My Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Greeting in the Name of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ!
The theme of our diocesan Synod this year was “A DIFFERENT SPIRIT”. This DIFFERENT SPIRIT which was in Caleb, the son of Jephunneh and Joshua, the son of Nun, helped both of them to see the promised land with the eyes of faith. They had such confidence that they will enter the land and own it, in spite of all logical difficulties that was supposed to hinder the people of Israel from owning the land.
When our Church in Egypt started back in 1800, the main purpose was to provide pastoral care for the expatriates who were working and living in Egypt. There was no any desire to start an indigenous Egyptian Church. For this reason, the British ministers did not care much to prepare Egyptians for ministry. However, the thinking of founding an indigenous Anglican Church came after many decades when Temple Gardiner felt the importance of this move.
When the Egyptian Anglican Church started, she did not have the strong motives to grow and to expand because it looked always to the small number of its membership. In addition, Anglican worship required a higher educational level. That’s why, we as a Church could not expand in the small towns and villages because of the high percentage of illiterate people. As a result, we did not have the confidence that we are a Church like other Churches which grow and expand and train people for ministry and ordination. The Church became like a group of families that would enjoy the weekly meetings in such wonderful Church buildings which were left by the British. We also looked to other denominations when we needed to attend revival meetings or participate in conferences. This was very clear when we started to study the possibility of founding an Anglican School of Theology. Some said we do not need a school of theology. Others said that if we started a school of theology, our relationship with other denominations will be strained. In conclusion, we did not have the self-confidence as a Church and we were satisfied to continue as an unknown Church.
My beloved, we looked at our small size and resources as a Church. We did not look at the great hand of God that worked in a tiny group of disciples who were able to turn the world upside down, the result of which – the Gospel reached us here and in Africa.
Today, we need this “DIFFERENT SPIRIT”that was in Caleb son of Jephunneh. This spirit will help us see new lands through the faithfulness, the power and the promise of God as a Church. With this spirit, we can say with Paul, I am able to do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Yes, we need a “DIFFERENT SPIRIT” that helps us to be determined to win new lands and new souls for the Lord in spite of all the challenges that are facing us as a Church like extremism and terrorism that led to the martyrdom of Coptic Orthodox brothers and sisterssaved.
At our Diocesan Synod, We missed our late Bishop Ghais Malik who passed away last year but I am aware that we are harvesting what he had sown. The Church also misses Canon Ibrahim Wakid who had served the Diocese, Province and the Anglican Communion for over 60 years.
Now, I would like to give you a report on what the good hand of the Lord has done in the Diocese during the last two years. I will mention only the most important things that have happened and I would leave for my colleagues, bishops, the priests and the directors of institutions to share with you the details of what has happened in the different ministries.
Firstly, Our Spiritual Ministries.
- The consecration of Bp Samy. For me, this was the highlight of the year and the most joyful event. Today, I welcome Bp Samy as a partner in the episcopal ministry in North Africa. I pray that the Lord will use him for the expansion of His Kingdom in this area.
- Visiting Diocesan Churches. The Lord helped me to visit all churches of the Diocese during 2016 and 2017. This helped me to see a panoramic view of how the hand of the Lord is working in our Diocese. I was able to see the growth in many directions. I thank God for all my colleagues, the ordained and the lay ministers for all their efforts.
- The Ordination of Rev Reda Boushra, Rev Adel Toma and deacon Mina. Rev Reda is the Priest-in-charge of St Paul at Ezbet El Nakhal and Rev Adel Toma helps Bp Samy at St Mark’s Pro-Cathedral, Alexandria. Deacon Mina helps with our new church at Ras El Souda.
- Training of Lay ministers. We had two training seminars for lay ministers in Alexandria and Anaphora.
- Clergy training. We had three training conferences. The first one was on Reformation and Thomas Cranmer. The second was on Preaching from Old Testament and the third was on Biblical Exposition. In addition to these conferences, we had our annual retreats.
- Discipleship Conference. Abp Ng Moon Hing of South East Asia led us in this conference which was attended by more than 100 men and women ministers. This was a very fruitful and encouraging time.
- Anglican Youth Day. On that day, 130 youths from all our churches in Egypt gathered for praise, worship and teaching. At the end of the day, we had a cruise on the Nile. This helped the youth to get to know each other. The Secretary General of the Anglican Communion shared in this day.
- Praise and Prayer days. We gathered twice for Prayer and Praise. This was very encouraging to us all and we decided to make this as monthly meetings.
- Diocesan Choir. We formed and trained a Diocesan Choir from different churches. This was a great blessing.
- The start of the ministry in El Salam City. By God’s grace, we started a house church in the Community Development Centre at Medinat El Salam. Rev Fayz Nady is the Priest-in-charge of this ministry.
- The start of the spiritual ministry at 6 October City. The ministry started in the Hall attached to the Vocational Training Centre. Rev Emil Nabih is the Priest-in-charge of this Church.
- The dedication of Christ the King Church in El Tawabek. Last year, we bought a new building in the area of Tawabek near the Pyramids of Giza. We made some alterations and renovation to the building to make space suitable for Christ the King Church Rev Fayz Nady is the Priest-in-charge of this.
- Two Alpha Conferences. I was delighted to open Alpha Conference for Marriage and for Preparation for Marriage. Also, the Alpha Conference for Parenting. These two Conferences were attended by ministers from our Churches and other denominations.
- Prison ministry. I am happy that the prison ministry became an organised one. The visits to the prisons happen every Tuesday. I cannot describe my joy during the few times I visited the prisons.
- The training conference for Sunday School teachers. This was attended by 60 teachers from all our Churches.
- Youth Conference. This was held in Wadi Natroun Conference Center and attended by 175 youth from all our Churches.
- Children Conference. This was attended by 165 children from all our Churches.
- Teenagers Conference. This was a great encouragement to our teenagers, attended by 140 in Alexandria.
- Celebrating 500 years since Reformation. Rev Dr Christ Wright gave a lecture on Reformation and Scripture which was attended by many people from our Churches and other denominations.
- Sports Festival. This was hosted by our Church in Port Said and was attended by youth from our Churches. It was a joy to attend it.
- Alexandria School of Theology (AST). I am so proud with AST and I give thanks to Bp Grant and Bp Samy, the Dean of the School because last year, they were dreaming that the school would start a Master of Divinity programme and this dream has been fulfilled.
- Translating the Gospel of Mark into Egyptian sign language. It’s a great joy to inform you that we almost finished translating the Gospel of Mark into Egyptian sign language in partnership with SEED Company. This is the first Gospel in sign language in the whole of the Middle East.
- Episcocare and all its institutions. I am glad that Episcocare is now run in a very professional way. It earned the trust of many international organisations. This is because of the efforts of its General Director, Dr Maged Musa. I see the ministry of Episcocare as the arm of the Good Samaritan that is extending towards our society.
- Refuge Egypt.This has become a very prominent ministry of the Diocese. We became known as the Church that helps refugees. I would like to mention here words of a Syrian refugee lady that touched my heart. She said, “Only today, I feel I exist and I am in the midst of my family.” She said these words during the Mother’s Day Festival which was organised by Episcocare.
- Harpur Memorial Hospital, Menouf. I rejoiced at the laying of the foundation stone for the new hospital. I believe it will become one of the best hospitals in the delta region. I pray that the Lord will accomplish this work with success. I also rejoice at the graduation of the first surgeon who was trained at PAACS Programme.
- Harpur Memorial Hospital, Sadat City. After going through a time full of challenges and difficulties, the hospital is now moving towards excellence. It has since become one of the famous hospitals in the area. The crowdedness of patients is now the main challenge in front of the hospital.
- The Deaf School. In spite of the challenges and the absence of a full-time Director, the school is continuing its ministry. The clinic for audiometry has been reopened. I pray that the Lord will send the right Director for it.
- The Episcopal School in Menouf. This is now the top school in the whole province because of the quality of education which is provided. The students as well as parents are now appealing for new classes for the high school levels to be built. There is no doubt that education is the true key to develop Egyptian society.
- Vocational Training Centre for the Deaf. After my recent visit to this centre at 6 October City, I wrote a letter to express my joy for what I have seen there. In one stage, this place was unable to fulfil the goal for which it was built but now I can see its success and I expect even more success.
- New Kindergarten in 6 October City.I rejoiced at the opening of the new Kindergarten in 6 October City which serves the Syrian refugees who are so happy with the nursery.
- Episcopal Publishing House. We were able to publish books more than anytime before. However, the Publishing House is facing major financial and administrative challenges. One of the challenges of course is the general trend of reduction in the readership of printed books.
North Africa Episcopal Area:
- Christ the King Church Lybia: We thank God forthe newly appointed Rev. Rajan who is working hard to encourage Asian, African as well as the few Egyptian Christian who are living in Tripoli. Last year the number of those who attend the three services are growing in spite of continuing dangers there.
- The growth of the Arabic congregation in St George’s Tunis. I rejoiced with BpSamy when we saw the growth of the Arabic congregation in Tunisia. We thank God for Rev.Peter Knight and Rev. David Aziz for their hard work in the Church.
- The beginning of the Church at Kabila area in Algiers. This was one of the news that brought a lot of joy last year. A new Algerian congregation started at Holy Trinity Algiers.
The Episcopal Area of the Horn of Africa
- Consecration of the St Frumentius Church in Gambella, Ethiopia. It was a great joy to participate with Bp Grant in the consecration of this Church where different tribes of Gambella gathered together. I pray that this Church would become a symbol of reconciliation and peace which we have in Christ Jesus. I hope that the day will come when this Church becomes a cathedral for a new Diocese in Gambella.
- The number of churches has increased to become 100. Last year it was 80 churches. It means that we have a new church 3 weeks. Each church starts under a tree and soon develop into a building made of tree branches plastered by mud and roofed by tin sheets.
- St.Frumentius Bible College is now in its third year. It is equipping Priests For ministry.
- St. Mathew Addis-Ababa Is growing and has two new congregations, an Amharic speaking and a Somali one.
Thirdly, Our Ecumenical Relations.
We are an active member of Egypt Council of Churches. Our contribution is appreciated by member Churches especially the Coptic Orthodox and Catholics. We participated in the Ecumenical service with Pope Frances and Pope Tawedrous II. We continue with the ecumenical lunch. However, it needs a new push.
With a broken heart, I must let you know that there is a problem with the Protestant Council of Churches which wants to force us to be under them administratively.
Fourthly, Inter-Faith Dialogue.
- “Together For Egypt”. We successfully ended “Together For Egypt” in which we trained 100 imams and 100 priests on joint community work. This project went on for 3 years under the auspices of the Egyptian Family House and with financial support from the Dutch Embassy. I am grateful to Mr Seleem for his help in coordinating all inter-faith projects.
- “Together To Develop Egypt”. This project started this year and it aims at encouraging Christian and Muslim youth to work together in community development. We partner with Misr El Khair Foundation in this project.
- Participating in the Human Rights Conference in Cairo and in the Religious Pluralism in Society Conference in Abu Dhabi.This was organised by the Muslim Council of Elders. The Grand Imam chairs this Council.
- Arkan Cultural Centre in Alexandria and Goussor Cultural Centre in Cairo. These centres help us in bringing the dialogue into the grassroots level using art and culture to reach out to youth.
- Signing protocol with Alexandria Library. In January 2017, we signed a protocol with Alexandria Library to cooperate in the area of culture, art and dialogue. I hope that we would be able to activate this protocol through the ministry of Arkan and Gossour Centres.
Fifthly, the New Projects. To begin with, I would like to thank Gen Nagy Farid, the Executive Director for his hard work in overseeing these new projects.
- All Saints Garden Conference Centre. This centre was opened last February through the kind contributions of Mr Keith Chua and our friends from the Diocese of Singapore. This centre is a beautiful gift from the Lord to the Diocese. I believe it will help us to become self-supporting financially in the future.
- Audio-visual Studio. This studio is going to be opened during this Synod. However, the activities of the media centre have already started. You will note this when you view the visual reports to Synod. This studio will help us enter the world of media which is very influential on society. I believe it will enable us to become financially self-supporting through rentals.
- Bp Ghais Malik Hall. The Hall on the second floor was renovated and equipped to be a meeting hall. It was opened during the Global South Conference.
- The new site and Guesthouse of the Alexandria School of Theology in Alexandria. This new site was opened last February after the renovation and finishing through a grant from the Diocese of Singapore. I trust that it will be a great blessing for many.
Now, I would like to share with you my vision for the coming years. It is so important to have clear goals in front of us which we will collectively agree upon. That’s why I would like you to discuss with me the goals I am placing in front of you today.
- Expansion: We need to focus our efforts on evangelism, discipleship and leadership development. The Church is in need of visionary leaders so we need to reach out to younger generation by all means suitable for them. We need to invest in lay ministers and develop them for ministry and mission work until they become they become the leaders of the Church. My beloved, it would be meaningless to build new churches if we don’t have the leaders who will serve in these churches.
- Engagement: In the face of extremism and violence, we are in need of engaging more with our society. We need to work with non-Christians for the welfare of our nation and to make peace. I hope that this engagement would not happen only at the level of the Diocese but also at the level of the parishes and institutions. This engagement is not anymore an option but a necessity which we must get involved in. All our experiences of engagement were very successful and so we have to do more.
- Education: We have to participate in the shape of the future of our nation. This happens through community development especially in the area of education. I dream that we would have a language school in the new administrative capital and another school at Suez Canal. Education is the most powerful weapon against extremism and terrorism. It is so important to invest in education.
- Elder Care: We all know that the average age is continuously increasing. For this we need to look at the need of our society for elderly homes, especially in the coming decade. There is an urgent need for this ministry and we are studying into this.
My beloved, we need a “DIFFERENT SPIRIT” to accomplish the mission of Christ. I thank you for listening. May the Lord be with you!