The Couples for Christ conference saw several young couples and families from the Diocese get together in the beautiful and blessed church of St. Mary & St. Abaskhyroun, Llandudno, for what was to be an intriguing and exciting look into the psychology interactions within the family. Ever heard the phrase “Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus”? Well there’s some truth in that!
We arrived to the 4 Saints Hotel in Llandudno late on Friday, had some (deliciously seyami) dinner, then settled down for the night ready for a packed Saturday. This started with a fantastic talk by Fr. John about “The Role of The Holy Spirit in Our Family”.
Our guest speaker for the weekend was the famed Dr. Basma from St. Mark’s church in London. Now I can’t tell you how lucky we were to listen to the advice and wisdom of this lady. She is a psychologist and marriage counsellor by occupation, and in her spare time she spearheads the “Marriage Preparation Course” in London set up for the engaged couples in the London churches before their wedding day. Is there anyone more suited to give these talks?! Her first presentation was on “Communication Skills”, with many practical tips and advice on how to really listen to your partner. I for one definitely have some work to do…
We were also blessed to have a surprise visit by H.G. Bishop Missael who came just in time to celebrate the joint birthdays of Marina and Christine. Afterwards we had a few hours to explore Llandudno and get some food on board before heading over to church for the vesper prayers.
Once there, we were lucky enough to bump into the uni-grad group from Birmingham who by chance were also spending the weekend in Wales! After vespers we had an excellently delivered talk by Fr. Youhanna on “One Mind” with some powerful examples from both the Old and New Testaments. Definitely not one to forget in a hurry.
After this we had our second and final talk from Dr. Basma, this time on “Conflict Resolution”. Now believe me when I say this ignited some heated discussion! Remember when I said I still have some work to do on the old communication skills? Dr. Basma again brought the issue to life with some solid practical advice and an interesting perspective on what causes conflict in the first place, and how best to deal with it.
The following day started with the Holy Liturgy conducted by Fr. Antony and following this we all got together in the hall for aghaby and fellowship with our brothers and sisters from Llandudno who welcomed us into their church with extraordinary warmth. Thankfully the weather had mercy on us and we were free to explore Llandudno for a few hours before heading back home. Who knew it would be so windy atop a mountain next to the sea?
With great joy, the Diocese announces the ordination of Dr. Rafat Saad to the rank of Deacon by the laying of hands of His Grace Bishop Missael; the elvation took place on Sunday 3rd April 2016 at the Church of St. Mary & St. Mina in Manchester.
His Grace also awarded the members of the St. Mary & St. Mina's CONAFA 2016 squad and officially crowned the team as champions, handing the winners the tournament trophy.
We thank His Grace Bishop Missael and ask the Lord to keep him in widening and nurturing the diocese with the appointment of new servants and the continued growth of its ministries for many years to come. Congratulations to the Church of St. Mary & St. Mina.
2016 saw the third annual CONAFA tournament take place in Nottingham. Teams had prepared and were ready to go; with a total of 11 teams, and with God's grace, it promised to be a great tournament.
Unfortunately, the Republic of Ireland were unable to make the tournament this year, however – we were thrilled to welcome debutants St. Mary & St. George, East London.
As per usual, the tournament kicked off early on Saturday morning with a group prayer and photo; shortly followed by kick-off; with the favourites and previous 2015 winners Brighton looking particularly strong. That said, each team showed a fantastic level of teamwork and effort as the day went on.
As the group matches progressed, it became more and more apparent who would make the knockout stages, in this case, St. Mary & St Mina, Manchester and St. Mary & Archangel Michael, Golders Green from group A, and St Antony, Rotherham, and St. Mary & St. Abraam, Brighton from group B.
Sunday morning arrived, which was undoubtedly the highlight of the weekend; the liturgy. Everyone gathered together in fellowship, in Christ's name to pray together and thank God for the weekend so far.
Before we knew it, it was the semi-finals; in one match Golders Green vs Brighton, and in the other match an all-northern affair with Rotherham vs Manchester. Both games were decided with a single goal, going in the favour of Manchester and Brighton. The final had great expectations, and rightly so – a thrilling encounter of 2 extremely determined and talented teams. The encounter was so close that the deciding goal came only a few minutes before the final whistle, in the favour of underdogs Manchester!
The final whistle blew, and the CONAFA tournament was coming to an end. Three different winners in as many years can only suggest an extremely high and competitive level, which was certainly shown by all participating players and teams this year.
The CONAFA board would like to thank all those who made the effort to come to Nottingham, in particular the team captains and representatives; had it not been for all of you, the tournament would not have happened.
On the weekend of the 18th of December we had our first Coptic hymns conference with Mr George Kyrillos as the main speaker. Needless to say that I was looking forward to it as it would be a great opportunity to learn about the hymns of the church, our Coptic hymns.
On Friday we had a crash course on musical notation and Copticalphabet to bring us up to scratch to be able to learn the hymns. By Friday evening I now know the difference between a minim and a quaver, but although my Coptic vastly improved I have yet to master the letters with multiple sounds (). With the basics done we started our first of seven hymns Osperin.
Before any hymns we had workshops to dissect the five aspects of each hymn, or their dimensions. The dimensions covered the doctrine, historical, ritual, spiritual and musical facet of each hymn. This gave us a greater understanding to fully appreciate each hymn, especially why it was sung in that specific tune, and when it was said during the Divine Liturgy.
Saturday was our full day for hymns and by the end we had covered a further four. The conference carried on after the Divine Liturgy on Sunday at the centre, so we had another surge of people joining us for the remaining three Hymns. Over the two days we had covered Epshios Efnoti, Owniyato, Onof Emoo Maria, Amin Ton Thanaton, and finally Eparthenos. In between, there was a sketch to entertain us and a treasure hunt culminating with lunch in the hall. A worthy prize for our toils.
Finally on Monday the beautiful weekend conference was rounded to a close with a concert preforming the greatest hits from the weekend by our very own youth. It was a lovely concert that showcased the excellent talent and hard work of our performers. It left the multitude who attended amazed to the wonderful treasure we have in our Coptic church, yearning for more.
We pray that is the start of a long running series at our church leaning about our Coptic hymns. We thank Mr George Kyrillos and his wife Dr Maha Fawzy for a great conference and we are eagerly looking forward to another one.
The recordings of the talks, hymns, concert and sketch are available along with the photos on the diocese website.