Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States

A Letter From a Father to His Son

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The following is an actual letter from a father to his son who, along with his fiancé, are considering where to hold the wedding ceremony. The letter was slightly modified for publication.

Dear Son,

While chatting together yesterday after dinner you tactfully dropped in the conversation the subject of where you and Priscilla are considering to get married. I appreciate your candor that neither one of you have found a church yet where you "feel comfortable". I also appreciate your careful selection of the time and words, and your implied desire to get your mother's and my input about this issue. Being your Dad, friend and counselor I'm more than happy to give this input. Given the high degree of significance you both correctly attach to this point, I opted to write, rather than talk, and thus give you the opportunity to review this material at your leisure, more than once, and as needed. Of course I'm available any time you would like to discuss this write up, or any specific point in it, further.

The Issue

Where am I coming from? Where am I going? Why am I here? Why do I do what I do? What's the meaning of it all?

We face these questions, and more, at some point in time early on in life. We may decide to investigate and seek guidance to reach some understanding of these fundamental issues. Or we feel daunted by these questions and work as hard as we can to avoid them, shut them out, ignore them, and get busy with activities and stuff so we wouldn't have a moment left to face any of them.

We may succeed for some time, but sooner or later we have to come to terms with them.

Therefore, sooner or later the same destination is reached: Investigate & Study; the only difference is "when". Facing these questions early on, allows us a lifetime of learning and growth, without running away and avoiding the issues. Late resolutions run the risk of getting to see the light and regret all the time wasted earlier in the dark; or worse yet ending our physical lives without getting to see at all.

Either way, when we come face to face with these issues, we find that the only players are: The Creator of the universe and man (myself, yourself, all of us individually). The Holy Bible represents our main reference. The Church is the body of believers we surround ourselves with throughout our journey of learning and growth. Fellowship tends to be more than just companionship as it extends into observing, studying, learning, exchanging, practicing, touching and being touched. Since we make up the church, churches tend to have their own weaknesses that come only from our own human weaknesses. However, this weakness does not take away from our relationship with Him, because in Him our weakness becomes strength. As St. Paul says: "My grace is all you need; power comes to its full strength in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9). (i.e. this is not just my opinion!)

Therefore the issue being faced today is: What course of action have you assumed, knowingly or unknowingly, when faced with the questions we started with here? How are you going to pursue your relationship with Him, if any? Where is He in your wedding plans? Is He invited? How?


Why is this important? I cannot articulate an answer that gets even close to what the Holy Bible says:

"What will a man gain by winning the whole world, at the cost of his true self? Or what can he give that will buy that self back?" (Matthew 16:26; Mark 8:36; Luke 9:25). (Again, this is not just a matter of my opinion!)


There is a union about to take place between two separate individuals, you and Priscilla, and the right environment is needed to nurture and secure this union. Unless God is in the center of this union, it will all be in vain to pursue it. Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain that build it (Psalms 127:1).

This union allows each of you to grow and develop individually, as a united couple, and as a family.

The church provides the environment for this union to grow and develop.

The church also provides the environment for your children to grow and develop comfortably.

Why Not Non-Denominational?

Deciding on a non-denominational church to celebrate the birth of this union, as the "neutral grounds with the least complications", suggests an easy and quick way out. Again, it is another form of running away. The connotation sounds like: "We would like to marry before God but we have no interest in pursuing a serious relationship with Him at this time. May be later when we have time and feel like it."

The relationship with the non-denominational church will probably last the duration of the wedding ceremony only, with little chance of continuation.

The wedding ceremony tends to be more of a social, than spiritual, event which is truly what the ceremony is intended to be in the first place.

Why Coptic Church?

Historically, after Jesus' resurrection and ascension, there was only one church, i.e. the group of believers. At some point, and due to what is believed to be political reasons, the Roman Catholic Church was started and separated itself from the original mother church. Again, later on Martin Luther, a Roman Catholic monk and theologian, nailed his famous 95 points of objection on the door of the Catholic Church and thus gave birth to the reformation and different branches of Protestantism. Recently, the non-denomination church was created, in my humble opinion, in a desperate reaction to all this haggling. Throughout this history the Orthodox Church continued unchanged to this day. The point here is: while all other churches were created in response to some "human factors" the Orthodox Church remained unchanged since the beginning. Indeed that is the definition of the word orthodox.

Knowing God your Father starts with your spirit, and reaches logical and physical manifestations afterwards. It certainly does not start with logic and reason; otherwise there will be no need for faith. The Coptic Church is primarily a spiritual church, and all the rest is secondary.

This is the church where you were baptized, i.e. where you received the Holy Spirit and born Christian. As you know, baptism is only one of the holy sacraments of the church, along with the sacrament of matrimony that you are about to enter into.

While the Coptic Church has been known as an ethnic church, much like the Greek or Russian Orthodox Church, major strides have been made over the past few decades to become a global church. It is now up to us, you included, to maintain and play a major role in this expanding posture.

If you have not found a church where you feel "comfortable", why preclude the Coptic Church, that you already are part of, from your consideration? Keep in mind that studying and exploring many churches takes considerable time, effort and require dedication.

When you get married outside the Coptic Orthodox church you will not be able to receive communion at the Coptic Orthodox church any longer.

Other ramifications, which I would suggest checking out with the Church clergy include: being unable to have your children baptized in the Church, and burial rituals.

Why denounce your church, and shut yourself out, without knowing where you are going first? Isn't it better to explore right from where you are, and then decide when you see well? I understand where you are, know what you are going through since I have been there before, and will be happy to share my experience when asked.

The objective of writing you, and Priscilla through you, is to help turn as much light as I possibly can on this fundamental topic, and help you both make an informed and wise decision. It is primarily to bring your relationship with your heavenly Father to the forefront, and secondarily to point you to the Coptic Church as a provider of the nourishing environment that helps develop this relationship. This is an issue that deserves your utmost consideration in a long and very thoughtful fashion.


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