Susan is a sophomore at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. She lived in Egypt until she was 13 and then moved with her family to the United States. Preferring a pseudonym so she could speak more freely, Susan shared these reflections on her religious life as part of a course on Arab Christians.
Copts are expected to to go to church every Sunday to attend the four-hour service. This is preceded by Vespers on Saturday night, which is brief, only about an hour. But Vespers is followed by the Midnight Praises, which last several hours. It sounds very beautiful, by the way, but it is just hard to sit through on a Saturday night. Attendance at Vespers and especially the Midnight Praises is usually very low, unless it is a special occasion like the presence of a visiting bishop.
The Coptic Church also has some very conservative ideas about the behavior of the members. The church likes to preach against the Five Ds : dancing, dating, dressing (provocatively), drinking, and drugs. These restrictions are very much relevant and alive in my church. As you can imagine, they are very hard to follow if you live in the West, but in Egypt, they are not so hard because the culture is very conservative. It is quite amazing to see people follow these rules. I admire people who can fight this much pressure, but I am not sure if I will ever want to or be able to live like them.
I understand that a church should not adapt its dogma and beliefs according to the members and society, but that the people should follow the church rules if they want to be a part of the church. The Coptic Church in the West cannot continue to be under the same pope as the Coptic Church in Egypt if it endorses some behavior here different from there.
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