The recently formed Coptic Club, an organization that promotes Coptic Orthodoxy, held its first meeting Thursday in the Price Center. The club welcomed H.G. Bishop Serapion, bishop of Southern California and Hawaii, as a guest speaker.
According to freshman Ramsey Marcus, UCSD students formed the club after witnessing the Coptic Club’s success at UC Irvine.
“”It was so strong at UCI, we knew we could bring the club here and get it that big as well,”” Marcus said. “”It’s good to see the support we have so far from the first meeting.””
Several months ago, fourth-year UCSD student Bishoy Said attended a Los Angeles meeting where he saw Serapion speak at an American Orthodox church.
Three weeks ago, Said met with the bishop to arrange for him to speak to the UCSD Coptic Club. Serapion was enthusiastic about orating for the club, according to Said.
“”He was very encouraging and happy to be our guest,”” Said said. “”He has devoted his life to teaching about this, and it is an honor to have him come all the way from L.A.””
The purpose of the club is to educate and promote knowledge of the Coptic religion. There is a small Coptic church in Solana Beach, and the members of the Coptic Club hope the club can be another venue in which Coptics can celebrate their religion.
Community members and students from other schools attended the meeting, suggesting that the club can serve as a bridge to connect with people interested in the religion outside campus.
Club members sang a traditional hymn as Serapion arrived at the meeting in a customary black robe. He then led the room in prayer and gave a 45-minute-long overview of the religion, involving the members in his lecture as he asked questions throughout.
An Egyptian branch of Orthodox Christianity, the Coptic Church has been in existence for about 2,000 years, forming in A.D. 45 in Alexandria. It is based on the teachings of St. Mark, who brought Christianity to Egypt during the reign of the Roman emperor Nero in the first century.
Now an independent church, the Coptic religion exists all over the world, according to Serapion. The persecution it has survived only strengthens the deep spirituality of the church, he said.
“”This is a church of ideology and spirituality that separates human nature from divine nature,”” Serapion said. “”The spiritual life is a life of joy.””
At the meeting, Serapion described the significance of the fasts that church members keep. According to Serapion, the Coptic Church has been described as the “”fasting church,”” as fasts occur Wednesday and Friday to remember the days of the week when Judas turned Jesus Christ over to the Jews and when he was crucified. There are also 14 occasions throughout the year when the church fasts to recognize religious holidays.
“”After the fasting, we can join each other in celebration in the feasts,”” Serapion said.
Serapion also referred to the Bible and mentioned its importance.
“”How the church lives the Bible helps us to understand our life and what it contains,”” Serapion said. “”Everything the church says must be supported by the Bible.””
The speech ended with a question-and-answer period. Serapion then led the group in prayer. He consecrated bread, which was distributed to members.
The club presented him with a UCSD coffee mug in appreciation for his presence.
Serapion wished to visit with the members in a less formal atmosphere, so the Coptic Club arranged a dinner for members following the meeting, during which they could talk to the bishop personally.
“”It was great to have him speak here,”” Said said. “”You get a feel for what the peace of the Coptic Church really is.
“”The true heart of it is in the monastery, though,”” he added.
Said visited a Coptic monastery last summer and described the experience as very serene and spiritual.
The Coptic Club will post information and will continue to meet every week on Thursdays at 5 p.m. in the Price Center Gallery A.