The Alexandria Church on Georgia Avenue is the most venerable old church in all of D.C. It was built in 1886 and is known for its beautiful architecture, wonderful organ music, and worship. The Cathedral was built by Greek immigrants who made a successful living building it. The Greek Orthodox Archons is still in charge of making sure the Cathedral is always clean and well-maintained. Every year, they host a “White Night” party to help alleviate the suffering of many homeless families in the area.
This particular church is also home to an interesting fellowship group called the Alexandria Faithful. They meet every Friday night at 7:00 p.m. for an experience that is unique only to this part of D.C. A visit with this group can give Christians an insight into the true character of Egyptians, and their faith in the future of Egypt. It is also believed that members of the Faithful may be able to sense where the barriers to freedom lie in Egypt and how they were able to move and build from such backgrounds.
On top of all the activities, the Alexandria Church also offers tours of the famous monuments in Egypt. Each Friday the group heads out for a fifteen-minute tour of the various sites. This allows church goers an opportunity to experience history in the greatest way possible. The church is also fortunate to have a number of public speakers available to speak to the crowd, as well as to encourage individuals to take advantage of the opportunities that exist with the free Bible.
On a recent visit, I observed three young men listening to the lecture given by Father Hesdin before the weekly worship services. One of the younger men was not familiar with the opening of the service, but after listening he came up to the front to get a closer look. After several moments, he stood and asked, “Can you tell us more about the bible?” To which Father Hesdin responded, “I’ll try”. A short while later, the young man returned to the front to share his newly found knowledge.
There are many churches in Egypt, the most prominent being the Alexandria Cathedral, which is built of marble and sits on a prominent spot in the city. To the side of the cathedral is the main entrance to the metropolitan area known as the metro. It is this location that has allowed for an influx of tourists, pilgrims, and visitors, both Christian and non-Christian alike. This continual flow of people has made it a hub for people of all walks of life and thus the Cathedral is considered a major cultural center of the country.
Up until recently the archdiocese of Alexandria was led by a single bishop, who ruled over a large territory. Under this arrangement, the spiritual lives of many Egyptian Christians were largely neglected. The current archbishop of Alexandria is elected by the Bishops’ Conference, and he presides over a territory the size of Western Europe. Under this arrangement there has been a renewal of interest in the lives of Christians in Egypt. Many doctors have opened their clinics in the cathedral, and more Christians are also starting to attend the Sunday Services.
Alexandria is home to the largest Greek Orthodox community in Egypt and thus the Bishop of Alexandria has wide jurisdiction over the entire territory of Egypt including Alexandria and its suburbs. However, Egypt is not a primarily Orthodox country and there are large Christian communities in various places such as Quseir, Hurghada, Fustat, and other areas. Cairo is the main city in the country therefore it has always had the patronage of Catholic bishops and is the seat of the highest office of the Coptic Orthodox Church. The Coptic Church is also the largest church in the world. Cairo has seen a rapid growth in tourism and foreign investment in the past decade and so has become a thriving metropolis with a great deal of development happening both in terms of the economic front and the spiritual one.
Alexandria is also the administrative headquarters of the Coptic Orthodox Archdiocese of Egypt. It is the centre of the whole Coptic religious life in Egypt and is also where most Coptic churches and convents are located. The archdiocese of Egypt also has its consulate in the United States, which has a consular staff who is responsible for dealing with American citizens who become Egyptian citizens. A visit to this part of Egypt is therefore a must if one is visiting Cairo, or even for a short stay in Egypt. A visit to the Cairo Museum and the Egyptian Museum is also highly recommended.