While researching the Christian situation in Egypt last month, News Editor Edward E. Plowman visited two mass Bible-study sessions that attracted thousands of Coptic Orthodox members. The following is an account of what he saw and heard:
It is six o’clock on a pleasant Thursday afternoon in Heliopolis, an eastern suburb of Cairo. The service has already been in progress for one-half hour when we arrive at the Coptic Orthodox church on Cleopatra Street. We are led into the massive educational annex, past several rooms filled with people watching the service on closed-circuit television, to a large theater-like auditorium. More than 3,000 people are packed inside. The women are seated on the right, the men on the left, in accord with ancient Egyptian tradition. The balcony is full, and perhaps 150 young men are jammed into overflow seating on the platform. A rail in front of the platform is lined with dozens of tape recorders; scores of others repose on the laps of those seated near the podium.
The audience is singing a hymn as we are led to seats that have been reserved on the front row just below the podium. We are greeted by smiles and nods of welcome from those around us. Our assigned interpreter—a well-known physician, we learn later—quietly slips in beside us. The music is distinctly Arabic, unlike the familiar Western tunes often heard in Presbyterian services in Egypt. As in most Orthodox and Protestant church services, male voices dominate, their robust tones reverberating from the exposed brick and block walls. If the sometimes pained, sometimes adoring facial expressions are evidence, most of the men and boys are singing from the soul. The great hall is alive with feeling.
Father Zacharia Botros, ...1
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