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this is for an assesment,
what are the distinguishing features of our church community?
By "our church community" I am going to assume that you are referring to the Coptic Orthodox Church.
It is important to first step back and view the landscape in which the Coptic Church sits. There are three 'families' of Christianity, the Roman Catholics, the Protestants and the Orthodox, in order of biggest to smallest in terms of membership. We belong to the Orthodox family which is characterised by being:
There is a direct and unbroken line from Jesus, through St Mark the Apostle, St Anianus his successor in Alexandria, right down to HH Pope Shenouda III, the 117th in that line.
Everything we do is based on the Bible.
We also believe that there is a lot that was not written down in the Bible but passed down from the Apostles by tradition. Tradition interprets the Bible and must be in harmony with the Bible, or else it is rejected.
We experience the work of God in our lives in many ways, but the most special is through the real spiritual changes the Holy Spirit works in us through the sacraments of Baptism, Chrismation, Communion, Confession, Marriage, Unction of the Sick and Priesthood.
We hold on to the teachings, faith and principles of life that are as close as possible to those of the earliest Christians. While we adapt superficial things to the changing times, we never tamper with the core of Christianity.
We use a lot of traditional rites rather than just making up our worship every Sunday. These include the words we use, the tunes, the actions and the movements during worship, the use of candles, incense etc, the architecture of the Church and the art that is in it (icons - no statues).
In addition to the above, Coptic Orthodox Christianity is characterised by:
- A specific set of rituals and rites that is culturally derived mostly from the ancient pharaonic cultures and temple worship, but has also been more heavily influenced by Jewish temple worship than most other Orthodox Churches.
- An Egyptian language, Coptic, which is basically the same spoken language as that of ancient Egypt, written in the Greek alphabet with the addition of eight other letters for sounds that do not exist in the Greek language.
- A proud history like no other Christian Church that includes the School of Alexandria that was a world leader in Theology in the first centuries of Christianity, the foundation of Christian monasticism which spread to the rest of the world from the deserts of Egypt, and the era of martyrdom in which some historians believe more Christians were martyred in Egypt that in all the rest of the Christian world together.
- A focus in the modern Coptic Church on the needs of young people.