There is no exaggeration in saying that St. Mark church, in Jersey City, to North America Coptic Churches is as the church of Jerusalem in the apostolic era, the mother church. God has used St. Mark church, in Jersey City, since its establishment in 1970, to bless many in North America in several ways:
- God empowered Late Very Reverend Fr. Gabriel Abdel-Sayed, the first ordained priest of St Mark Church, to visit many states, serving the communities, praying liturgies and planting seeds for churches and dioceses that would be established in these states.
- God has gifted St. Mark church to help thousands of families that have come from Egypt, to achieve a decent standard of living in USA. Many of these families have migrated to other areas and/or states looking for an even better life and have become loving members of many churches.
- God has blessed St. Mark church to raise thousands of young adults who have become successful professionals and remained loyal and loving to the Coptic Church. These loving youth have migrated to other areas and/or states looking for an even better life and have become loving members of many churches.
- Serving hundreds of youth through the campus ministry of the universities close to the church is a major part of the mission of St Mark Church. Many of these youth have been wonderful members and loving to their churches in many areas.
- With technological advances, God has used the church to bless many people all over the states and the world by its live broadcast of its services and broadcasting many spiritual and biblical, prayers, praises programs through Satellite TV, IPTV and online.
To those who have been touched by the blessings of God, it is time to show gratefulness to God’s grace through St. Mark church. Such truth is encouragement to appeal to God, through His loving people, to help St. Mark Church, especially these days.
As many may know, St. Mark Church, with God’s grace, has been working on a project for a new service building. The old buildings, to be removed soon, are deteriorated and are not suitable for the church’s many services. The new building will include Sunday school classes, a fellowship hall, and a multipurpose hall for all the church services and activities. At this point in the project, the church is in need of $2,000,000.00 to proceed.
Originally, it was planned to get loan for the amount of $2,000,000.00 from a bank, but some terms, in the latest contract presented to us, are not reasonable in the light of the church’s current situation and would jeopardize the future of the church.
We believe that the financing of the new building can be easily achieved by the Almighty God through the “cheerful givers” or any other way He sees (Ephesians 3:20; Nehemiah 2:20).
As a humble estimate, when God speaks in the hearts of 400 “cheerful givers”, and each one donates just $5,000.00, the church would collect the $ 2,000,000.00 In this case, the church would build without loan entirely. The glory would be due only to God the Almighty.
We are kindly appealing to all the loving people to remember St. Mark church in its recent needs. Any offering of love of any amount is appreciated. Remember this, a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop (2 Corinthians 9:6, NLT).
This message is intended to be as a personal message as well as special message to all the churches and congregations in North America. May the Almighty God give this message the grace and grant to St. Mark church according to His good hand (Nehemiah 2:8).
Please make your donation payable to:
Coptic Orthodox Church of St. Mark
P.O. Box 4397, Jersey City, NJ 07304
Egyptian Constitutional Declaration: What New Under the Sun
“مَا الْفَائِدَةُ لِلإِنْسَانِ مِنْ كُلِّ تَعَبِهِ الَّذِي يَتْعَبُهُ تَحْتَ الشَّمْسِ؟ دَوْرٌ يَمْضِي وَدَوْرٌ يَجِيءُ وَالأَرْضُ قَائِمَةٌ إِلَى الأَبَدِ. وَالشَّمْسُ تُشْرِقُ وَالشَّمْسُ تَغْرُبُ وَتُسْرِعُ إِلَى مَوْضِعِهَا حَيْثُ تُشْرِقُ… رَأَيْتُ كُلَّ الأَعْمَالِ الَّتِي عُمِلَتْ تَحْتَ الشَّمْسِ فَإِذَا الْكُلُّ بَاطِلٌ وَقَبْضُ الرِّيحِ” (جامعة 1).. هل كتب سليمان الحكيم هذا عن شخص بعينه بعد أن أصابه الكثير من الاحباطات؟ أم كتبه عن الشعب المصري بأكمله بعد ثورة 25 يناير 2011، ثم بعد 30 يونيو 2013؟ ما هو الجديد اذا كانت الدولة والشعب يحكمها مواد دستورية عتيقة؟
إذا كان ما تم نشره على الانترنت يوم 8 يوليو 2013 قد حدث فعلا، فالمادة الأولى من الأعلان الدستوري الذي صدر في القاهرة، ورد به: “الإسلام دين الدولة، واللغة العربية لغتها الرسمية، ومبادئ الشريعة الإسلامية التى تشمل أدلتها الكلية وقواعدها الأصولية والفقهية ومصادرها المعتبرة فى مذاهب أهل السنة والجماعة، المصدر الرئيسي للتشريع”.
في 10 ديسمبر 2012 كنت قد كتبت مقالا بعنوان “أعاصير مشروع دستور مصر”، وكان ذلك في وقت كتابة مشروع الدستور الذي تم تعليق العمل به في 3 يوليو 2013 بعد ثورة 30 يونيو 2013. وحتى لا اكرر ما سبق ان قلته – والمقال ما زال منشورا للرجوع اليه – أريد فقط أن ألخص ما كتبته من قبل، لعله يأتي بجديد تحت الشمس، ملفتا النظر الى الآتي:
أولا: هذه المادة تتناقض مع نفسها، فهي بينما تعلن أن : “جمهورية مصر العربية دولة نظامها ديمقراطى يقوم على أساس المواطنة؟” تقسم المصريين وتغرس بذور الفرقة والفتنة والصراع بينهم، فهي مادة غير توافقية، تفرض رؤية وثقافة واسلوب حياة معين على كل المصريين غير المسلمين وغير السنيين، وتجعل غيرهم مواطنين من الدرجة الثانية.
ثانيا: لايجب أن يكون هناك أي مواد دستورية من وحي البشر – وليس من وحي الله – لتقرر ديانة الدولة وتوجهها الطائفي وعلاقة المواطنين بخالقهم. والسؤال الذي أطرحه على السادة المسئولين: من له الحق أن يقرر أن يكون للدولة ديانة معينة دون غيرها؟ ومن له الحق أن يقرر أن يكون للدولة مذهبا دون غيره؟ الايمان والعقيدة هو امر يخص الله الخالق وحده، وليس من قرار أي سيادة بشرية، وأي تعدي على سلطان الله مصيره الزوال.
ثالثا: أقول باحترام للجميع وبحياء شديد: هل هذه المادة هي لحماية المواطنين المسلمين السنيين دون غيرهم؟ أم هي لحماية شريعة الاسلام السني دون غيره؟ ومن هو الوصي على أي منهم دون غيرهم؟ وهل يعقل أن يحمي البشر ما هو مفترض أن يكون إلهيا أي يخص الله؟ أم نحن رجعنا لزمن تحمي فيه الشعوب الوثنية آلهتها من الدمار؟
رابعا: “مبادئ الشريعة” امر مختلف عليها بين الفقهاء والمذاهب ومتغيرة بحسب الظروف والزمان والمكان، وقد تشمل أراء فقهية بالغة التعصب ولا تناسب متطلبات العصر، وعقلاء المسلمين الوسطيين يعلمون هذا أكثر مني. وهذا يضع مؤسسات الدولة تحت ولاية الفقيه ويهدد الإستقرار القانونى والاجتماعى وهو ما يتعارض مع مقتضيات دولة الحرية والعدالة التي يحكمها القانون.
خامسا: مثل هذا النظام السياسى يهدم مرجعية الدستور والقانون، ويسمح باستغلال السلطة لبعض الفقهاء، كل بحسب رأيه وحسب رغبة السلطان فى تبرير أى قرار. ومثل هذا النظام سيؤدي أولا إلى عدم الاستقرار القانونى والدستورى، لاختلاف أراء الفقهاء والصراع بينهم، وثانيا سيؤدي إلى تكفير كل من يخالف رأى الفقيه واتهامه بالكفر والالحاد وربما بالخيانة العظمى، وسيعصف مخربا البلاد بأعاصير الطائفية التي هي أشد دمارا من أعاصير كاترين وايرين وساندي. ولا أقصد بهذه الأعاصير الطائفية بين المسلمين والمسيحيين وحدهم، بل وأيضا بين المسلمين أنفسهم باختلاف ارائهم الفقهية ومذاهبهم الطائفية وتوجهاتهم السياسية، والتاريخ يثبت ذلك.
سادسا: أعتقد أنه قد يكون المقصود من كتابة هذه المادة الدستورية هو “التهدئة” و”الموازنات”، ولكن ارجو ان نعي الدرس ولا نكرر أخطاء الماضي. لقد سبق أن علق الدكتور مرسي عن انسحاب الكنيسة من اللجنة التأسيسية للدستور السابق بسبب عدم موافقتها أنه “أمر لا يستدعي القلق”. ووقتها كتبت: “”سيادته يعلم جيدا أن الأعاصير hurricanes والدوامات الهوائية tornadoes لا تميز بين رئيس ومرؤوسين في عملها التدميري… فالواقع والتاريخ يثبتان ذلك”. ويبدو أن سيادته لم يعي الدرس، وقامت اعاصير 30 يونيو لتهدم صنم الدستور والعابدين له.
سابعا: قد يظن البعض أن مثل هذه المواد الدستورية أمر لا محال منه، وأنه ليس أمام من يدعونهم “القطيع الصغير” سوى أن يخضعوا ويقبلوها. ولكننا بثقة وإيمان بالله، وباسم رب الجنود، نثق أنه لن يثبت سوى ما يوافق مشيئة الله، الذي قال: “رَأْيِي يَقُومُ وَأَفْعَلُ كُلَّ مَسَرَّتِي” (اشعياء 46 : 10)… واذا لم يكن هناك جديد تحت الشمس من عمل البشر، فسيكون هناك الجديد بقوة الرب الاله الذي وعد شعبه: “هَئَنَذَا صَانِعٌ أَمْراً جَدِيداً. الآنَ يَنْبُتُ. أَلاَ تَعْرِفُونَهُ؟ أَجْعَلُ فِي الْبَرِّيَّةِ طَرِيقاً فِي الْقَفْرِ أَنْهَاراً” (اشعياء 43 : 19)..
سيكون هناك أمرا جديدا تحت الشمس في مصر، ولكل شعب الله في كل مكان..!! نصلي للأب السماوي، باسم الرب يسوع المسيح، من أجل سلام مصر وخلاص كل شعبها في المسيح يسوع.
القمص أبرام سليمان
What happened recently in Egypt is NOT a military coup, but a revolution. That is greatly evident by the following facts:
1- More than 33 million in the streets have protested against the ousted regime.
2- Well respected figures shared, with the military, in planning and accepting the road map. Each of these figures represents millions of people.
3- The power has not been transferred to the military army.
4- The accounts of one year of suppression and failure of the ousted regime have been more than enough for the eruption of such great revolution.
5- It is blessed by His Holiness Pope Tawadros II. He is the spiritual leader of more than 20 million Coptic Christians of the Egyptian church that have more than 2000 years of history and credibility.
Sadly, the hearts of some people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that God should heal them (Acts 28:27). We pray for the peace of Egypt in the name of Jesus Christ.
“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,
For wisdom and might are His.
And He changes the times and the seasons;
He removes kings and raises up kings;
He gives wisdom to the wise And knowledge to those who have understanding”
لِيَكُنِ اسْمُ اللَّهِ مُبَارَكاً مِنَ الأَزَلِ وَإِلَى الأَبَدِ
لأَنَّ لَهُ الْحِكْمَةَ وَالْجَبَرُوتَ.
وَهُوَ يُغَيِّرُ الأَوْقَاتَ وَالأَزْمِنَةَ.
يَعْزِلُ مُلُوكاً وَيُنَصِّبُ مُلُوكاً.
يُعْطِي الْحُكَمَاءَ حِكْمَةً
وَيُعَلِّمُ الْعَارِفِينَ فَهْماً”
(دانيال 2 : 20-21)
قال الرئيس مرسي: “نحمل للإخوة المسيحيين ودًا وتقديرًا وبرًا، نحن شركاء بلد واحدة، أني لا أشعر براحة كبيرة من علاقات فاترة خلف الزيارات والبروتوكلات التي تجمعنا” وأضاف: “وإن كنت أقدر حجم المخالفات الذى جعل كل ماهو إسلامي فزاعة، لكن المتديين هم أكثر الناس حرصا على بعضهم البعض وعلى البلاد.”
سيدي الفاضل: شكرا على ما قلته أنك تحمل “ود وتقدير للأخوة المسيحيين”، وان كان هذا هو حقهم… ونأسف لشعورك بعدم الراحة مما اسميته “علاقات فاترة”… ولكن، هل كنت تتوقع أن يصفق لك المسيحيون تصفيقا حارا، بينما مسلسل القتل والخطف والتدمير مازال مستمرا، دون أن تفعل شيئا؟.. وأن كان من أسميتهم المتدينون – من جماعتك ومن شابههم – هم “أكثر الناس حرصاعلى بعضهم البعض وعلى البلاد”، فلماذا هذا المسلسل البغيض؟ ومن وراءه؟
الموضوع كله هو إعلان لفشل ما يسمى “الاسلام السياسي” وعدم مصداقية الفكر الذي ورائه.!!
نصلي للآب السماوي من أجل سلام مصر وخلاص شعبها، باسم الرب يسوع المسيح..!!
The New York Times has shared in raising awareness to the recent wave of immigration from Egypt, by publishing an article with the headline: “Refuge From Unrest in Egypt”. A version of this article appeared in print on April 21, 2013, on page MB1 of the New York edition.
The author of the article successfully portrayed some of the faithful efforts employed by one of the Coptic Churches in the U.S. in accommodating Arabic speakers fleeing from Egypt looking to find refuge in the U.S. The same can be said of the Coptic Churches in the area of Jersey City, Brooklyn and other neighboring cities.
In emphasizing the effort geared toward the Arabic speakers, the author overlooked the faithful effort to accommodate the English speakers as well, as in the case of St Mark Church in Jersey City, mentioned in the article.
Fr. Markos Ayoub, a priest of St Mark Church of Jersey City commented: “I believe this is not an accurate characterization of the Church of St. Mark. Our church fully caters to both English and Arabic speaking congregations, with a dedicated weekly Sunday liturgy service in English, and another one in Arabic. Most of all children activities are conducted in English. Other services for children & youth on Fridays & Saturdays are held entirely in English. Even for seasonal occasions… parallel services are held in either language.”
“Our church,” added Fr. Markos Ayoub, “has thankfully been and still is a pioneer in ministering to English speaking Copts who grew up here for many years as well as to the recent immigrants who are Arabic speakers. Moreover our church has pioneered using the internet and webcast/satellite broadcast technologies to minister to the broadest spectrum of Copts who live here and beyond.”
An English speaking congregant and servant also commented: “Many of my close friends comment on our English service and especially how we give the youth the big church upstairs and give them an all-English sermon. Add to that Bible Study, Sunday School, the Media team, the retreats, the new building, and on and on and on and I have no idea how someone could say that we are not catering to the English speakers.”
The author of the article may be excused for not being fully aware of the services of the Coptic Churches in the U.S. However; the article raises a serious question of how Christians in the U.S. should respond to what is so called in the article, “the sudden tsunami of new arrivals after the revolution.” It also raises more serious questions about the whole concept of church in the light of a diversifying congregation and how to teach our children to respond to it.
Christians of the U.S. should see the wave of the arrival of the newcomers not as “sudden of tsunami” but as “showers of blessing” (Ezekiel 34:26). They deserve such honor to be called “showers of blessing”, as many of them have lost beloved ones, suffered persecution and the confiscation of their properties for their faith in Christ (Hebrews 10:34). In church history, those who survive of persecution are called “confessors”, the saints who have suffered persecution and torture for the faith, but not to the point of death.
In the First Council of Nicaea, in 325AD, many of the assembled fathers – for instance, Paphnutius of Thebes, Potamon of Heraclea and Paul of Neocaesarea – had stood forth as confessors of the faith and came to the council with the marks of persecution on their bodies. They were greatly honored by Constantine the Great. The emperor left his seat and knelt down to kiss the wounds of Paphnutius, who had been persecuted for his Christian beliefs. The influence of these marred confessors has been substantial.
In His lengthy discourse, the Lord Jesus considered the wounds, needs and the afflictions of His people as his personal wounds, needs and afflictions. It is a wonderful opportunity for blessings to minister to the body of Christ through the wounded, needy and afflicted families coming from Egypt. The Lord Jesus said, “Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’… ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’” (Matthew 25:34-40).
Those who leave the church, because of many of newcomers, do not realize what they are doing. They are missing the blessings of ministering to the body of Christ in the person of the wounded, needy and afflicted families. Instead of being hospitable and helping them, they desert them. The Christians of the U.S. should examine their ways of dealing with the newcomers and be more positive in helping them.
The opportunity to partake in the blessing of ministering to the newcomers is also missed by our children when they are taken away to churches where there are fewer newcomers. Failing to teach our children to love, communicate with, and minister to the newcomers is failing to teach them how to integrate and minister to the body of Christ, in the spirit of love. Difference of language is not an excuse. Christ’s love is stronger than the barrier of language.
Church history is rich with the stories of preachers, evangelists and missionaries who went out of their comfort zones and ministered to others in foreign countries. And even without going that far, in St Mark Church of Jersey City, we see wonderful and faithful English speaking servants helping, in amazing ways, the newcomers’ families and their children.
The Christians of US have to examine their perspective of what church is all about. The church is not a social setting for peers to hang out. It should not be culturally oriented or derived. In the biblical, theological and spiritual sense, there is neither an “English Church” nor “Arabic Church”. There is only the “One Only Holy Universal Church” as we recite in the Nicene Creed; one body of Christ.
The Church that is designed to be exclusively for English speakers, intentionally excluding newcomers, such would be a church that is shutting its doors in the face of Christ Himself as He said, “inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me” (Matthew 25:45). That would be a Christ-less church.
The Christian of the U.S. should learn how to integrate with people of other languages, in love, to portray the true image of the church in heaven. In front of the throne of the Father and the Lamb: “a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9).
Fr Abraam D Sleman
20130119 Epiphany – Fr Abraam Sleman – Arabic
هناك كثير من التساؤلات حول موضوع عيد الظهور الالهي، ومنها ما معني “ينيغي أن نكمل كل بر”، ولماذا كانت الضرورة لحلول الروح القدس علي السيد المسيح؟ ومن هو صاحب الصوت السمائي: هذا هو ابني الحبيب الذي به سررت؟ وبعد ذلك كله: ما هي أهمية كل هذه الأمور لخلاصنا وحياتنا الأبدية. أدعوك لتسمع كلمات النعمة في هذه العظة.
While all Coptic Orthodox churches have the same worship prayers, rites and multitude of activities, some consider the Church of St. Mark in Jersey City as “a church covered with badger skins”. Perhaps you may ask, why talk about this church and not others, and what “badger skins” are? Let me share with you some personal memories that you may share how I feel about calling this church, A Church Covered with Badger Skins.
I revere all the churches, and appreciate the effort of all their fathers, but I simply testify of what I have been touched within the church of St. Mark in Jersey City. Following the example of St. Paul, and as a servant of St. Mark’s church in Jersey City I magnify the ministry that has been entrusted to my weakness by the Lord. In doing so, declare the strong work of God, and to bring glory to His name (Romans 11:13).
The Thrice-blessed of Memory H.H. Pope Shenouda III called my weakness to serve in this church in 1995. I remember at that time, there were many loved ones waiting for my return from Colorado to serve in the Church of the Virgin in Ard El-Golf in Cairo, where I had previously started my service. When they heard that my next stop would be Jersey City, they were upset. One of them had even called me and warned me saying: “Are you going to serve in the garage?” I was not comforted with this description of the church. I replied back: “I do not deserve to serve, even in a manger of Bethlehem.”
If you are not familiar with Jersey City, it is a city suitable for new immigrants to the United States, because of the availability of public transportation, its proximity to Manhattan, and the high concentration Egyptians and Egyptian stores. You do not feel alienated in Jersey City, but rather that may be in Shubra or Upper Egypt. However, the situation was a little different for us, since we were not new immigrants. The idea of moving to Jersey City was a shock to my young children, because – according to human wisdom – it did not make sense to leave Ard El-Golf or Colorado for Jersey City; except the Divine plan is greater than human wisdom.
What awaited us was even more shocking. First, the church building was outdated and its architectural design was no longer suitable for the growing number of congregants served by the church. The church doors were not adequate to enter and exit the building. The staircase was not safe for going up and down. The restrooms were unacceptable. Due to this shock, I said bluntly to the Thrice-Blessed of memory H.H. the Pope: “When I entered the church at first glance I felt I was in prison”. But by the grace of God and the love of the people, the church has been renovated with simple architectural modifications that were necessary for the church service. May the Lord reward everyone’s labor of love with regards to this matter, and write their names in His Kingdom.
The biggest shock was even not in the building, but in the congregation which had fallen into a state of disunity. To make matters worse, some of its leaders were spreading propaganda against others, but thanks to the Lord that the voice of the Spirit of God has been much louder those voices. Again the compassionate fatherhood of God embraced all who were at odds with one another and brought peace.
I will skip the details of the long years that I have spent in St Mark in Jersey City. However, there is something worth mentioning that from the first day I considered it as the place of my witnessing and martyrdom. During these years, the altar of the church witnessed many tears, shed for everyone in the church by name, especially for all antagonists and wrongdoers, to be blessed children of grace
God’s response was amazing. The Lord has called some of the children of the church to the holy priesthood and to the monastic life. Many have become blessed deacons and servants in whom the church rejoices. Even the children have enjoyed the fatherhood of God in the church, and wore their diaconal vestments with their fathers in joy. These young children shared in the church readings from the lectern joyfully. Moreover, many of the church’s youth have attained advanced degrees, and prestigious positions in their careers. I thank You, my God on Your great work with the children of this church.
I have a lot to say about this church which I love from my heart. Many honored Bishops and visitors have testified of the work of the Lord in this church. But, unfortunately, in spite of all this grace in which we stand, some see the Church of St. Mark in Jersey City as church covered with badger skins.
In the Old Testament “ram skins dyed red, and badger skins” were the outer cover of the Tabernacle (Exodus 25:5). This was according to the Lord’s command: “You shall also make a covering of ram skins dyed red for the tent, and a covering of badger skins above that” (Exodus 26:14). As many have interpreted this, the badger skins were unsightly in appearance and taken from animals that were unclean. So, the appearance of the tabernacle from outside was not appealing.
Badger skins here symbolize the external condition of the Church of St. Mark in Jersey City, which is no longer favored by some due to reasons that are unrelated to the essence of the Church. Some have mentioned that one of the reasons is that the church is a little more distant from their homes which they have chosen in better places, away from Jersey City. Others see the effort that is sometimes necessary to find parking. Or perhaps newly-built churches are more appealing. Some others do not like the fact that St Mark Church in Jersey City includes so many of the new immigrants, “the brethren of the Lord”, while other churches have families that are more stable and well-to-do.
Calling St. Mark’s church a “church covered with badger skins”, in that sense does not degrade the church or making little of the glory that God shed on it. While the Tabernacle was not so pleasant from the outside because of the badger skins, it was adorned with gold from the inside. Moreover, inside the Tabernacle, there was what is greater than gold which is the dwelling of God with His glory on the Mercy Seat (the cover of the Ark of the Covenant). That is according to the words of the Lord: “And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are on the ark of the Testimony, about everything which I will give you in commandment to the children of Israel” (Exodus 25:22).
Jesus was not born in Herod’s palace, but in Bethlehem amid the animals of the manger. Neither the palace nor the manger matters, and not the visitors of either, but what matters to us Christ of the manger. I have seen Him in the Church of St. Mark through the afflicted souls and in those who are in need of service. For the spiritual person, Church is not for socializing with friends, but it is a place to worship the Lord, and to have a real encounter with the Lord Jesus and to serve Him through those who are needy and hurting. I thank God that the church is always filled with such blessed people.
The Lord asked His people to come and present to Him their offerings in the Tabernacle or the Temple no matter how distant their countries were. This is so according to His command: “Three times a year all your males shall appear before the Lord your God in the place which He chooses: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Tabernacles; and they shall not appear before the Lord empty-handed” (Deuteronomy 16:16).
The Psalms of Ascents have always been a joyful expression of the people to ascend to the house of the Lord, saying: “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go into the house of the Lord.’ Our feet have been standing within your gates, O Jerusalem!” (Psalm 122:1-2). Jerusalem was not in the backyard of their houses, but many miles away during an era when travelling by animals were very difficult.
The spirit of God made of the Church of St. Mark a resting place for them. They found in it loving people who embrace them and support them, making their new journey easier. Thus, St. Mark’s church has become a fertile field to serve Christ through these people. A church without serving the needy is a church without serving Christ, according to what He said: “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me” (Matthew 25:40).
There are now what are the so-called “wealthy churches” and “poor churches” depending on the income of their members. Sadly, some have forgotten what is real wealth and what is real poverty, as the Apostle Paul said: “as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things” (2 Corinthians 6:10). So is the case with the Church of St. Mark, which is the church that is poor in financial resources, but rich in the glory of the Holy Spirit, and the gift of love. We thank God for this because living in luxury might be the cause of spiritual death, according to the words of the Apostle Paul: “but she who lives in pleasure is dead while she lives” (1 Timothy 5:6). Moreover, we thank God that He satisfies all our needs in due time.
In a testimony to the history, I have discovered, over the years, that the Church of St. Mark in Jersey City is not a “garage” nor a “prison”, but a resting place of the spirit of God, where He works with amazing strength. From the beginning we have accepted the words of the Lord to Zerubbabel: “‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain! And he shall bring forth the capstone with shouts of “Grace, grace to it!”’” (Zechariah 4:6-7). Thus the church emerged out of all the challenges she faced with a great glory that bears witness to the Lord’s work through His Holy Spirit.
The Spirit of God has made the Church St. Mark a safe haven for children to be raised according to the Gospel and away from human wisdom and currents of American society. This is also is according to the words of St. Paul the Apostle: “and my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (1 Corinthians 2:4).
I thank God that the skins of the badger, that are not so appealing have, have a deeper meaning in the scriptures. The are symbol of equipping and beautifying the church with the readiness of the Gospel of peace. The Lord said, I clothed you in embroidered cloth and gave you sandals of badger skin; I clothed you with fine linen and covered you with silk” (Ezekiel 16:10). St Paul reveals the meaning and says, “having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6:15).
The Spirit of God has instilled a sense of responsibility in St Mark Church’s priests and srevants to have Bible classes for all the ages of her children in addition to the Sunday school classes. Again, I thank God that the sound doctrines of the Bible are emphasized in all the sermons and the services of the church, as the early church fathers did. Thus many have become disciples of the Lord according to His promise: “All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children” (Isaiah 54:13).
Also, by the grace of the Lord, the message of the Gospel is sent from St. Mark’s church to the whole world via satellite TV and internet. This is to feed the hearts of thousands with the word of God, as it is written: “If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 4:11). I thank God that in this we see the fulfillment of what the Scripture says: “There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world” (Psalms 19:3-4).
It is worthy to mention that behind all this services in the church were the efforts of the Late Hegumen Reverend Fr. Gabriel Abdelsayed over the span of no less than 23 years. Then the Spirit of God, along with my weakness, provided blessed priests, numerous servants, deacons and people, in a harmonious symphony of love led by the Holy Spirit, to speak of the glory of God and His salvation in Jesus Christ. O Lord, reward everyone who labors in the church.
By faith, I hear what the Lord is saying for this amazing church: “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11) … and also what Nehemiah said: “Come and let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer be a reproach” (Nehemiah 2:17).
I thank You my God for this great blessing …
I thank You my God for every soul that enjoyed being in Your presence in this church …
Remember O Lord all those who labored with us and reward them the heavenly reward …Fr. Abraam Sleman