Two large Coptic icons were dedicated at the church of St Joseph, Bunhill Row near the Barbican in London on Friday evening - the vigil of the solemnity of St Joseph. The ceremony was an extended ecumenical liturgy of the word. The first speaker was Pastor Jana from St Anne's Lutheran church. She read from Ecc 25 highlighting the goodness and delight that is to be found in friendship which often gives us a touch of both the eternal and the divine. The next speaker was Sheikh Muhammad Yusuf chairman of the council of University Imams. The full text of the Imam's address is printed below. Lord Griffiths from nearby Wesley's chapel chose the Gospel passage from Luke recounting the loss of Jesus in Jerusalem and of his being found teaching the doctors in the Temple. This reminded him of a stained glass window in the Hind St Methodist church. Lord Griffiths rejoiced in the close friendship that exists between Anglicans, Lutherans, Catholics and Methodists in this part of London and expressed his delight that this now included someone from the Muslim faith. Fr Bruno Healy chose the Gospel account of the Flight into Egypt as this so clearly highlighted the Egyptian nature of these splendid Coptic icons. He explained how childhood memories of his father recounting tales of being a soldier in WWar II in Egypt and of his meeting with Ehab a Coptic student during his time as a university chaplain led him to commission the distinguished Coptic icon painter Stephane Rene to paint these icons of Mary, Mother of the City and of St Joseph of the house of David, Father of the Workplace. Fr Bruno said that sometimes nowadays there is talk of the winter of ecumenism. "This is not true here." he said " This is a micro climate which is positively tropical". Haunting Coptic music was used throughout the ceremony, after this prayer of dedication God our Father, long ago your servant Moses gave us your Law enshrining it in the Tent of Meeting which he adorned with cherubim and seraphim. Later you gave your servant Solomon the wisdom to build a temple fit for your dwelling in Jerusalem. In the fullness of time your Son Jesus Christ took human form and lived among us. Down the ages we have constructed and dedicated places and images in your memory and of those of your angels and saints. We ask you now to bless our two Coptic icons depicting Mary, the bearer of the Word made flesh and of her husband Joseph a descendant of King David. May all who pray in front of them be reminded that you alone are our one true God and lives and reigns for ever and ever Amen. The ceremony ended with the officiating ministers processing to the back of the church carrying lighted candles while Fr Bruno anointed each icon with oil which he had brought back from the Coptic monasteries of St Macarius and of St Anthony by the Red Sea. The congregation was reminded that while these icons are very beautiful and it is hoped that those who pray in front of them will be inspired and touched by the things of heaven, the most beautiful thing is holiness - to worship God in the beauty of holiness.
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