Kate King – 17/6/13
STAMFORD — The St. Peter & St. Andrew Coptic Orthodox congregation doesn’t have a church of its own yet, but its parishioners are already part of Glenbrook.
Father Andrew Awad established the church last year and is focused on introducing the congregation to Stamford. The congregation, which rents worship space from the Zion Lutheran Church on Glenbrook Road, celebrated Egyptian culture and the Orthodox faith Saturday with authentic food, imported souvenirs and traditional music.
“We focus on worship; we focus on the love of God and also serve our neighbors,” Awad said. “We have a lot of community service ideas to help the Stamford and Glenbrook communities.”
Awad, who moved to the United States from Egypt in 1990 and was ordained five years ago, began looking for a place to worship in Stamford three years ago. He found it at the Greek Orthodox Church of the Archangels on Bedford Street, where Father Harry Pappas invited them to perform the Coptic liturgy on Wednesday evenings.
“I called some of the churches in town and the only priest who replied back was Father Harry,” Awad said. “We started with two or three Egyptian families and then people found out about it and started attending.”
The church, which has since grown to about 20, mostly second-generation Egyptian families, chose to name itself after St. Peter, an outspoken and outgoing figure in the gospel, and St. Andrew, who is described as a deeply devoted but quieter apostle. The congregation has a handmade Egyptian alter cover depicting both saints, which Awad drapes over the Lutheran alter for Friday and Saturday night services.
“We chose the name of Saint Peter and Saint Andrew because it shows brotherhood, love, unity and service,” Awad said. “God can accept both types of people.”
Watertown resident Mike Guirguis drove down for Saturday’s festival to support the new Coptic congregation. He attends services both in Stamford and Hamden at the St. Mary & Archangel Michael Coptic Church.
“We are trying to keep our culture going,” said Guirguis, who immigrated to Connecticut from Egypt in 1982. “I’m trying to teach my two sons, who were born here, the traditions. This way we keep the faith.”
Rev. Harvey Weitzel, the presiding minster at Zion Lutheran Church, said he has enjoyed learning about the Coptic Orthodox faith since the St. Peter & Saint Andrew congregation began worshipping on Glenbrook Road a year ago.
“We’re hopefully moving toward finding mutual ministries that we can do together,” Weitzel said. “Zion Lutheran is a small congregation but we have a big building so we’re looking to share it with the community.”
St. Peter & St. Andrew would eventually like to have its own small church, Awad said. That way the congregation can hold more services and permanently display their traditional icons and relics, he said.
“We’re trying to open up to the community and hopefully soon — maybe in a year or two — we can open our own space,” he said. “The word Coptic means Egyptian. As Christians we are very proud of this name and we take it everywhere we go. Keeping the tradition from generation to generation — you’re preserving the history and the faith.”
Kate.King@scni.com; 203-964-2263; http://twitter.com/kcarliniking