The Church in Egypt

With the tensions in Egypt rising and the position of Hosni Mubarak looking increasingly vulnerable one minority in particular that need our prayers is the Christian church. Estimates vary as to how many Christians there are in Egypt, the official figure is around 6% but some estimates put it as high as 20%, it is likely to be somewhere in between. There has been a history of discrimination against Christians at a local level; and extreme Islamist groups have targeted churches and Christian groups for attacks and intimidation. The Christian charity Open Doors which seeks to support the persecuted church ranks Egypt as the 19th most difficult country in which to be a Christian. Throughout 2010 tensions between Christians and Muslims increased, believers from a Muslim background are rejected culturally and socially. Christmas 2010 saw a bomb planted outside a church in Alexandria which exploded and killed 21 as they left Christmas services. The Mubarak’s government has had  to perform a delicate balancing act between vociferous and often violent extremists and the silent majorities and minorities of Egypt.

As Egypt has faced increasing economic difficulties and corruption has been revealed the population are looking for solutions. ‘Islam is the solution’ is a popular slogan across the Middle East, and is seen by some including the influential Muslim Brotherhood as the answer to Egypt’s economic, social and political difficulties. If Mubarak falls, (as it looks increasingly likely he will), it is not clear who or what will fill emerge to fill the power vacuum. The BBC’s seasoned Middle East watcher Jeremy Bowen observes:

Optimistic Egyptians say free elections, if they ever happen, would produce a vibrant democracy.

Pessimists say that the removal of the police state would lead to chaos – which would be exploited by Egypt’s jihadi groups. These have been suppressed ruthlessly by the Mubarak regime.

The country’s only properly organised mass political movement outside the ruling party is the Muslim Brotherhood, and it would do very well in any free election.

Unlike the jihadis, it does not believe it is at war with the West. It is conservative, moderate and non-violent. But it is highly critical of Western policy in the Middle East.

The church in Egypt is in need of our prayers, not just for the struggles that they face today but also for the struggles that they are likely to face in the coming years. We should pray for the following:

  • A peaceful resolution to the current crisis
  • For the emergence of a democratically elected government committed to peace with Israel and the West
  • For a government which will guarantee the religious freeedoms of all it’s citizens
  • For protection God’s for the church and her leaders – ‘the Church of the Martyrs’
  • For wisdom and provision for the church’s leaders, pastors and evangelists
  • For the ongoing renewal of the Coptic church

Baptism lite for the Church of England?

February see’s the the Church of Englands governing body the General Synod Meeting, and for once there is nothing too controversial on the agenda. That doesn’t seem to have stopped the Daily Mail from declaring the church is about to go to the dogs due to a proposed review of it’s baptism liturgies:

Christening without much Christianity declares the headline, and if you read the article (I did – I wouldn’t recommend it) then it would seem that in a desperate bid to sure up numbers the church is considering dumbing down it’s liturgy to encourage more folk to ‘take the plunge’, or more accurately ‘dip their kids’.

The truth is, there is a motion on the agenda for the synod to look again at our baptism liturgy, but the reason for this is pastoral rather than evangelsitic in terms of ‘getting them in’:

The motion from the Liverpool Diocesan Synod asks for additional texts to be prepared as alternatives for passages in the Common Worship Baptism Services, which would be expressed in more culturally appropriate and accessible language than is perceived to be the case with the present services.

The desire is for a liturgy which actually connects with people in an understandable way, whilst at the same time, preserves the truth of what baptism signifies. Good liturgy facilitiates worship by giving us words we can make our own to express that which we may otherwise find difficult. Bad liturgy does the opposite, it gets in the way. In my view the, the current liturgy for the baptismal service contains some which is very good – the declarations – a clear summation of what it means to commit oneself to Christ, and some which gets in the way – the notorious prayer over hte water. I’ll be interested to see what comes forth should the resoloution be adopted.

For those who decry any kind of change, we could go right back to the practice of the Early Church and hold our baptismal service in a nearby river – the Trent anyone?

A New Year – A New start…

We all need to take a break at times, and so at the end of April 2010 I gave myself a week or so off blogging. a week became weeks, weeks became months, and then, well, it’s January 2011 and a couple of people ask me whether I’veghiven up blogging for good.

I hadn’t, not deliberately anyway, but it was a struggle. The hardest thing is not thinking of something to blog about, the hardest thing is getting the balance right between your public and private worlds. When I was in the Philippines, it wasn’t so difficult. No-one with whom I worked had access to the internet, and the blog was a good way of keeping touch with friends and family in the UK. Now, the knowledge that whatever is blogged about here could very quickly do the rounds of church, and who knows end up in the national media (Bishop of Willesden anyone?) does inhibit one slightly.

Anyway – new year, new start and I hope the discipline of blogging will actually keep me sharp. I’m giving it til April this year, and if I’m not back in the flow by then, it will be goodbye blogging, but that’s a gloomy note to end on so instead – have a look at our shiny new church website:

www.stgilesparish.com

Still needs a bit of tweaking but I’m pretty pleased wit it, not least because at long last Karen our administrator can look after it for me now! yay!