It was my great pleasure to have witnessed one of the most memorable events to date in the history of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, Coptic Vespers in St Margaret's Church Westminster Abbey, the parish church for the Palace of Westminster, the House of Commons.
One of the proudest and most uplifting moments was seeing our Coptic deacons, priests and HG Bishop Angaelos and HE Metropolitan Seraphim in a procession with bishops and clergy from our sister Orthodox Churches, the Church of England, the Roman Catholic Church, and a variety of other Churches and denominations, all united with one accord.
Being the first service of its kind, the Coptic community and its guests chanted praises alongside some of the United Kingdom's most influential parliamentary figures including the Rt. Hon Alistair Burt MP, Parliamentary under Secretary of State for Foreign and the Rt. Hon John Bercow MP, Speaker of the House of Commons.In an introduction by The Reverend Andrew Tremlett, Rector of St Margaret’s Church, the Coptic community and guests were warmly welcomed on behalf of the Dean and Chapter of Westminster Abbey.
In his sermon, His Grace Bishop Angaelos reminded us that despite the struggles in Egypt, there is so much for us to be thankful for, particularly compared to the plight of our brothers and sisters in Syria and throughout the Middle East. He spoke of the significance of the Coptic New Year for which we were gathered to celebrate, marking the start of the Coptic calendar, which commences from the most severe period of persecution in the history of the Coptic Orthodox Church. Referring to the Remembrance Day, Bishop Angaelos noted that in both these events we do not commemorate the war or bloodshed, but rather the bravery and resilience of those involved.His Grace then shared the verse, ‘I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh’ (Ezekiel 36:26). The heart of flesh is our natural state as the image and likeness of God, and is the heart that every single person was born with, but that is sometimes hardened by the corruption of life over time. The God-given heart of flesh is one that loves and respects equally, and does not discriminate regardless of person or situation. The concluding message was that we always have hope in God, Who will guide this new Coptic Year and bring peace to Egypt, the Middle East and the whole world.
The Rt. Hon Alistair Burt then addressed the issue of persecution in Egypt and reiterated that Britain will always do everything in its power to eliminate religious discrimination in Egypt. Similar words were spoken by the Rt. Hon John Bercow (below), who also echoed the importance and significance of the Coptic Community in the United Kingdom.
In this unforgettable night of unity and fellowship within the walls of the one thousand year old Church of St Margaret Westminster Abbey, hosting the ritual service of the two thousand year old Coptic Orthodox Church, we raised our prayers with the incense to our Lord, to keep us united as one in this great nation of Britain, our new home, and to bring peace and prosperity to our blessed country Egypt.