New Comers to the Church
by Anthony Zaccariotto
I write this for all people who have recently joined the Coptic Orthodox Church and are trying to adjust themselves to the customs, masses and crowds that come along with it. I am also writing this because I too would have liked to have come across a piece of writing like this when I first started. Just so I would have known a little bit more. I have also written a separate blog to this if you would like to hear more about my journey to the church and what persuaded me to become a Christian. Either way let’s get started.
The first thing you need to make sure of is that you don’t freak out when you see some of the traditions held in the church by the Coptic’s. When I first arrived at the church I saw some curious things that really confused me. I saw priests dressed in black cassocks with people kissing their hands, people kissing the floor, the drapes. I saw icons everywhere with confusing writing on the walls (Coptic). At the beginning I felt a bit uncomfortable and I felt like I was the minority. Don’t worry, you will later discover that you are not alone and you will fall in love with them all. You will also find when you begin to learn more about why they hold these customs and traditions you will want to know more about them too.
The second thing you need to be aware of is that everything involved in the liturgy (mass) is symbolic and represents something. There is no chaos in the church, so please don’t get caught up in thinking that this is all too weird and confusing and feel like you can’t adjust to these liturgies. Believe me if you really allow yourself to understand and scrutinise what is being demonstrated you will enjoy it more and more. Being in church is about drawing closer to God and when you allow yourself to be drawn into these liturgies and get more involved you will really feel God’s presence work through you. I remember the first time I came in I felt really awkward, as it was nothing I had ever experienced before, and I had a tough time getting my head around what was going on. If you ever get uncomfortable at the start just remember that this is the house of God, we are here for Him and there is nothing to be worried about.
If you are guy like me and the church provides you the opportunity to become a deacon I would highly recommend taking up the offer. There is nothing more beautiful and serene than serving on the altar and feeling the Divine presence up close. I have had many embarrassing experiences up there due to my lack of knowledge so please don’t hesitate to ask someone for help. You will often find everyone loves to help and serve so don’t be shy, we are all here for each other.
There is one last thing I need to mention before I finish. It is of utmost importance that you do not put a high standard on anyone in the church including myself. You need to remember that we are in the church for one reason and that is God. We are not to tie our happiness to the people in it. If you find yourself tying your happiness to the people rather than God Himself you may find yourself being disappointed. We are all human and we all have our own situations going on in life. If you find that someone disappoints you or upsets you, just remember that our beliefs are not based on how other people behave. I’m not saying this is going to happen to you I just need to give you a heads up because I really don’t want this to happen to anyone. Often times the biggest barrier to Christ in the world has been the Christians themselves. Make God your number one priority in the church and everything else will fall into place.
Coming to the church is all about starting a new journey with Christ. The more you grow in your relationship with Him the more you will begin to see things differently in your life. No one will be able to take away the peace that He brings into your heart. Everybody in life needs someone they can turn to for guidance, assistance, love and peace and this is what Christ offers us. He knows us better than we know ourselves and He has brought you to this church for a reason. Please don’t waste the opportunity to grow in this relationship with Him and enjoy the wonderful fruits that He has to offer. He will bring into your life the people that belong there and take out the people that don’t. You only need to trust Him. May our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all on your new journey and I look forward to meeting you all very soon.