Three interesting new resources I have come across recently, and thought I might share with you today:
In 1991 a huge project came to fruition with the publication of the eight volume Coptic Encyclopedia. Containing nearly three thousand entries by a variety of authors, both members of the Coptic community and foreign scholars in Coptology, it is perhaps the most comprehensive reference on all things Coptic ever produced. The hard cover eight volume set is not only very expensive, but has also been out of print for some years and hard to get a hold of. So it was with great pleasure that I came across this wonderful project at Claremont Graduate University in California. An excerpt from the announcement of this project:
The Coptic Encyclopedia, published by Macmillan in 1991, is an eight-volume work. Its 2,800 entries, written by 215 scholars, took 13 years to compile. But as a paper-bound document it was only available to a limited readership and nearly impossible to amend. The digitized version, renamed the Claremont Coptic Encyclopedia, can be constantly updated and is available to anyone with an Internet connection.
Apparently, Phase 1, which began in 2010, is to digitise and make available all 2,800 articles in the original 1991 edition. You can access the articles far completed here. Last I checked, they were somewhere in the “O” section, working alphabetically from “A”. Phase 2 will be to add multimedia accompaniments to appropriate articles, especially pictures and perhaps audio. Phase 3, and most exciting of all, is to provide continuous updating of existing articles and add new ones to reflect ongoing research and developments in the field of Coptology, and to track the unfolding history of the Coptic Church in the twenty first century. Three cheers for CGU!
How often have you turned up at Church on a feast day or during a fast and wondered why everyone was doing things differently? Many of the special seasons of the Coptic calendar have not only their own unique tunes, but also their own unique rites. And none is without meaning. To understand and be aware of these rites and their meaning is to experience Coptic worship in its full depth and beauty. But where can one find all this information? Till now, I have had to depend on my ponderously slow and rather unreliable command of written Arabic and an old book written by HG Bishop Mattaos for the correct rites throughout the year. But now, all that precious information has been made available online, and … in ENGLISH!
The Choir of the Heritage of the Coptic Orthodox Church website provides articles, audio and a really useful guide to the rites of every occasion in the Coptic Orthodox sacred calendar. Not only is it in English, but for the extremely pedantic, each article on the seasonal rites lists the source, just to give the reader comfort that the description given wasn’t just some variation that old Uncle Abdelmessih thought up last Sunday.
And finally, have you ever had to prepare for a lesson or a talk and wondered why you were taking so much time putting together a snazzy powerpoint presentation when surely hundreds of others have done exactly the same thing before you? Wouldn’t it be great if you could have access to the fruit of their labours? Well, the Church of St Mary and Archangel Michael in Houston Texas have made a huge library of talks and lessons, including powerpoint presentations, available on their website. Here you’ll find almost any topic you can think of (although they were a little light on the apologetics, I must say). My only criticism is that this excellent resource would be so much more useful if it had a search engine.