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Our History

 A seed is Planted

The beginning of the Coptic Orthodox Church congregation in Michigan

Church

The History of the Copts in the State of Michigan dates back to the early 1960's when a small community developed, consisting mostly of young couples and university students. The first liturgy was performed in the fall of 1964, when His Grace the late Bishop Samuel came to Michigan while he was in the United States attending the World Council of Churches Meeting in New York, New York. The Liturgy was held at the home of Dr. Fathy Farid Isaac, in Northville, Michigan. In the summer of 1965, another liturgy was performed along with the first baptism in Michigan. Both of these sacraments were performed by Fr. Markos Elias, who had traveled from Toronto, Ontario, Canada, The services were held at st. John Syrian Orthodox Church on the East Side of Detroit. The only deacon present was the late Dr. Ernest Abdel-Messih, who was a doctorate student at the University of Michigan at that time. The services were followed by an Agape meal.

 

From 1965 to 1968, there were services conducted in private homes by Fr. Markos Elias from Toronto, Canada. Starting in 1968, the Coptic community in Southeastem Michigan began to increase. In the summer of 1968, the first wedding along with a baptism, and a liturgy were held at st. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church on Six Mile and Woodward in the City of Detroit. The services were performed by Fr. Roufail Younan from Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

On October 14, 1970, st. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church was officially registered with the State of Michigan. During the next five years,services were held almost on a monthly basis at various locations including, St. Peter and Paul Syrian Orthodox Church in Southfield, st.George Antiochian Orthodox Church located at I-75 and Grand Blvd. in Detroit, and St. James Lutheran Church, located at 5 Mile Road and Southfield Rd, in the City of Detroit. The services were normally performed by Fr. Markos Elias, from Toronto,or Fr. Markos Bishay from Chicago. The services were held on Sunday af'tenoon or Saturday mornings, depending on the availability of the clergy or of the  location.Our community was young and growing and constantly praying to the Lord to send us a dedicated Priest to be able to have our own Sunday Services.

In the early 1970's the community started fundraising activities to raise money for the establishment of the Coptic Church in Southeastem Michigan. The biggest fundraising activities were the chartered flight to Egypt in 1973 and 1976, and the participation of the community in the annual ethnic festivals in Hart Plaza in downtown Detroit.

A budding Congregation

Dedicated Clergy

The recognition of our community by the Pope

In January of 1976, FL Mikhael Melika was assigned by His Holiness Pope Shenouda to serve St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church.Regular Sunday Services were held on Sunday af'temoons at st. James Lutheran Church in Detroit. Dilling this time there was a great discussion within the growing congregation as to future facilities for  the community with a division between pur chasing an existing building or pur chasing vacant property and building a new Coptic Church, In the fall of 1976, during a meeting of the entire congregation,Dr. Naim Henien gave a very memorable speech in support of purchasing vacant land and building a new Church, In March of 1977 after a long period of searching for property by Fr. Melika, the Church purchased two adjacent parcels on Livernois Ave, totaling 9+ acres in the City of Troy for a total purchase price of $37,000.00 or nearly all of the cash reserves of the Church at that time. On May 11, 1977,His Holiness Pope Shenouda came to visit the congregation in Michigan and laid the foundation stone for the St. Mark Church.

A Blooming Congregation

A permanent home is built

It was also at this time that Fr. Michael Melika returned to Cairo and His Holiness assigned Fr. Roufail S. Michail to serve the congregation in Michigan. On September 24, 1977, Fr. Roufail and his family arrived in Michigan. During the next year and a halt: the community continued to conduct services in various places including St. James Lutheran Church in Detroit, St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church also in Detroit, the Knights of Columbus Hall on Livemois in the City of Clawson, the School Cafeteria of the old Troy High School on Livernois and Big Beaver, and in the private residence of Fr. Roufail, where mid-week liturgies and some Holy Week services were held.

In the summer of 1978, the construction of the new church began. On the first day, many members of the community came with chain saws, axes, and other tools to start the process of clearing the property from trees. There were many obstacles and challenges during the construction period, but the hand of the Lord guided Fr. Roufail and the rest of the congregation.

A Congregation Flourishes

The First Liturgy at St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church - May 8, 1979

In the spring of 1979, the congregation was using the cafeteria at the Old Troy High School at the comer of Big Beaver and Livernois(approx 1/2 mile away from the church property) for its services. Thus, on the morning of Sunday May 8, 1979, Fr. Roufail arrived early at the school to prepare for the Sunday services only to find that the school janitor had forgotten to unlock the doors. As Fr. Roufail attempted to call the school administrators, it became apparent that the services would not be held at the school. As the congregation began to gather outside, Fr. Roufail instructed the congregation to proceed to the unfinished church building 1/2 mile away. The sanctuary was still under construction and contained a lot of construction equipment and debris. The congregation set up the hall of the church for the services. The center island of the kitchen was moved to the hall to be used as the altar and boxes of ceiling tiles still in their packaging were used as chairs for those that could not stand during the entire service. On May 8, 1979, on the day of the Feast of st. Mark, in an unfinished dusty hall without a certificate of occupancy, the congregation of St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church celebrated the liturgy and rejoiced in finally getting a home. At the end of the liturgy, Fr. Roufail asked the congregation if they wanted to come back to the dusty unfinished church or to go back to using facilities at the old Troy High School. The congregation was unanimous, with the attitude of "we would rather be uncomfortable and in our own dusty home, than comfortable in someone else's house." Fr. Roufail asked the congregation to wait for 3 weeks for the completion of the sanctuary. Three weeks later, the first liturgy was performed in the partially finished sanctuary of the church, In June of 1981, His Holiness sent His Grace Bishop Tadros and His Grace Bishop Antonious Markos to consecrate the new sanctuary.

 

With the growing English speaking congregation, the need for an English liturgy book became urgent. Dr.Ernest Abdel-Messih along with Fr. Michael Melika translated and transliterated the st. Basil liturgy, This book was in such high demand by almost all Coptic congregations in North America, Australia, and Europe that it became known as the famous "brown book". It was revised by Fr. Roufail in the mid 1980's.

In the Early 1980's, the Church experienced more growth as additional families continued to immigrate to the United States. The original Church building had no facilities to accommodate the growing Sunday school services and the social hall could not accommodate the growing community. During the early years, Sunday school classes were held in the library, the office, the crying room, the baptism room, in a school bus parked outside, or in any place that was available. In late 1984, the church started construction of an addition that would include a new larger social hall with a basement to be used for Sunday school purposes. When finished, in the summer of 1985, the community had a social hall that was more than twice the size of the previous hall and had 9 rooms for Sunday school classes with the possibility for additional 2-3 rooms.

Having expanded the social and Sunday school facilities in the mid-1980's, the church looked to expand the sanctuary in 1989. Numerous engineering studies were explored to analyze the possibility of expanding the sanctuary from the sides and/or the back to expand the nave of the church, However, due to the octagonal design of the church, the limitations of the church property, and the location of the mechanical room near the back of the sanctuary, it was determined that any expansion of the sanctuary could only be made in the front of the church, In the spring of 1989, the church started construction of an addition that would expand the altar area, expand the choir area, and create two communion rooms as the previous communion rooms were extremely small. The construction began on Sunday aftemoon, May 14, 1989, when members of the community gathered after the liturgy to start demolishing the previous altar area. In the fall of 1989, new altars and the communion rooms were completed in time for the second visit of His Holiness Pope Shenouda III to Michigan in September 1989.

Due to the increasing demand for services, Fr. Roufail asked His Holiness for a second priest to be ordained for the congregation, His Holiness asked the congregation to nominate members of the congregation, The congregation nominated Mr. Kamal Essak who was approved by His Holiness. Fr. Mina Essak was ordained on November 15, 1991 at St. Bishoy Monastery in Egypt.

A Congregation Spreads

Planning for the new building

Starting in the Early 1990's, the Church started planning for the additional expansion of the facilities at St. Mark to meet the continued growth of the community in Michigan. The congregation was surveyed regarding their preference whether to utilize the remaining acreage for an expanded facility or to consider a different location for a second Church, After many general assemblies, it was agreed upon to proceed with developing the remaining acreage to include a sanctuary, Sunday school classes, social hall, and recreational facilities. During his papal visit in October of 1994, His Holiness Pope Shenouda III came to Michigan to consecrate the new side altar at St. Mark's and to lay the foundation for the new compound.

Beginning in late 1996 and early 1997, a building committee was formed to interview local architects for the project. The church invited a Coptic architect from Egypt, the late Mr. Moufid El-Safi to work with the local architect in designing a Church that would have the traditional authentic Coptic features. In early 1997, the building conunittee selected a local architectural firm, Constantine George Pappas, AIA, to work with the Coptic Architect on the design. After many months and numerous proposals, the committee finalized a conceptual plan for the new building. The plan was presented to the general assembly in the fall of 1997 which approved it.

In January of 1998, the Church presented the Site Plan for the new building to the City of Troy Planning Commission. After some opposition, the City of Troy approved the plan in May of 1998. Soon thereafter, Fr. Roufail Michail became ill and the project was put on hold during his illness. On December 21, 1998 Fr. Roufail Michail rested in peace. Thereafter the building project continued with the interviewing of potential contractors. In the spring of 1999, the land for the sanctuary was cleared of all of the hees preparing for construction.

With the departure of Fr. Roufail, the continued growth of the community, and the urgent need for pastoral services, on July 3, 2001, His Holiness ordained Mr. Magdy Habib to serve with Fr. Mina Essak as Fr. Maximus Habib. In the fall of 2001, the construction of the new building started and was completed in the summer of 2003. In August of2003, His Holiness Pope Shenouda III came to Troy for the opening of the new building and the dedication of the new Coptic School, St. Mark Christian Academy. The congregation began to use the lobby of the new sanctuary for Sunday services as Sf. Mark's was not sufficient to hold the growing community. On January 6, 2007, on the eve of the Feast of the Nativity, the congregation celebrated the first liturgy in the new Church dedicated to St. Mary and St. Philopateer Mercurious.

Canadian Copts in Windsor, Ontario - initially part of Sf. Mark Church - and later served in Windsor by Fr. Mina and Fr. Maximus, now blessed by a new Church and a dedicated priest, Fr. John. With the grace of the Lord, budding Coptic congregations are growing in Ann Arbor, Lansing and Grand Rapids. St. Mina Retreat Center in Mio MI, serves as a haven for worshipers seeking quit time for prayer and reflection. All being served by Fr. Mina and Fr. Maximus, may the Lord bless and reward them for their tireless service.

 

 

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