“Behold, I make all things new.” (Rev. 21:5).
It is with these words that I would like to welcome each of our blessed students to the new academic year at St. Athanasius and St. Cyril Coptic Orthodox Theological School (ACTS), in which truly we feel that our Lord Jesus Christ makes all things new.
Since 1989, our school has been teaching and preaching the gospel of our Lord, under the leadership and guidance of the thrice-blessed Pope Shenouda III, of blessed memory, His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, and His Eminence Metropolitan Serapion. We are excited that this year our school will celebrate several milestones in its journey to provide the pure teachings of our Orthodox Church today.
This academic year began with the 11th International Congress of Coptic Studies in July, during which over 200 participants from over 20 countries and 6 continents participated. ACTS was blessed to host a dinner for the Coptic Scholars, in which His Eminence Metropolitan Serapion, His Grace Bishop Suriel, and Dr. Stephen Emmel presented their thoughts and vision for the future of Coptic Studies, and the role that Coptic scholars have in that future.
Another milestone will be the graduation of our first group of students from our newly initiated Servant Preparation Program, and the newly structured Certificate in Orthodox Theology. We are also planning to launch new programs at ACTS for Christian Leaders, Iconography, and Hymnology.
This December we also will have our first study-abroad program in Egypt, with over twelve bishops and scholars who come from Egypt, North America, Europe and Australia. This is also the first time we coordinate such a program with institutes in Egypt and abroad.
Most of all we are excited to welcome you, with our largest student body ever, which will reach to over 200 students! We hope that you will be able to meet one another during our events. Especially, this year we welcome this semester our first doctoral student who will pursue his doctorate in Coptic theology through Claremont Graduate University. We hope he will be the first of many to benefit from the joint collaboration and efforts we are taking with Claremont Community.
Centuries ago, St. Gregory the Theologian warned us in his first theological oration that the study of theology is not suitable for every individual, at any time, or in all points, for some result in “idle jests and petty contradictions” in a form of amusement. Instead it should be “but on certain occasions, and before certain persons, and within certain limits.” And then, it is suitable for those who “have been examined, and have passed masters in meditation, and who have been previously purified in soul and body, or at the very least are being purified.” With such wisdom, I encourage you to delve deeply into your academic studies and devotional life, such an investment of time and energy towards the pursuit to know Him and dwell with Him yields a fragrant aroma. May your search for Him in this new year yield abundant fruit and blessing for the glory of His Name and the spread of His Kingdom.
Dean of Saint Athanasius and Saint Cyril Theological School