On 30 October 2012, the Coptic Orthodox Church community in the UK witnessed a memorable event. A very special Vespers service was held to commemorate the Coptic Feast of Nayrouz, marking the new Coptic year.
The service was held in the historic magnificent St Margaret##s Church, standing between the great Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament.
It was the first service of its kind in the UK, attended by heads and representatives of various Christian churches and denominations, politicians, members of the Coptic community and guests.
It was very uplifting to see HG Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the UK, in a procession showing fraternal bonds and unity, with HE Metropolitan Seraphim, Head of the British Orthodox Church, bishops from sister Orthodox Churches, from the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England, followed by Coptic priests and deacons, together with clergy from all other churches.
The service was attended by some of the UK most influential parliamentary figures, headed by
the Rt Hon Alistair Burt, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and the Rt Hon John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons.
The Rector of St Margaret##s Church, The Rev Canon Andrew Tremlett, welcomed the Coptic community and guests on behalf of the Dean and Chapter of Westminster Abbey. He thanked the Coptic Church for its beautiful gift to St Margaret##s Church: A Coptic Icon, by the young Coptic artist Fady Hany.
Since the Most Rev Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury was abroad, his Ecumenical Secretary read a message from him.
H G bishop Angaelos spoke of the significance of the Coptic New Year and referred to the Remembrance Day. He noted that in both these events, we do not commemorate the bloodshed or the war, but the bravery of the martyrs and the peace that follows the sacrifices. He addressed the changing political climate in Egypt and the uncertainty in the whole Middle East. He said: “Today we have come together to remember and pray for Egypt, her leadership and her people, both Christian and non- Christian alike during these formative stages”. The concluding message in his sermon was that of confidence and hope in God, in Him blessing the new Coptic Year and bringing peace and stability to Egypt and the whole world.
In his address, the Rt Hon Alistair Burt stressed that Britain will always do everything in her power to eliminate religious discrimination in Egypt. The Rt Hon John Bercow talked about the significance of the Coptic community in the UK, of the willingness of the members of
Parliament to take note of the worries of this distinctive community.
It was a beautiful service of Rising of the Evening Incense, conducted in both English and Coptic, a gathering of clergy and lay people. British and Egyptians, Christians and Muslim guests, all giving thanks for the past year and praying for a peaceful prosperous future for all.