by Paul Bowers
St. Michael's Church will host His Grace Bishop Youssefan, Coptic Orthodox bishop of the Southern United States, in an Evensong for the Persecuted Church on Wed. Oct. 29.
The service is being held in support of persecuted Christians in Middle Eastern countries including Iraq, Syria, and Egypt, and it will include elements of worship services from several ancient Christian sects. According to Matthew Wilkinson, interim organist and choirmaster at St. Michael's, one of the songs will be "Sirt Im Sasani," an Armenian Apostolic Orthodox hymn that translates, "My heart trembles; I am terrified for the destruction of Judah." Another song will be the Phos Hilaron, an ancient Greek hymn that Wilkinson says will "hopefully remind us of the Greek Antiochans and the Greek Melchites," two prominent Christian churches in Syria.
Youssefan will sing a Coptic thanksgiving prayer and will also deliver a 20-minute homily. After the service, he will hold a question-and-answer session.
Wilkinson says he had been thinking about holding a service featuring Middle Eastern hymns since he heard reports of persecution following the Arab Spring that began in late 2010. As reports of executions and forced conversions began trickling out of parts of Iraq and Syria under ISIS control this year, he says the rector of St. Michael's, Al Zadig, encouraged him to organize the service.
"He pushed me ahead in saying, 'If there's ever a time to do it, now is the time to do it,'" Wilkinson says.
The service will take place on Wed. Oct. 29 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at St. Michael's Church (71 Broad St.). An offering will be collected with all funds going to the Anglican Relief and Development Fund and a relief fund managed by the Coptic Orthodox Church.