The Anglican Church in Egypt, in the past, was known as the English Church. The early colonialists worshipped in this church and also set up schools and hospitals that were given over to the government in 1953 - 1954. The government also gave some of the churches to the evangelical Church.
The situation changed for the Anglicans in Egypt at the appointment of the first Egyptian Bishop. He started with just three Egyptian priests. After him came the Rt Revd Ghais Abdel Malik and the churches increased to nine. Although the dioceses include North African, Ethiopia and Somalia, this story is only about Egypt. The Church has continued to grow under the leadership of the present bishop, the Rt Revd Dr Mouneer Hanna Anis, and there are now over 19 Churches and we thank God for that.
The work I am involved in the Diocese is church planting. I first started in Alexandria where I stayed for six months. An Australian priest was leading an English speaking service and when he left I was alone and my English is not very good. I started an Arabic speaking service that has grown today to a large Arabic congregation. In the Cathedral there are four or five services including Sudanese and Ethiopian services. I have planted three other churches in four years.
The Bishop sent me to Suez where there is a very beautiful church built by the English. There had been no services there for many years. The church building was in a very bad condition. The wall was broken, the roof was broken and nothing had been repaired. When I arrived I went to see the government and I told them I am the new priest, they said, “Ah, ah the old damaged building in the middle of the town? I said yes. But thanks be to God, now we have rebuilt the walls around and after this will be renovating the roof.
The Church started with my wife, myself and my daughter. We prayed and prayed. I was looking for someone with whom I could work and God sent a young man and we began by praying together. Then we met a group of young people who first met in the Coptic Church and then moved to a room in the Catholic Church. The group got too large and needed to move again. I went to see this group, they were all young people worshipping and serving God. They asked me if they could meet in my Church and I said yes. I thought, Congregation!!! without any communication, thanks be to God. All these people come along to the church and belong to the church, and now we have three prayer meetings.
These are very important prayer meetings, believe me, this is the foundation of the church. A lot of problems were coming but all were solved in God’s hands when we brought them to the cross. Hallelujah. Our style of worship is a blend of traditional Anglican liturgy with free worship. You bring tradition and free worship together and people are very happy and feel free in their worship.
I have a Bible study group, a women’s meeting, and a Sunday school. There are 70 children in the Sunday school and there is also a youth meeting. The Bishop leads the diocese in mission and it is growing. He provides very vital leadership for his priests and encourages us in mission which is so very important. All of us are human beings, all of us need encouragement, all of us need a very nice word and when we encourage each other we open up new life and inspiration which I think will be very good for us.
Communion in Mission 2006
The Revd Hany Shenouda, May 2002