St. Shenouda the Archimandrite Coptic Society
The following are testimonials by members, students, and any one that came in contact with the activities of the Society since its inception on December 23, 1979. They represent a cross-section of people from both the Coptic community as well as the Academic one that are interested in the Preservation, Revival, and Rromotion of our precious Coptic (Egyptian) Christian Heritage. The list below is arranged based on date of submittal. The list is constantly being revised as you can imagine.
When I first joined St. Mark’s Coptic Museum as a volunteer in 2000, I realized that I needed to ground myself into the range of Coptic Studies disciplines that could inform us about our artefacts — their historical and cultural context in particular. Professionally I was a total novice in the field. The first place I was recommended was the St. Shenouda the Archimandrite Coptic Society. In 2002 I ventured to give a paper (my first in this field) on our museum at their annual conference. From there so many doors were opened to scholars, various networks and conferences that were to become my “university” education on Coptic material culture.
I joined the St. Shenouda Society when I was a graduate student many years ago, because already then the Society had a strong reputation for supporting scholarship in Coptic Studies. The Society's annual conference is an important place for scholars and members of the Coptic community to communicate with each other. I also always look forward to reading the research in Coptic Studies that the Society's journal, Coptica, publishes every year. Thank you to the Society for all your work in promoting Coptic Studies!
Beginning in 2004, when I was asked to speak on the state of research on the career of Shenoute of Atripe, I have attended many of the UCLA-St. Shenouda summer conferences. The speakers and audience comprise a very stimulating and knowledgeable mix of Coptic Orthodox laity and clergy, and academics from universities in the US, Europe, and the Middle East. By presenting my research at this meeting I am able to get immediate, informed criticism and, while in southern California, also consult the book and manuscript collection of the St. Shenouda the Archimandrite Coptic Society. The Society makes every effort to acquire important books, digital copies of manuscripts, and fragmentary original manuscripts and then make them available to researchers. Those who attend the annual conference or contact the Society at other times for information have access to a unique resource for the study of Coptic Christianity in Egypt and elsewhere.
In the mid 1990s, when still a graduate student, I wrote to a couple of major international libraries to ask if they could help me track down images of the Nursing Virgin Mary in Egyptian Christian manuscripts. Unfortunately, many older manuscript catalogs do not include any reference to illustrations, and I was trying to track down representations of this subject for my dissertation. I was advised repeatedly to contact Hany Takla of the St. Shenouda the Archimandrite Coptic Society in Los Angeles, because their holdings included microfilms of the manuscripts in question! My query to the Society was met with an immediate and informative response, as such began my long history of wonderful associations with the Society, its President, its library and its members. At the International Association for Coptic Studies conference in Munich, in 1996, I had the great pleasure of meeting Hany Takla and several young Coptic scholars who were being hosted by the Society. Hany invited me to dine with them, and I appreciated the chance to get to know all of them and was also grateful for the hospitality. I have been a member of the Society for well over a decade, and always enjoy receiving the newsletters and publications. On my first visit to the Library, Hany and I started boasting about rare and important volumes that we had. I ended up being so impressed by the collection that I decided to will my important collection to the Society. On a less personal and more scholarly note, the work of the Society presenting extraordinary lectures by specialists in Coptic Studies every summer in Los Angeles, supporting the publication of the ground-breaking series, Christianity and Monasticism in Egypt (American University in Cairo Press), and hosting a fantastic Congress of the International Association for Coptic Studies in Los Angeles in 2016 indicate something of the breadth and importance of the Society's effect on Coptic Studies. Simply put, it has contributed profoundly to supporting and enhancing the field.
I have with joy and gratitude worked with the St. Shenouda Coptic Society for over twenty years. The Society each summer offers a conference at UCLA where local, national, and international scholars present papers on the good and often exciting work being done in Coptic Studies. I have profited greatly from these conferences and have made numerous collegial contacts.
Over the years, Hany Takla of the Society has helped me immensely with my own scholarship: loaning me books and finding digital and print copies of works often difficult to access.
In addition, the Society has been instrumental in helping to start and foster the Claremont Coptic Studies Program at Claremont University.
I highly commend the St. Shenouda Coptic Society to anyone interested in early Christianity, Christianity in Egypt, early monasticism, or the Coptic Church and its people.
I would not be the person I am today if it were not for The St. Shenouda Archimandrite Coptic Society. The Coptic society provided a place for me to grow intellectually and socially. Through the society I learned about my culture, language and religion.
As a teenager I first started by learning the Coptic language in classes taught by Mr. Hany Takla. This peaked my interest in both my culture and church. Later I started translating Coptic manuscripts and the lives of various saints to English. I also translated the Bible from Coptic manuscripts to English. This was an amazing experience that opened my eyes and made me fall in love with my Bible and church. I also had at my disposal an amazing library which helped me learn about church history and religion. During college I was amazed by the resources available to me, such as the vast array of Coptic manuscripts that I used to study the Bible and complete my coursework. These resources were invaluable to me during a class I took at UCLA in Coptic studies. I felt truly privileged to have such extensive resources available to me, a fact that I only appreciated more as a I grew.
The society is truly a unique place that helped myself and countless others learn about their language, culture, and religion. Thanks in large part to the tireless work and dedication of Mr. Hany Takla, many of the societies students have grown to take on prominent and leadership roles within the Coptic church. Thank you, Mr. Hany Takla and The Coptic society, for all you have done for me. Words are insufficient to express my gratitude and deep appreciation for all you have done and provided for myself and future generations of Copts and those that love the Coptic language and culture.
Several years ago, I enrolled in a beginner’s Bohairic Coptic class at the St. Shenouda Center so that I can better appreciate the Coptic prayers in our liturgy. Within a few lessons, I realized the opportunity that Professor Takla offers is a much greater experience. Over the next few years, I spent time studying the language my ancestors spoke, their art and the beauty in which that art is illustrated both in Coptic writing (especially the Bible) and in the Coptic liturgy. The miraculous resiliency of the language, the people who spoke it and the Fathers who preserved it in our church all comes to life at the St. Shenouda Center. Beyond the lesson of the value of the Coptic language, the St. Shenouda Center takes responsibility for the continued preservation of our history and offers all of us the opportunity to own and participate in this worthy endeavor. Although I feel I have only scratched the surface, thanks to Professor Takla and the St. Shenouda Center I have a better understanding and a greater love of my ancestor’s language.
My first experience with the St. Shenouda Society was as a college student eager to learn the language of my ancestors. Professor Hany Takla offered a course for in Bohairic Coptic for beginners at the St. Shenouda Center. I took the course and learned so much that I wanted even more. The following year, it was my good fortune that during my time at UCLA, Prof. Takla was going to teach a course in Sahidic Coptic. I enrolled immediately. These courses not only taught me how to read and write Coptic, but they inspired me to learn more about Coptic history, culture, and theology. This newfound inspiration led me to attend the conferences on Coptic Studies hosted by the Society. There I met bright minds with a real passion for Coptic Studies. The positive energy and unbridled enthusiasm that filled the room was truly contagious. Thanks to the resources offered to me by the Society, I have grown in my faith and developed a deep appreciation for the Coptic culture and its preservation
The St. Shenouda Center in Los Angeles is an academic home away from home: first-rate staff and resources and always a welcome work environment for study and writing! (And I speak from experience as someone who regularly visits the center to work for several hours at a time.) This is without a doubt one of the most comprehensive collection of Coptic Studies primary and secondary materials in the United States, and all researchers--whether undergraduate, graduate, or postdoctoral--are lucky to have this in southern California. Hany Takla, of course, is a preeminent expert in the field of Coptic Studies and freely makes himself available to others selflessly and proficiently. Whether you are a student of Coptic language, literature, art, monasticism, music, architecture, history, theology, or religion, rest assured that there are academic resources available here for you and your colleagues. The St. Shenouda Center and Library is truly a treasure in Los Angeles for academic researchers at all levels.
When I initially visited the Saint Shenouda Coptic Society in Los Angeles, I was involved in a project that included work with collections housed at a spectrum of top-tier, international research libraries. While each of these loci afforded access to a diverse range of material related to Coptic studies, even exploratory forays into the holdings of the Saint Shenouda Library underscored the unparalleled resources available at this location. As a now regular patron, it has been a privilege to peruse the breadth - and plumb the depths, of the Society’s ever-expanding collection. In day-to-day research, the collegial ethos that makes this content, at once, available and readily accessible, has proved invaluable.
In breadth, the library’s comprehensive holdings invite immediate engagement with almost any question pertaining to Coptic history. In depth, the concentration of available source material allows for direct access to voices and perspectives which remain challenging, time consuming, and sometimes impossible to locate in less focused, and/or more dispersed collections. This combination retains rich potential for a range of research in Coptic studies. However, in my present work of re-conceptualizing the contours of monastic education in Egypt, it has brokered consistent breakthroughs across an interdisciplinary spectrum of investigation – supplying essential pieces in a pedagogical puzzle that remains central to emergent understandings of late-ancient monastic life.
Whether one is pursuing a particular research question, or exploring Coptic Studies, broadly construed, the Library’s unique compilation of primary and secondary sources supports both wide survey, and close textual/material analysis. In turn, the proximate immediacy of general and highly particularized content, within the same setting – and often the same room – makes one afternoon’s work at St. Shenouda’s easily the equivalent of a month of investigation undertaken elsewhere. Both students and scholars owe the collection’s founders, facilitators and curators immense gratitude and dedicated support. Truly an unmatched treasure, the Library is, and I trust will remain, a resource and an asset, for the community of students and scholars with investments in this field.
Since the beginning of my graduate studies in theology and liturgical history, I have been privileged to live in proximity to the St. Shenouda the Archimandrite Coptic Society, and to develop a friendly and productive relationship with its founder and president, Mr. Hany Takla. I am therefore thrilled to share some of the many ways the Society has helped me in my studies and growth as a researcher of Coptic liturgy and Coptology generally.
My relationship with the St. Shenouda Society began in 2009/2010 when I took the one year course in Bohairic Coptic offered by Mr. Takla. The course was instrumental in introducing me to the basics of Bohairic Coptic. Given the importance of Bohairic in the study of Coptic liturgy, this was an invaluable service offered by the Society, and one that I continue to benefit from in my graduate work. Later, I took another course with Mr. Takla on Manuscripts of Christian Egypt, which opened my eyes to the various collections of Coptic manuscripts in Egypt and abroad, and where important liturgical collections may be located. Perhaps more importantly, taking courses at the Center gave me the opportunity to see the library and museum housed there, which would become valuable in my future work.
Besides courses, the St. Shenouda Society Conference held annually at UCLA provided me a platform to present my research and writings on more than one occasion. This was first in 2013 when I presented my first study on the Coptic rite of Vespers, which was later published as an article in Coptica, the Society's official journal, as well as again in 2015, when I presented an overview of my MA thesis on the Presanctified Liturgy in the Alexandrian Tradition.
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