I enjoyed this story by Shira Telushkin about the Coptic Church in America adapting culturally. Growing up in the church and working overseas, debates about how to adapt to “the culture” are usually about European or Western traditions either trying to deal with newer cultural trends or a foreign culture, so it was refreshing to see a different set of protagonists:

Messeh would soon become an early advocate for a new kind of Coptic church—one that could appeal to American converts but maintain the core tenets of the nearly 2,000-year-old faith. By 2012, he decided to establish his own congregation. His services, with their chanted prayers, elaborate robes, and cymbal-playing, look traditionally Coptic Orthodox. But the English-language liturgy, crowded rows of ethnically diverse worshippers, and evangelical style of preaching feel rooted in the United States.

Messeh’s church, now 300 members strong, isn’t the only one of its kind: In the past decade, dozens of Americanized Coptic churches have opened across the United States, concentrated in Texas, California, and along the East Coast. In 2015, Bishop Youssef, one of 10 Coptic bishops in the country, founded the American Orthodox Coptic Church of Alexandria, which currently comprises five congregations from Arizona to Florida, and caters specifically to a U.S.-born audience. Church leadership has embraced the governing philosophy these changes represent: If the church wants to grow, it needs to part with some aspects of Egyptian culture and formally embrace its American identity.

Posted by Matthew Loftus

Matthew Loftus teaches and practices Family Medicine in Baltimore and East Africa. His work has been featured in Christianity Today, Comment, & First Things and he is a regular contributor for Christ and Pop Culture. You can learn more about his work and writing at www.MatthewAndMaggie.org

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