Interfaith Encounters Day 2

Turning the clocks forward one hour did not help…we had to get up EARLY. But it ended up being well worth it.

We began our second day in Newark, Delaware at St. Mary Coptic Orthodox Church.


St. Mary Coptic Orthodox Church Of Delaware was started by 5 immigrant families in the State of Delaware in 1978, in a small room they rented from a Lutheran Church in Wilmington. Now they have their own building and a large congregation that gathers for worship, education, and fellowship.

There is so much to say about the Coptic tradition and Christianity in Egypt. I suggest you read about some history here. Also, this is a good resource as well.

Copts believe that their faith traditions go back nearly 2,000 years. The term “Coptic” is derived from the Greek “Aigyptos” meaning “Egyptian”. When the Arabs arrived in Egypt in the seventh century, they called the Egyptians “qibt”. Thus the Arabic word “qibt” came to mean both “Egyptians” and “Christians”.

crossWe also had a really nice conversation with a gentleman originally from Alexandria, Egypt but now a New Yorker [Brooklyn]. He shared with us that the word Coptic is often used to refer to all Egyptian Christians–not just members of the Coptic Orthodox Church. He, as a Copt, also does not differentiate between types of Christians and considers Protestantism, Roman Catholicism, etc. to be different expressions of the scriptures, diverse histories, and varying calendars. He noted that many people in the U.S. get confused and simply ought to remember that Copts are Christians.

Coptic services take place in the very ancient Coptic language (which is based on the language used in the time of the Pharaohs), together with local languages [in this case, Arabic and English]. The liturgy and hymns remain similar to those of the early Church from centuries ago.

Our view of the Coptic language, Arabic, and English for the prayers and scriptures.


A prayer book for the divine liturgy.


Overall, the Church is very ecumenical [inclusive] in its outlook; it was a founding member of the World Council of Churches in 1948.

Here are some images from our experience of the divine liturgy:


Father Mina showering us with water.


Looping processional [counter-clockwise to show that time has no limitations while worshiping.


Baptism, Confirmation, and First Communion for this little boy–all in one moment!

fathermina baptism baptism2 baby

I was absolutely floored by the amount of singing throughout the liturgy.
Every word of scripture and prayer was set to melody.
Also, leadership was shared by children, youth, and adults.

After the worship service, we joined members of their community for a meal and much conversation.



What great hospitality they showed us. There was so much to absorb and learn!

DAY 2, Part II: Philadelphia Sikh Society, Upper Darby


We next headed to Upper Darby to visit the Sikh Gurdwara. There are over 20 million Sikhs around the world today. Sikhism began over 500 years ago in the Punjab area of South Asia, which now includes the vast territories of Northern India and eastern Pakistan. Guru Nanak, born in 1469, founded the Sikh religion on the  principles of love and understanding and rejection of blind rituals. Sikhism is about devotion to and remembrance of God at all times in life–behaving truthfully, embracing the equality of humankind, standing for social justice, and cooperating with people of all faiths.

As with any religious tradition, there is no way to adequately delve into all the nuances of Sikhism. Once again, I encourage you to read on your own or visit a Gurdwara to learn more.

Upon entering the Gurdwara, we were warmly greeted by a member of the community and friend of the Interfaith Center, Sharan Mehta. She gave a brief orientation to the students and helped us with head scarves.


Inside the prayer space, music and singing filled the air.


After the prayers finished, we were invited into the kitchen space to partake of langar.


Langar is a community meal that Sikhs offer to all people, free of charge.
It is an expression of equality, as all people sit together on the floor and enjoy the food as one communal experience.





After langar, we returned to the prayer space to learn more about Sikhism from the prayer leader and other members of their community.


The students asked really good questions!

Once again, how hospitable were our hosts at the Gurdwara! So grateful for this experience.

Time to get some rest, because tomorrow we begin our service-learning at SHARE.

See you tomorrow!

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Josh grew up in Indiana and Iowa before completing a Masters of Divinity [M.Div.] at Princeton Theological Seminary [NJ]. He has worked in a variety of settings, including the Presbyterian Church (USA) and United Church of Christ (UCC) in Philadelphia, Hawai’i, Mexico, and Michigan. Currently, he serves as pastor of Love in Action United Church of Christ, a progressive, Christian, LGBTQIA+ affirming and interfaith community in Hatboro, a suburb of Philadelphia. He also holds a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre/Speech from Northwestern College (IA). Josh has worked with youth and young adult programs for 25 years regionally, nationally, and in Latin America. He is also a trained actor and performs regularly with the dinner theatre company, Without a Cue Productions, LLC. He has developed theatre arts curriculum for use in worship, youth groups, education, and group-building. Josh is also committed to promoting religious pluralism and partnering with people of all faiths and those who identify as atheist or agnostic to build bridges of shared values and cooperation. He is honored to work with the Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia as a Fellow and a Consultant. Focus areas include: University alternative spring break and summer programs that incorporate faith encounters and service-learning for students; workplace diversity programs that promote understanding in organizations, corporations, schools, and hospital settings. Josh also enjoys playing basketball, strumming on the guitar, traveling, learning language, or making strange and funny faces. He lives in Center City Philadelphia and thinks vegan cheesesteaks are amazingly good.

3 thoughts on “Interfaith Encounters Day 2

  1. Enjoyed reading and hearing in church today your experience of Saint Mary Coptic Orthodox Church. A book I recently finished, Healing the Divide, talks about Christian Mysticism and traces it’s roots to Egypt.

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