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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Clerical Vestments and Evangelism!

About one month ago I was with a friend purchasing some coffee from Starbucks. It was a few days before Halloween. As we were waiting patiently in line an Indian gentleman behind me looked at me and said, "Holy Halloween!" Immediately I understood that he thought that I was in a costume preparing for some Halloween festivity that evening!  I then began to explain to him that I am not preparing for Halloween but in fact that I am a Christian clergyman and that I belong to one of the oldest Christian Churches in the world - The Coptic Orthodox Church. He then said, "Oh, aren't you the people that worship Haile Selassie?" He was alluding to the "Rastafari Movement" which is a cult that use cannabis as part of their so-called religious practices. They also worship Haile Selassie as God incarnate.

I continued to explain to this gentleman that the group he was referring to is a cult that began in Jamaica in the 1930's and we had nothing whatsoever to do with them. We are a Christian Orthodox Church who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Saviour. At this stage I politely suggested that when he has sometime he should Google Coptic Orthodox Church and find out a little more about who we are and what we believe in. We greeted each other and we left.

This morning I was getting my coffee at Starbucks. As I was about to receive my order, to my surprise, the same Indian fellow was standing behind me! After the pleasantries he said, "I looked you up on Google! You are an ancient Church!" I said I am glad that you found out who we truly are. He asked some more about the vestments and their history to which I replied mentioning that it is an ancient tradition handed down from generation to generation. Then he asked me if I was married and I said that bishops and monks do not marry. He then said, "You are missing out on a great thing." I smiled and thought to myself, "well, he is missing out on a greater thing and that is faith in Jesus Christ. As for me, this is an honour and blessing for my life that I do not deserve to serve God's faithful people."

Then I continued to wonder as I walked back to the car, "Will this man one day come to know Jesus Christ? Who knows? Perhaps, but certainly the interest has been initiated through our two encounters."

Many churches today have changed their position concerning their clergy wearing clerical vestments in public and I believe that this is unfortunate. The moral of this real life situation is that if I were not wearing my priestly vestments such a discussion on faith would not have been initiated. It is a type of evangelism in itself and these vestments draw people with inquisitive minds to want to know who you are and what do you belong to and for some such as this Indian fellow may go home and explore the Christian Orthodox world and who knows some day it may bring forth fruit, some thirty, some sixty and some, one hundred fold!


  1. I agree with you Sayedna, when I speak about Coptic Orthodox religion in my place of work, they think am not part of the Christianity especially when they hold the mass for the students during Christmas season and I don't get the catholic communion explaining that am Coptic.. they think am coming from another planet and they refer to it as "your religion" though we worship the same God.

  2. Your Eminence,
    Full deacons, priests and bishops should be dressed in their clerical vestments when going about normal everyday tasks, and be proud to say that they are Coptic Orthodox Christians. At times I get asked what religion I am as I have the Coptic cross on both hands (between the thumb and forefinger) so I say I am a member of the Coptic Orthodox Church, they generally reply Oh you are catholic, I reply NO I am Oriental Orthodox and we have been in disagreement with the church of Rome since 451 AD and that church broke away from Orthodoxy.
    Your Humble servant
    James - Antony Kelly