Pope Shenouda III – RIP

Just heard the news that Pope Shenouda III of the Coptic Church has died in Egypt at the age of 88 after being the Coptic Pope for 41 years.

Just before being ordained, I spent some time in Egypt and one of the evenings I remember most positively from that time in my life was an evening spent in the Coptic Cathedral in Cairo at one of Shenouda’s bible studies.

The deal was, if you wanted a bible study with the pope, you just turned up on a Wednesday evening. That is an extraordinary thought and some of the things I saw that evening still inspire me in my cathedral ministry now. Using a Cathedral as a place of renewal in that way is directly connected with the day I’ve just spent today on our Diocesan Pilgrimage Day. When I went to Pope Shenouda’s bible study there were about 5000 other folk there.

We are working up to that.

Pope Shenouda knew how to use a little razzle-dazzle to attract people and had a fair dose of wisdom to impart on them when he had attracted their attention. I particularly remember him arriving at something of a trot in the Cathedral to great whoops, ullulations and cheering about an hour after the evening had started. There was no doubt he was a hero and in his eyes the light of faith burned brightly.

Shenouda and I wouldn’t have seen eye to eye about terribly much. I well remember one of the monks in Egypt saying something like, “Well, all you Anglicans are heretics anyway. Some are worse heretics than others though.”

Notwithstanding differences in moral outlook, I’ve a huge admiration for what Shenouda and others have achieved in the Coptic church. They know what mission is about. They know it starts with adult Christian education and are proof positive that you can make an unlikely church flourish on Bible Study and an extraordinary passion for the liturgy. We would do well to think about how they’ve done it.

I’m sorry to hear of Pope Shenouda’s passing. I was once a guest in his guest house. He has now gone to a place with many mansions. I’ll remember to say a wee prayer for him tomorrow. The odd prayer of thanksgiving from a distant heretic can’t do any harm.

The Grand Opening of St Silas Hall

Round to St Silas church, round the corner from St Mary’s yesterday for the grand opening of their grand new hall. They’ve built a three storey large space will anciliary rooms around it. It is a very impressive achivement and they are to be congratulated for all they have achieved.

Fr David was sporting a perky kilt, and seemed to be carrying a faint glow of happiness that the project was coming to an end, which was a joy to share. Large building projects are incredibly hard work and it must be wonderful for them all round there to see this one reaching its conclusion.

I don’t understand why there are not building regulations which prevent architects from building a building where you cannot change the lights without scaffolding, but presumably people think that would be the nanny state talking.

It was good to see Fr Mike Parker, home from Egypt for a week. He’s now leading the English speaking congregation at the Cathedral in Cairo. It was absolutely fascinating to hear from him and Helen about what its been like living in Egypt during the revolution.

I have only one problem really with the new building at St Silas. It is that it has caused me to sin. For the ten commandments are very clear, are they not:
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s toilets.

However, covet I’m afraid I did.