Rev. Anthony is a Coptic Orthodox monk from St. Shenouda Monastery in Australia. He completed his Doctor of Philosophy on the subject of the Arrow Prayer in the Coptic Tradition. In the monastery, Father Anthony collaborates with many young people to produce Orthodox books and music.
The Book of Acts offers us a glimpse in life in the Early Church. In chapter 2 the book’s author, Saint Luke, shares with us a list of the important activities that took place among the believers.
He said, “And they continued steadfastly in the Apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” (Acts 2:42)
This list simply says that parishioners of the Early Church had the right faith and were always praying liturgies. And chief among these activities is Fellowship!
In today’s terms, fellowship calls to mind visions of coffee hour, youth camps, outings, dinners, snacks after youth meetings, and similar activities. But in our parish life today, we sometimes put less emphasis on these activities than we do on liturgy or prayer.
In the verse from Acts, St. Luke tells us that this was not the case in the Early Church. Fellowship was an integral part of the Christian life on par with the liturgy and Apostolic doctrine.
A Tradition of Brotherhood
When you visit fourth century monasteries in Egypt, you see that the monasteries were designed so that the dinning area for the monks, the refectory, was always attached to the southwest side of the monastery Church. And it was the practice of these monks that they would gather for a liturgy after praying the liturgy.
The fact that this dinning area was always attached to the Church illustrates the importance that monks, who are dedicated to solitude and silence, place on regularly gathering for fellowship.
This idea of fellowship is more important now than ever, as more and more people want to belong to a group. And inviting a friend to one of these events says that you are really interested in him or her personally. This invitation is different than the invitation to a Church service or Bible study, which may leave some with the impression that you are trying to score points with God by bringing someone to Church.
When that friend comes to break bread and sees how Christians behave in real life, they see the Bible in action, not simply in words.
St. Luke continued that the result of keeping these practices is that “the Lord added to the Church[a] daily those who were being saved.”
Note here that the list did not include evangelism. Instead fellowship was highlighted as the most powerful form of evangelism, offering newcomers the chance to see Christ in every Church member.
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