Those were the days…
Sunday morning meant going to Church. Period. There were no alternatives, no deviations, no postponement, no rainchecks. If we were breathing come Sunday morning, it meant we would soon start getting ready to go to Church.
We followed this same routine after our son was born. He attended Liturgy, religiously (no pun intended) since his baptism day.
When he started crawling, I would spend most of Liturgy attempting to mollify his burgeoning independence by carrying him lest he escaped and climbed the shallow steps leading to the altar, God forbid!
When he started walking, we spent most of Liturgy walking around the perimeter of the Church, looking at the icons, much like the Israelites circled Jericho. Thankfully, the walls of the Church never came tumbling down.
These recollections are not an attempt to prove how holy or committed we are as parents, far be it; this is simply to illustrate how church attendance was the norm, our family’s weekly anchor. The routine started with our arrival to Church at the Raising of the Incense, followed by Sunday School, which my son attended and tried to escape from, on occasion, especially if I were giving the lesson- go figure- since the age of 3!
And then: COVID happened.
Sunday lost all its traditional trappings.
Our family, as did millions of others, was faced with a brutal shock to our systems. What we took for granted was now unattainable.
The doors of the Church closed.
Just writing this sentence moves me to tears. What a horrible string of words make up that sentence, one I hope never to write again.
At first, we stoically confronted our new “normal.” We still woke up early on Sunday morning, got dressed up, set up chairs in our living room, and streamed the Live Liturgy from our Church’s YouTube page.
It was a consolation. But we missed Communion, fellowship, the smell of incense, the chanting of the Deacons, and the familiar faces around our pew.
Still, we persevered. Week after week, we set up our chairs and live-streamed the Liturgy.
Friends, it is not the same.
It is bittersweet.
While thankfully churches are opening their doors on July 15th, there are still some hurdles. Outside of Egypt, there are attendance limitations imposed by different governments, health risks and concerns to contend with, worries, and fears to confront. Parents should inquire about the rules and regulations implemented in their Dioceses and ensure strict adherence to them
Going back to “normal” may not be any time soon.
So, what are we to do until the world goes back to “normal”?
How do we address this change, so our children do not lose their attachment to Church, their concentration during Liturgy, the principal that Sunday is the day of the Lord?
Communication is key.
Historical facts are helpful.
Increasing our spiritual activities as a family is a MUST!
Allow me to explain.
Our children need to be comforted and reassured in these turbulent times, and there is comfort in the rich history of the Coptic Church.
This is not the first time Coptic churches have shut their doors.
“In the 11th century, the Muslim Caliph Al-Hakim decreed the closure of all Churches in Egypt for nine years. It was a time of great distress for all Christians.
One day, the Caliph was walking through the streets where Christians resided, and he heard their voices praising and praying in each house.
Then he said, “Open their churches again and let them pray as they please. I wished to close a Church in every street. But today, I discovered that when I made this decree, a church was opened in every home.”
This story can be found in the History of the Coptic Orthodox People and the Church of Egypt by Robert Morgan ( A Coptic Author), on pages 243-245.*
Have a mini family history night and discus this incident, ask the kids if they can draw parallels from what they heard/read and what they are going through now. Encourage and reassure them that this too shall pass and that we will soon be celebrating Liturgy at Church.
This is also the best time to engage in spiritual advancement. Why is it that people have signed up for online courses to enhance their careers, started an online business, or taken up a forgotten hobby? We have more time.
The family that prays together grows together:
And this extra time presents a fantastic opportunity to grow in faith as a family! Sign up your family to Online Bible Study, or an online Hymn course. Learn Coptic. Commit to finishing the 4 Gospels in a month, or 2 or 3. No matter what timeframe you set, we will be more advanced in our Spiritual journey as a family than we are now.
Most of our churches are offering enhanced Online activities and resources- use them! Explore what other churches in your Diocese are doing. The whole Coptic world is now at your fingertips- there is no lack of Coptic material.
Christians have fun, too!
Family movie night can be converted to Christian movie night once a month.
Play the “Would Your Rather” game with religious questions: http://youthworkinit.com/10-christian-would-you-rather-questions-part-1/
Bake together Orban or Feteer El Malak (Angel’s Bread).
The first Church started in an Upper Room. Until we return to our Churches, we have our entire house to turn into a church.
*Referenced from “The story of the church of Egypt, by Edith Louisa Butcher, pub 1897” and “Story of the Coptic Church, vol3, Dr. Iris Habib El Masry. Arabic pub in Egypt.”
This article was first published on Coptic News: Sunday Morning
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