A Step Towards the Future: The Inaugural FOCE Fundraising Dinner
On Sunday, October 14, 2018, Copts gathered from across the United States to look towards the future of Coptic education at the first-ever fundraising dinner with Friends of Coptic Education. Here, His Grace Bishop Kyrillos shared his own vision for a transformative educational future that will propel the Coptic community and church into solid future by educating future generations of students, Sunday School servants, families, clergy, leaders and educators, so that they can continue to carry on this mission. “Indeed,” His Grace said, “there can be no greater investment in the future of Copts than an investment in education – or as Benjamin Franklin wisely put it, an investment in education pays the highest interest.” ACTS has already experienced so much growth in the last few years, expanding from a total number of 30 students in 2015, 90% of which came from the Los Angeles Diocese, to, today, housing over 270 students from every major diocese and region of North America. Yet ACTS is looking forward to a future that will allow it to expand, not only in the number of students it serves but also in the number of accredited programs it offers, from its Masters in Theology to being able to develop further curricula and services including for family counseling, business administration and servant certification, in both the physical and digital spheres.
In his keynote address, Rev. Dr. Mark Swanson, the Harold S. Vogelaar Professor of Christian-Muslim Studies and Interfaith Relations at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, turned attention to the importance of the emphasis on education throughout Coptic Orthodox Christian history, even back to the 12th and 13th centuries. Rev. Dr. Swanson focused on the transition of the church from a state of crisis of discipline, piety and, ultimately, education in the 12th century to one of overflowing literature and progress in the 13th, under the guidance of Pope Gabriel II and the monk and later Pope Gabriel III, respectively. Pope Gabriel II faced a shift in language, from Coptic to Arabic, that left many members of the church unable to understand the Coptic prayers at each service, forcing them to blindly recite prayers they could not understand or benefit from. Pope Gabriel II became a pioneer for the education of priests and lay members of the church alike, initiating the integration of the local Arabic languages into the Coptic services. He also lead these efforts by instructing the bishops of the time to also teach the Christian people they shepherded, through the memorization of the Creed and doxologies, in a tongue they could understand. He also allowed for the first translations of the Old and New Testaments, priestly books, and other Coptic literature, into Arabic, allowing people the opportunity to understand the holy books they read from. Fast-forward one century, and the Coptic Orthodox Church found itself in a type of literary renaissance, eventually under the guidance of Pope Gabriel III. Starting out as a monk and scribe, Pope Gabriel III contributed to the extensive Coptic libraries and copies of Coptic literature that marked the 13th century, producing and copying texts of Coptic Orthodox literature in theology, philosophy, apologetics, preserving the Coptic language through books on Coptic grammar as well as Coptic dictionaries. Such a tremendous turn from a period of Coptic literary darkness to a literary outpour over the span of this century was only made possible by a readiness to learn and people who were prepared to support this learning.
An example such as this, one rooted so deeply in our Coptic Orthodox history, demonstrates the importance and the power of Coptic education and its integral role in a thriving future for our Coptic community and faith. ACTS is tremendously appreciative to the many donors that came together this Sunday night and those who have contributed from across the globe, allowing for the possibility to make His Grace Bishop Kyrillos’ vision for similarly thriving Coptic Education, a reality. In addition, ACTS is incredibly grateful to the Friends of Coptic Education, who made this banquet possible and have constantly supported this dream of a steadfast future in Coptic education.
If you are interested in becoming a donor to also be a part of the future of Coptic education, click here!