About Our Parish
By Mr. Ahdy Mansour

 

 

The story of the establishment of a Coptic Orthodox Church in Cleveland could not be told in  few words. It is a story of devotion, a story of sacrifice, a story of a very small group offering not only their financial resources, energy, time, and ability but their spiritual and human   interest, which itself was such a powerful force. It is a story about one of the oldest churches  in the world, and a story of tradition that was carried throughout the years from generation to generation. It is a story about the depth of faith in the modern society that emerged from a great and glorious past.

In 1968, six Coptic Orthodox families settled in Cleveland, Ohio and made it their new home.  They came from the land of the Pharaohs, the country that hosted Joseph and Jacob. The land that had nurtured and raised Moses and in which he had received the Ten Commandments from God. The country that was selected by Our Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Family as a  temporary home and was blessed by God.

This small group of Copts came from Egypt and carried inside them their Coptic faith. The term "Coptic" is derived from the Greek "Aigyptos" meaning "Egyptian". The Copts are the native Christians of Egypt and the direct descendants of the ancient Egyptians. Christianity came to Egypt in the first century A.D. by St. Mark the Apostle who established the Coptic Church in   the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The Coptic language is a development of the ancient  Egyptian language spoken since the early days of the Pharaohs. Its alphabet was established in the second century A. D. to phonetically record the vernacular of Egypt.

The Coptic Church believes in the Holy Trinity, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, consubstantial with each other, and that Our Lord Jesus Christ is the Only-Begotten Son and the only Savior of the world. Less changes have taken place in the Church of Egypt than in any other, both in ritual and doctrine, and the succession of Coptic popes, patriarchs, bishops, priests and deacons has been contiguous.

With this rich history and tradition, the new settlers of Cleveland were inspired to organize and establish the first Coptic Orthodox Church in Ohio. His Grace the late Bishop Samuel, Special Assistant to His Holiness the Late Pope Kyrillos VI, the 116th Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch   of the See of St. Mark in Egypt, advised the group to contact Fr. Marcos Marcos, a pioneer priest in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Fr. Marcos responded to the group's call and came to Cleveland and celebrated the first Divine Liturgy in September of 1968. He continued his   services to the Cleveland group by holding a Divine Liturgy every three months and later every month.

Several events took place in the early 1970's:

+The number of Copts steadily increased in Cleveland and it reached about 60 families by 1973.

+The group incorporated the first Coptic Orthodox Church in Ohio in 1970.

+In 1971, His Grace Bishop Antonius, acting pope at that time and His Grace Bishop Samuel visited Cleveland, which was a moving experience for the Cleveland congregation and started a dialogue about having a priest for Cleveland.

+In 1975, with the guidance and blessings of His Holiness Pope Shenouda III, the 117th   Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St. Mark, the Cleveland Parish received its first resident priest, the very Rev. Father Mikhail Edward Mikhail, D. Min.

+In 1977, the parish purchased a small church in Parma, Ohio.

+Also in 1977, the Copts in the USA and Canada were honored and blessed by the first Pastoral visit ever by a Coptic Pope. H. H. Pope Shenouda III visited several cities and Cleveland was  one of them. The Papal visit was a thrilling experience and brought vast changes in the services in the USA and Canada. Several churches were established and many priests were ordained for each church.

+In 1977, the Coptic Orthodox Church in the USA became a member of the National Council of the Churches in Christ in the USA. Two members from the Cleveland parish were appointed by H. H. Pope Shenouda III, along with four others from different Coptic parishes in the U.S. to serve on the Governing Board of the National Council of Churches as representatives of the Coptic Church.

After joining forces together to establish the Coptic Orthodox Church of Cleveland in 1970, the group gave time, energy, and talent as well as financial support. Each of them at one time or another served on the Board of Deacons. Some of them instructed the first classes of children  in the Sunday School and others studied to become deacons. Under their leadership along with that of Fr. Mikhail, St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church in Cleveland developed a legacy that inspired the Greater Cleveland community leadership to recognize the church as the official representative of the Egyptians in Cuyahoga County. Cleveland became a sister city with Alexandria, Egypt, which was announced during the first papal visit. For ten years the church,   in cooperation with the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism, has been holding the Egyptian Festival in August of each year at the church facilities, which is attended each year by several thousands from all walks of life.

The parish constructed a church complex over three acres in the city of Seven Hills, a suburb   of Cleveland, with an additional four acres for future projects aimed at serving the parishioners and the community in general. The church building was designed according to the Coptic architectural tradition and was completed in October 1988. H. H. Pope Shenouda III   consecrated the church one year later on October 1, 1989, on his second pastoral visit to   North America.

The church building can accommodate up to 500 people, has a social hall, numerous Sunday School classrooms, a library, offices, a guest suite, and a small chapel. In 1998, stainless steel domes were installed over the church tower and main dome. The interior of the church lies heavily on the richness and methods of the Coptic religious architecture with icons on all the walls in chronological sequence from the Annunciation by the Angel Gabriel to the Virgin   St. Mary up until the Ascension of Jesus and the Pentecost. All the icons are original paintings and follow the true Coptic art. The windows of the nave are made of stained glass. The floor and part of the wall are decorated with marble as well as the iconostasis. The baptistery represents a fine piece of art made of one piece of marble carved with designs in as agreeable balance.

St. Mark Church of Cleveland was blessed by the Miracle of Oil seeping from two icons, one of Our Lord Jesus Christ and the other of the Holy Virgin St. Mary, the Mother of God. The miracle began on May 15, 1990, on the feast of St. Athanasius the Apostolic. This miracle has recurred on several occasions and has been witnessed by thousands of pilgrims to the church, Television stations and newspapers, and foremost of which was H. H. Pope Shenouda III, who after personally seeing the icons declared the phenomenon an official miracle in May of 1991.

The story of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Cleveland is not only a story of dedicated people  who have willingly contributed money, time, talent, and energy to help others. It is a story of   an understanding and hard working priest who is gifted in human relations and leadership. Above all, it is a story of a loving and supportive Pope whose guidance and support goes beyond any monetary value because his gifts come wrapped in genuine love and concern.

 

 

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Copyright 2008 St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church - Cleveland, Ohio.
Last modified: 08/24/08