St. Shenouda the Archimandrite Coptic Society

Society Progress 1993-4

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General: The new Coptic Center has been in operation for nearly a year. Since its opening, about 120 visitors has passed through its doors. Its visitors came from all over the United States, Canada, and Egypt. They were Coptic Bishops and priests, members of the Society and the community, and youth seeking to know about their heritage as well as scholars in Coptic and other related fields. Everyone interested to sample or dig deep in the Coptic Heritage that never died, is welcome to come. The hours when visitors are welcome are weekdays from 6-9 p.m. and any time during the weekends. Because of staff limitation, we urge you to call ahead before coming so we can be ready. The telephone number is (310) 558-3973 or (310) 271-8329, or fax your message on (310) 5581863. The street address is 1494 So. Robertson Blvd., Suite 204, LA, CA 90035.

Open House: On December 4, 1993; the Society held an open house to celebrate the formal opening of its new Coptic Center. This followed the celebration of the liturgy in Coptic in the neighboring Coptic Church of St. Mark. Nearly 50 people came through the door from as far as Bakersfield. There, they got the opportunity to see the facilities and the type of work being done. They also were treated to an exhibition of the activities, the collections, and the educational material related to our work in reviving and promoting the Coptic Heritage. Mrs. Nawal Monir, the editor of the Arabic Language Newspaper Al-Safaa, in Los Angeles, has most kindly conducted an extensive interview with the Director and some of the visitors and students of the Center. The interview revolved around the Society's effort to promote the Coptic Language as an indispensable tool of the revival and promotion of the Coptic Heritage. A copy of that published interview is available in the Center. It is safe to say that a very positive impression was made on all that came in. Thanks are due to the many people that contributed their time and effort to prepare the place before and during the event.

The Great Los Angeles Earthquake of 1994: On the early morning hours of January 17, 1994, the Los Angeles area received quite a wake-up call. The area where the Center is located shook up extensively even though it was not very close to the epicenter of the quake. Through God's grace, we only sustained minimal damage. Only some of the books had damage to their binding, but nothing was of a permanent nature. A conference table did have to be replaced in the library because it was on the receiving end of the loads of books falling down with their heavy bookcases. Miraculously the computer equipment were barely moved.

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THE TRIP TO GREAT BRITAIN (9/16/94-10/2/94)

The account of this most successful trip is written in details in a separate publication enclosed herewith.

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The Society's monumental work in publishing the treasures that the Coptic Heritage possesses, has continued. We have expanded the scope that this series will cover to include literature written in Arabic for use in the Coptic Church such as Patristic, Hagiographic, and Liturgical texts. This would increase the number of volumes planned by over 50%. A preliminary report was published in commemoration of the Center's Open House on December 4, 1993.

Publication of works prepared is currently on hold. The reasons are both financial as well as logistic. In order to insure a low-cost price of distribution, at least 2,000 copies need to be printed. The distribution of such works as the Coptic Gospel of St. Matthew (200+ pages) would be difficult under these constraints. On the other hand, if we shy away from putting such material in print then we would not be faithful to our original goals. The goals that made us unique in this field and brought God's graces upon us repeatedly. So we are still thinking of a solution for this dilemma. At least we will try to have copies of these available to students and other interested patrons working in the Center.

Publication of the other works, originally translated from Coptic, by members of the advanced Coptic Seminar would probably be more successful to produce and distribute. This of course assumes that funds are available! These works however are not ready for proper publication yet. The reason is human-resource limitation. But, God's willing, it will accomplished in the near future. There are two texts already translated, in a preliminary way, by that group. The first is the 10th century Bohairic manuscript of the Martyrdom of St. Anoub, and the second is the unique 13th century Martyrdom of St. John of Phanidjoit (not recorded in the Coptic Synaxarium).

We are still continuing our work in reviewing the extensive material already prepared to insure its accuracy and prepare it for publication even on an internal basis only. But at least it will be available.

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This past year, we experimented with digitizing Coptic images, Art, Architecture, manuscripts, ...etc. We are doing this with the aid of a newly acquired, but no too expensive, full-page color scanner that we purchased this year. So far the results are experimental at best but encouraging. We are also working on developing applications for a stand-alone Coptic educational material and research tools. CD-Storage of Coptic Music as well as digitized image libraries are seriously under consideration. Funds and human resources are the limiting factors. We are still looking for brave young men and women to help us in inputting the vast number of Coptic and English texts that are needed for the work. All using IBM PC's are welcome.

In the upcoming year, the Society is looking into developing a network to better utilize the computers in the Center. Also efforts are being expended in developing a puzzle book for all ages that can be used for teaching the Coptic Language.

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During the past year the library grew by more than 20% to over 1,200 volumes of material in the different branches of Coptic Studies. We expanded the library in nearly every section of its more than 14 different sections. We are continuing the expansion and the development of the library to contain all the necessary references required by those who want to learn and/or to research the Coptic Heritage. The most notable additions were as follows:

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The greatest asset of the Society has been its Microfilm library, or more accurately its Microform library. It was formed as early as 1980 and has expanded ever since. The 600+ frames we received from the British Library in March of that year has grown to over 182,000. The only limiting factors for developing this collection further are financial constraints (limited funds, and low dollar value) and resistance of some libraries to recognize the legitimacy of our requests. We hope that such resistance will disappear in the future especially with regards to the German institutions. Access to the Russian collections is virtually impossible due to economic and political conditions there. But we were truly fortunate to obtain the book edited by Prof. Elanskaia on the Coptic collection in Moscow's Museum of Fine Arts. However the access to the Bohairic portion was not made any easier by such publication. We are hoping that the avenues of cooperation being opened with Prof. Samir in Lebanon and St. Mena Monastery in Maryut, Egypt will yield an excellent harvest in this upcoming year.

This past year we can probably call it the Bodleian Year. The reason for that is our extensive dealing with them, made possible by the all-helpful attitude of their representative Ms. Doris Nicholson. Aside from gaining access to bibliographic material of all that is there, we acquired a total of about 8,700 frames containing numerous Coptic (mostly) and Christian Arabic manuscripts. This along with the more than 3,500 frames of Christian Arabic manuscripts, 18 in total, obtained from the National Library of Paris, has made the year's growth very satisfactory. Currently we have on order material from Manchester, Oxford, Cambridge, and the Coptic Museum in Cairo (awaiting the forthcoming written permission from Dr. Gabra of the Museum).

The acquired microfilms are arranged as follows (Arabic=Ar):

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Classes at the Center: The Society successfully completed four 'Coptic I' classes during the year. A total of 15 students enrolled with ten of them successfully completing the 15-week course. A new session will start in late October of this year. The Advanced Coptic Seminar has completed the preliminary translation of the 13th century martyrdom of St. John of Phanidjoit and are currently working on a 10th century Homily of St. Theodosius of Alexandria on the Virgin Mary. A total of eight student are enrolled in this one. The Manuscripts workshop is continuing, slowly but surely, with about 4 students. The Society's president, Hany Takla, also taught the 2nd year Coptic Course in Pope Shenouda III Theological Seminary in Los Angeles during the second quarter of this year. A total of six students were enrolled there with one of them joining the Center's Advanced Coptic Seminar afterwards.

More Classes are being planned in Coptic History and Coptic Ecclesiastical Services. This will be, God's willing, the beginning of a complete curriculum of Coptic Studies that the Society is currently developing. More information will be forthcoming on that issue.

Classes at San Francisco: Fr. Matthaias Wahba, the priest of St. Antony Coptic Orthodox Church in Hayward (Northern California), has invited the president of the Society to conduct two introductory short courses on learning the Coptic Language for the community in San Francisco. This included lectures on the History of the Coptic Language and on the Patristic Golden Age of the Coptic Church from the late 3rd century to the middle of the 5th. The first one was held during the month of July with over 20 students in attendance, while the second, held in August, had between seven and ten students. The first was more of an introduction in the elements of reading as well as conversation. The second tended to explore deeper in understanding the written Coptic texts as used in the Coptic Church.

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During the past year the Society was kindly acknowledged in Dr. Emmel's monumental doctoral dissertation on the literary corpus of the writings of St. Shenouda Submitted to Yale University in 1993. Also one of its publications was used in its bibliography. This mention was prompted by the Society's modest assistance given to Dr. Emmel in furnishing him with some microfiche of research material to aid him in his work. We thank him first for the great work that he accomplished, and secondly for his kind mention. He also directed some of his students and colleagues to our Society to utilize our services.

One of those that learned about us through him was Dr. Scott Carroll, the Director of Research for the Scriptorium in Grand Haven, Michigan. He in turn came and visited the Center in mid August. We are looking forward to working together in some aspects of Coptic Studies common to both of our foundations. The Scriptorium is operated by a non-profit, conservative Christian foundation, dedicated to researching and authenticating the roots of Christianity and the Bible. They hold an extensive collection of manuscripts, many of them are Coptic. They are currently preparing for an archaelogical dig in Wadi 'n Natrun in Egypt in cooperation with Bishop Samuel of Shibin al-Qanater. They will be excavating the remains of the ancient monastery of St. John the Short. Dr. Carroll was invited by the Society to speak in St. Mary Coptic Church in Los Angeles on November 4, 1994, 7:30 p.m. He will also bring some of these Coptic Manuscripts with him. Mr. Ashraf Hanna, a staff member of the Society, was given the chance to visit the Scriptorium in Michigan in September. He was extremely impressed by their collection. May God's work prosper now and forever.

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Prepared by Hany N. Takla 4/18/96

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