Annual Egyptian Festival Held In Howell

Father Suriel of the Archangel Michael Coptic Orthodox Church provides a guided tour of the church as part of the annual Egyptian Festival. (Photo by Bob Vosseller)

  HOWELL – The Archangel Michael Coptic Orthodox Church once again opened its doors to provide the first of its annual Egyptian Festival.

  The church, located at 7 Church Road, drew a large crowd during. Admission was free and parishioners of the church invited guests to take a tour of the church which opened in 2014.

  On the upper level of the large church building, Egyptian food is being served up including shish kabob, kofta, kobelba, baklava, pastries and other items plus various beverages such as soft drinks, coffee, and sugar cane juice. There is also children’s entertainment including inflatables on the church grounds. For adults, there is a jewelry and brass sale.

  The event always showcases the charm of ancient and modern Egypt and also serves to educate the public about the Christians of Egypt.

A large crowd came out. (Photo by Bob Vosseller)

  Among those who provide guided tours of the church are Father Isaac, Father Augustine and Father Suriel. Father Suriel explained during a tour that the term “Coptic” is derived from the Greek “Aigyptos” meaning Egyptian.

  When the Arabs arrived in Egypt in the seventh century, they called the Egyptians “qibt” thus the Arabic word “qibt” came to mean both Egyptians and Christians. The term “Orthodoxy” refers to the presentation of the “original faith” by the Copts who, throughout the ages, defended the old creed against numerous attacks.

  Father Suriel told The Howell Times that the Coptic Church is one of the most ancient Churches in the world and as a conservative church, it has carefully preserved the Orthodox Christian faith in its earliest and truest form unaltered.

  Father Suriel said the congregation has 450 families and 1,200 members “We serve Howell, Jackson, Freehold which overlaps with a church in Holmdel, Toms River, Brick, and south of us would be Barnegat which has a very small congregation in Saint Paul’s and south of that would be Medford which has a congregation there and one in Egg Harbor Township.”

  He noted the first Coptic Church in North America “was in 1968-69 and Father Gabriel came and it was actually in West Side New Jersey. New Jersey has a long history; Coptic Christians didn’t leave Egypt for 2,000 years until Pope Cyril VI started sending people out from Egypt to come to New Jersey and other areas of America and Australia. He said that pope “reformed the church by one way, just prayer.”

Photo by Bob Vosseller

  The church is adorned with various works of art as Coptic Christians gain wisdom and faith from various icons that tell a biblical story.

  Father Suriel said such icons are visual reminders of how everyone can recall their own personal failings and learn from them to become a better person. The church has a large youth group and he noted it was his role and his fellow clergymen to visit the members of their congregation who often call upon them for advice and support.

  The church has a special baptismal room, a separate chapel area from the church for smaller services. He said regular church services are done in English and Arabic depending on the audience and are translated through captioning on their video screens.

  Another area of the church features a library of books concerning Coptic Christian history and text. Father Suriel said that in the church, the priesthood is not something that is sought but is something that comes to them. “I had to be asked by either a bishop or a priest to be ordained and I would have to say okay to it and they have to also ask my wife for her approval. I am married and have two kids.”

Parishioners of Archangel Michael Coptic Orthodox Church prepare ethnic food as part of the annual Egyptian Festival. (Photo by Bob Vosseller)

  “If that is also approved it goes before the congregation to see what they want and they take a vote and we had 800 or so people vote that day and 96% said yes.”

  He said being married and having a family is helpful “as we advise and sit with families and children and are asked to give advice from practical experience from our own lives.”

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