A surprise ending Much to my surprise, I recently discovered that I am a parapro...
A sister church in Egypt
Two weeks ago Fakhri Yacoub, Brian Stewart, my wife, Sarah, and I, had the privilege of representing ECO at the 150th anniversary of the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo. That was the event which occasioned our going, but our agenda was much broader—to build relationships with Presbyterians in one of the three nations ECO has selected for our global focus. More on that below, but first, some surprising “who knew?!” discoveries from our trip:
- There is a mega-church just one block off Tahrir Square (the famous scene of the revolutionary demonstrations), and it is Presbyterian! Several thousand people worship at the Kasr El Dobara Evangelical Church each Sunday, and many of them are seekers.
- The Egyptian Bible Society has a wide reaching network of stores and ministries that provide the scriptures and study materials across Egypt. Several of their stores were burned during the recent revolutions, but they are still going strong, and are supported by Coptic Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant Churches!
- The Evangelical Presbyterian Church is the biggest Protestant denomination, and it is thriving! Our ECO Essential Tenets track very closely with their commitments.
- The Egyptian Presbyterians also match (and far outdo!) our commitment to planting new churches. They have planted 22 churches in the last ten years in the Cairo Presbytery alone!
- They are especially intent on planting churches now, for in a true Romans 8:28 manner, the recent dual revolutions brought not only persecution and struggles, but also the broadest governmental permission to build church buildings that they’ve had in many years. So as we say in the West, “they’re making hay while the sun shines.”
Rev. Refat Fathy, the General Secretary of the Synod of the Nile, presenting a plaque to the Moderator and the Stated Clerk of our Presbytery, Brian Stewart and Sarah Hill
Building relationships across the globe
Through meetings with various leaders of the Synod of the Nile, we took some initial steps to link our two denominations. Since Fakhri Yacoub hails from Egypt, he knew how to connect us with all sorts of Presbyterian leaders. The wheels of denominational partnerships turn slowly, and it may be a year or two until such a connection is formalized, but the wheels have begun to turn.
What need not wait is sister church relationships with particular ECO and Egyptian congregations. We were richly blessed to establish such a relationship for our congregation, St. Giles of Richmond, VA, with the El Talbiya Evangelical Church of Giza (that’s the Cairo suburb near the pyramids).
Sarah and I were privileged to lodge with Pastor Abdelmassih Tadros and his family, and to worship twice with their church. We came home, renewed in our faith and commitment, simply from keeping company with these dynamic believers. And we’re trading ideas with Pastor Abdelmassih about how we can build this sister church relationship—things like establishing a group Facebook page for our churches, partnering with them as they finish their building construction, sending a medical team, welcoming their visits to our congregation, and learning from their long experience in being faithful in a tough setting—something increasingly important for Christians in America.
Who knew St. Giles had a sister church two miles from the pyramids just waiting to be discovered?! We know Who knew. He’s also the One who has much more in store for ECO and the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Egypt!