“Coptic” comes from the Greek word for “Egyptian”. The Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria originated from the Land of Egypt in the 1st Century.
“Orthodox” refers to the preservation of the authentic and original Christian faith. It is what Christ taught, the apostles preached and what the church fathers kept.
“Church” – The Church is the Body of Christ. He is the sole Head and His people constitute His Body, the Church.
The Coptic Orthodox Church was established in 42-61 A.D. by St. Mark. As well as being the first patriarch of the Church of Alexandria, he was also the writer of the Gospel of Mark and one of the seventy disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Church of Alexandria became separated from other churches in 451 A.D. due to a theological dispute surrounding the nature of Christ. The Church, and the patriarch at the time, were accused of believing that Christ has only one nature rather than having two (divine and human). The Coptic Orthodox Church has always and always will confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is fully divine and fully human in one hypostasis known as the “Incarnate Word” (formula of St. Cyril of Alexandria). This is repeated in every Liturgical service by the priest, “Truly I believe that His Divinity did not part from His Humanity not for an instant or a twinkle of an eye” and “His divinity united with His humanity without mingling without amalgamation and without alteration”. Great strides are now being made for ecumenical reconciliation.
We use the Nicene creed of faith which was formulated by St. Athanasius of Alexandria and was accepted by the universal church at the council of Nicea in 325AD.
Our church has seven sacraments. A sacrament or mystery (greek word is mysterion) is a sacred action where believers receive an invisible grace through material or visible signs and elements. The Holy Spirit works in the church through the seven sacraments, giving us His gifts, blessings and comfort; teaching and guiding us to the way of truth. The seven sacraments are: Baptism; Chrismation; Repentance & Confession; The Eucharist; Unction of the Sick; Holy Matrimony; and Priesthood.
Priests in our church are married, whilst monks are celibate. Monks can be ordained to the priesthood and later as bishops. His Holiness Pope Tawadros II is the current (118th) Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St. Mark. The Pope is still regarded as a bishop and therefore seen as first-among-equals. He is the head of the Holy Synod which is the highest authority in the church. His Holiness visited the United Kingdom in May 2017, meeting with congregations and consecrating churches across the country as well as having audiences with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the Most Reverend and Right Honourable Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury.
Walking into a Coptic Orthodox Church, you may notice three distinctive things: First, it is filled with icons which have a very unique style. Second, there are many things happening! Rituals have an abundance of symbolism and deep meanings. Third, you will find worship conducted in hymns that have been preserved for centuries, which change with the church season. Some tunes have been preserved from Ancient Egyptian times, with the lyrics having been changed.
From its foundation, the Coptic Orthodox Church has been marred with persecution and thus it has a heritage of many martyrs. In 284AD, the mass murder of Christians by Emperor Diocletian prompted the inception of a new calendar using the term “Anno Martyrum” or “Year of the Martyrs”. This is used in the Coptic Calendar, which is based on the Ancient Egyptian calendar. Dates for church feasts and fasts are calculated using this calendar.
This is a short introduction to the Coptic Orthodox Church, if you would like to learn more, you can read in more detail at https://ukmidcopts.org/coptic