or elsewhere. Although we are the same Church, the societies and communities in which our parishes are established cause us to travel a different journey, and therefore we cannot be compared but individually assessed on our own merits.

    I am however left now with a dilemma.
    My spiritual life is my responsibility, not the Church’s The Church is always going to be deeply spiritual whether I am or not.
    Since we are all responsible for the success of our particular diocese (‘the building’), and we each will be answerable for its performance in our ‘report card’, how does one like myself, whose church experience has only ever been limited to that once a week two hour liturgy, improve their ‘report card’, noting that I have never been big on contributing to church activities and probably never will be, making myself believe (I hope) that it has no impact on my spirituality?

    ‘Did I just slip in a small public confession?’ he asks himself

    ‘Oops’

    Oh well, my whole thread went on a bit of a tangent anyway.

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  3. Nathan, I really like your point: “My spiritual life is my responsibility,… The Church is always going to be deeply spiritual whether I am or not.”

    I feel today some of us are more focussed on the happenings of the Church rather than whether we have progressed in our spiritual life.

    When the time comes, and God asks for us, it won’t be “Oh did you say what happened with Bishop So and So or Father So and So?”, but it will be about OUR spiritual life and OUR daily repentance, and OUR struggle…no one elses….

    Something we ALL need to remind ourselves of every morning and every evening….

    Amen

    PS: Happy Anniversary everyone!

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  4. Truly it started a few years ago that most of our community entered this phase of APATHY and all of them found inner peace by just going and coming to the church and not involving at all in any aspects of the church around them and they leave immediately after the mass …even some of them reached the stage, they do not want to know which priest is doing the mass just they feel the angel of the mass is giving them the holly communion …the other portion of the community left the church to other churches and a small population left struggling around and they are mainly from the old age congregation …at the end of the day the relation of the person with our Lord and own inner peace and not to deviate from eternal life …praise God by your life ,amen …..

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  5. Hey people,
    Excuse me for arguing as usual. But the church has a big deal with our spirituality. The church is our refuge in this world. We draw our strength from each other in God. We pray for each other when we are need.

    The spiritual path is not easy, and we are in it as God’s people. When suddenly, your source of power & spirituality is hit. It affects everyone & this is a way that the devil uses to bring down a very powerful church. He strikes the leaders, so the service is scattered.

    I agree that God will ask everyone individually but one may fall because he stumbled due to the things happening. & God mentioned that he will ask for these people’s blood FROM WHOEVER IS RESPONSIBLE.

    You guys may be lucky enough to mind your own business & live a righteous life, but there are others who are weak spiritually and really come to church to be with others that lead them to heaven like certain servants & priests. They see Christ through them, they are like a rock to them. You may never understand what I am saying here.

    But I have seen it with my own eyes especially these days. It is extremely sad to see divisions. We are all one body, you cannot divide it. We are supposed to ask about each other not talk behind each other’s back. We should shed tears for each other’s spirituality rather than expose & accuse one another. All these good things have disappeared with the divisions happening.

    You say we should only focus on “whether we have progressed in our spiritual life”. Some people were progressing fine until all these problems happened. If you want us to focus only on ourselves then we can just leave the church & do it from home. Because our main source of spirituality is too problematic. This is the truth, sometimes it is too hard too close your eyes as if nothing happened because the simplest question will hit where is our bishop today? & that will lead to a thread of questions that has no answers!!! Or may be plenty of answers!!! Pray for everyone

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  6. Daniel , you said well as this is the NORM that all of us in the life of company with our lord Jesus Christ and we are strong spiritually …what you stressed is the heart of the matter of our Christianity as Jesus the head of the church and we are the congregation the members of his body and we live all in great and active spiritual company …equally the church with its members from the bishop and priests and its congregation have got a role and responsibility towards themselves and towards each other and towards God …when this meaningful life , the life of the cross lose its balance we get out of the NORM and the devil will scatter us all over the place …the fact now that a lot entered the stage of APATHY , others left the church and few others of those elderly and least are struggling by themselves for their salvation ….pray for one another ….

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  7. Just calling everybody who reads this. Go hop on your couch & watch the news.
    Watch the towns in Victoria being wiped off by FIRE…
    It is horrifying; it brought shivers to my body to see people weeping, bodies, cars houses in ashes…

    It made me think how FRAGILE are we? We are so easily broken.. I pray to God to have mercy on us & deeply pray for these people dealing with the fire disaster…

    Let’s get together as a whole community, as ONE, let’s love each other, let’s show mercy on one another, let’s bear each other’s weaknesses. That is what our Lord wants; it is his desire to see us holy.

    God shows us in occasions like this, how frail the human nature is. Yet we can be the most obstinate beings. We think we are so high sometimes we put ourselves above the clouds & then we fall down to dust.

    We think we are blameless but the truth is we are just honoured because we belong to God. Coptic people are known to have very powerful prayers when they are united, they once moved a mountain!!!

    They can have God’s mercy & protection in this uncertain world, but for some reason everyone is blinded these days, all we want to do is fix the church & do things better. Get it people, we are nothing, we can go in a flash.

    We cannot fix anything alone without God. & God is not on our side if we choose to do things our way. It would be so good to let things go. Say SORRY often, make others happy, accept people with their mistakes. God is accepting us after all. We are still alive & given a chance to die knowing that we are heading to heaven.

    By the way that was not a lecture. It was my reflections after watching channel 9 news update…….

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  8. Daniel
    The Church should not be your source of spirituality, but where your spirituality is replenished, because if we see the Church as our source of spirituality, then we will think that the Church is lacking if we fail to grab it, and that is not and never will be the case, no matter whether the Church is experiencing trying times or not.

    You can still ‘mind your own business’ as you put it, and feed on the spirituality radiating from the Church. You do not have to be involved in church affairs and church politics to get the best out of your Church experience because these things do not affect the spirituality of the Church in any way. You should never connect yourself or your spiritual life to the kinds of church politics and disturbances that have occurred in recent times because the two do not go together. Your spiritual life is not effected, neither is the spiritual life of the Church effected during these times.

    That’s what I think anyway…

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  9. Nathan mate , all the Coptic migrants who moved to this part of the world in the last decades till now, the Church used to be their spiritual , social and everything in their life ….so the bottom line all the Coptic community believers and non believers used to be attached to the church …. now a days a lot of them started to detach themselves and most of them just do their prayers and Go….others who are still attached in all aspects are struggling but soon they will join the other group when they find their way around ….. mate trust and faith in our community need to be restored …..praise God by your life ….

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  10. Nathan,
    I was just minding my own business when you brought that up again.

    According to what you are saying. We only replenish our spirituality in the church, then we are not replenished at the moment, consequently, we should not really be going to this church because it is not helping up grow spiritually.

    We are not getting involved in the church. We as a congregation were forced to get involved if you want to put it in correct wordings. We were invited to choose & judge our own bishop. I got this invitation as an email from a priset!!! I did not seek that email, I just got it……We are not failing to grab what the church is offering. That is not the case at all.

    What I meant, is that we had role models in this church, to follow, appointed by the Holy Spirit. Our leaders, that tell us through the Holy Spirit where to go, they pray for us, they guide us & so on. When you are not sure anymore if these leaders are on the right track, then who can you follow? You can tell me God. I will tell you this is non Coptic belief then. Some youth I know are choosing to follow God now & do not believe in what the church has to offer. Shall I tell them to go for it?

    Tell you the truth. I am fine, I can manage, but I look after other youth who don’t want to go confession because of all the dramas. Some of them are not as strong (spiritually I mean) & they are confused. I told you will not understand.
    It has nothing to do with politics. It is simply the collapse of people they looked up to that they once thought can lead them to heaven …
    If what happened does not matter, then why so many people are affected by it? Even on this blog, many people keep brining it up. It must be affecting them!

    If as you say people fail to grab what the church offers, that is when the priests, servants, masses and the community in general to bridge that gap & lead people back, but this is gone. That bridge is broken.

    Finally, excuse my ignorant curiosity, but what is the source of our spirituality? Who taught us right from wrong? Our parents? Who taught our parents? The bible? & who urged us to read the bible & explained it to us? Who taught us repentance? It all happened inside our church that was once lead by a bishop that was driven away from his chair. End of story.

    You know I wish one day we can have a massive prayer night where all the congregation just get together & pray as one, just like when pope Shenouda was here

    Guys thanks a lot for all the insights, but that is my last entry. It seems we are talking on different levels here, and some people refuse to see the danger we are in as a community. It will show in our kids, not now. I can’t agrue forever, I have a life too. thnks to Romani for your support, keep praying mate. Thanks guys, all the best.

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  11. like I said, the spiritual life of the church has nothing to do with the politics that occur within it. So you should have no problems sourcing (if you like), or replenishing your spirituality from the Church.

    The onus is not on the priest to ‘bridge the gap’, if there is a gap it is a failure in your own spiritual life that you should address, you should not blame the priests for your own failure.

    If you are so worried about your ‘role models’, then as the saying goes, ‘do as they say, not as they do’

    Not once did I make light of the disturbances currently around in the church, I think it is something that needs to be urgently addressed. I admit I was the one who brought the whole thing up in the previous blog, I did so out of outrage and disgust. But I do think it is about time people GOT OVER IT, the church will never heal if you keep going on about it and try to find somebody to blame. The fact it, EVERYBODY IS TO BLAME!!!
    The bishop is to blame because he wasn’t open enough, the priests are to blame because they were too open, and the people are to blame because they run with every story they hear, whether it is bull-dust or not.

    I personally do not want to see the bishop return, not because I am judging him as having done wrong, but because I think it would be better for him to be away from this environment and go back to being just a monk. I bet he was happier when he was just that!!!

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  12. Everywhere ,Christians have to live the life of the cross ….. while in the body ,everyone to carry own cross and suffer with our Lord Jesus Christ in order to be glorified with him in eternal life …so no winging and thankfully that our church at all levels in this part of the world has to go through it …may our Lord have mercy on us allllll,amen ….our prayers to those who lost their lives in the bushfire in Victoria , may God rest their souls in peace ,amen ….

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  13. The other Sunday i attended the Arabic mass on our local church as i could not make it to the early English regular mass … at the end of the church mass usually most of the congregation sit to hear the priest announcement , some of the congregation not interested”APATHY GROUP ” or working or with some illness just they usually leave after the mass ….anyhow i decided to sit and listen, the priest on duty put his announcements and emphasized in a couple of topics , the first one that people smoke in church yard not allowed to do so and so far it was good congregation must respect the regulations of the church and mainly the house of God but our priest continued and stressed if they continue to do smoking we will get the government department to them because there are children around !!!!???? by saying that i remembered few months ago the congregation of one of the churches brought the government department to one of the priests around Sydney because he used to hit the children !!!! oh mate i said to myself is our church in this part of the world lost the plot and started to hit blindly in the bush ???!!! seems everyone will get the government departments to solve our problems as we lost control… it is really sad ….. anyhow the priest went further and declared NO ABSOLUTION for those who are going to smoke again in the church yard and he added NO ABSOLUTION as well for those who got the holly communion who came late after the reading the bible and not living in repentance …. i found it strange to come from that priest because as all the priests in our local church are great …..might be a bit of pressure of what is happening around in our churches in this part of the world !!!!!???? too much …. seems our church community in this part of the world just to carry their own cross thankfully ….myself from now on i decided just to join the Apathy Group and as young Daniel said we have got life to live and we thank God for his great support to us all the time in this part of the world , it is true the words of our Lord , better to fall in the hands of God and not to fall in the hands of humans ……may God have mercy on us , amen ….

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  14. see, this is exactly what I am talking about, you people are making an issue OUT OF NOTHING, which causes others to make it an issue, and then a mountain is created out of mole-hill!!!

    Firstly, never mind the disrespectful aspect of smoking directly in God’s presence and having your smoke drift onto the altar.
    People should not be smoking in church grounds period. If you want to smoke outside the gate, by all means go ahead. But there are ‘no smoking’ signs all over the grounds, if it were a public council area, and you disobeyed those signs you would be fined.
    There are those around you who are not smokers, have some respect for them and their children. If government regulators have to get involved then so be it, it is against the law to smoke in a public place which is dense with a large number of people.
    The church is a public place and its caretakers do not want you to smoke in it. Either you follow those wishes or you suffer the consequences and have a government regulator hand you a fine. I am in full support of this, if you want to smoke I am not going to tell you not to, but I am sure you can wait half an hour and puff away at home.
    And the priest being a priest, it is his responsibility to withhold absolution if you break these rules.

    Also, regarding the other thing you ses as a problem, do not forget it is the rule of the church that one cannot partake of communion if he arrived late to the liturgy or is unrepentant, so I do not know why you have a problem with the priest withholding an absolution if you break this rule. It is his responsibility to point out the rules, if you do not follow them, then it is his responsibility to withhold an absolution until you do.

    People, I think it is about time you stopped making mountains out of mole-hills, quit being so opionionated, it is things like this that are causing the problems.

    Learn to attend the liturgy and then JUST GO HOME. Believe me it works, I have been doing it my whole life.

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  15. mate Nathan i tried to highlight a couple of things and i will clarify them strait forward …first , involving government departments in our churches is not the way to go …it makes things worst in the long term and will lead to more divisions with less trust and respect … i believe ,no body will encourage the congregation to bring the government department to the priest and vice verse, so we would like the church to be on control and solve own problems internally and i believe the church is capable ….second , the role of the priest is to encourage people to come to the church and find and keep the lost sheep in the Church and not to be hard on people , to be on ritual control but not hard …i believe pope Shounouda all the time drawing the attentions of the priests everywhere not to be hard on people on every ritual aspects ….we do not want to see more people leave the church ..finally ,no body is making mountains of small things and the picture is very clear there for allllll …you are right about people just to join the apathy group and leave the church after the mass and not to involve in any relevant aspects …i believe it is more peaceful and the person will maintain own inner peace …praise God by your life ,amen …..

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