Ramadan has just begun. For the next month our Moslem friends will fast during daylight hours, and even for Christians it will be difficult to eat or drink in public, lest we cause offence. The fast ends with the setting of the sun, and suddenly Cairo becomes alive again. Meanwhile the muezzin has been kept busy, calling the faithful to prayer, which he seemed to do at regular intervals through the night. At one point, to my bewilderment, he seemed to go into English, but it was BBC World from my television, which for some unfathomable reason had decided to switch itself on at 03.00 in the morning!
The Seminary is quiet, and almost all the students have left for their summer placements – or, for those who just graduated, have now gone to their new congregations. There they are on probation for 9 months- 1 year, after which they will be ordained, but then continue in the same congregation for the foreseeable future after that. Over the graduation period I managed to interview some of the students and thought I would introduce you to them to illustrate the calibre of our students.
Tharwat Musa Mary Zakhary
At Graduation, one of the graduates is chosen to give an address on behalf of their fellow students, and this year Tharwat was given this honour. Tharwat is 26 (going on 27!) and an extremely engaging, personable young man. He grew up in the village of Khuzam (a ‘village’ of 30,000 inhabitants), near Mallawi in Minya Province, and his family were active in the local Evangelical Presbyterian congregation. The Pastor encouraged Tharwat and singled him out for leadership roles, especially among the youth, and even when he was studying Archeology at College, Tharwat was already feeling called to the ministry, and he successfully applied to study at the seminary.
When asked what he would remember most from his seminary days, he mentioned the relationships with both his fellow students and staff and commented on the small Pastoral groups which meet weekly to offer support and prayer. He also mentioned his summer internships: in Luxor at the end of 1st Year, a time which coincided with a time of upheaval in Egypt (when the army moved to replace President Morsi), when he had to make a hair-raising 20 hour journey home to Minya to check on his family. After his 2nd year he spent the summer with CEOSS (Coptic Evangelical Organisation for Social Services), which gave him a better understanding of social care and which indeed inspired his ministry. ‘I don’t want the church to be exclusive, always looking inwards’ he says, ‘The church needs to reach out to the community with all its needs’. His internship after 3rd Year was at the congregation of Ezbat Ayoub in Upper Egypt, and indeed after graduation, he will become the pastor of that same congregation.
Tharwat married Mervat a year ago, and they are expecting their first child. He faces new challenges as a new pastor and a new father, but hopes to make a real impact on the lives of both the congregation and the community. Impressively he confides the importance for him of a servant ministry, touching the hearts of all around him.