Christian Egyptians in Hatfield Township and the surrounding area will have a new gathering place for worship in 2014 on Unionville Pike at Stratford Avenue.
On Saturday afternoon, local Christian Egyptians, their friends and family — along with local political figureheads — came out en masse to the huge open space next to the Hatfield Township Public Works building for a religious ceremony and groundbreaking for the St. Mary & St. Kyrillos Coptic Orthodox Church.
The groundbreaking ceremony was led by Bishop David, the general bishop and partiarchal exarch of the Archdiocese of North America, along with St. Mary & St. Kyrillos Church Rev. Father Antonious Salib.
The word "Copt" is derived from the Greek word for "Egypt" and was used to describe native Egyptians prior to Muslim conquest. Today's use of the word "Coptic" stands for those Egyptians adhering to the Christianity.
The Coptic Orthodox Church is based on the teachings of St. Mark, who brought Christianity to Egypt in the 1st Century A.D., during the time of the reign of Roman Emperor Nero.
St. Mark the Apostle, according to Bishop David, was a native of Libya and preached Christianity in Egypt, and was one of the 70 Apostles that Christ appointed to preach the Gospel.
"Building the home of God requires everyone to work together," said Bishop David, as dignitaries like Hatfield Township Commissioners President Tom Zipfel, Commissioner Scott Brown and Hatfield Mayor Robert Kaler, placed bricks along a mock altar. "It is teamwork. We do it together for the glory of God."
Following the ceremony, Kaler and Sean McTigue, CEO of Shannon Contracting LLC, took a shovel and broke ground for the church.
"It's a wonderful feeling," said Salib. "This is a one-time thing in our life."
Salib said this church will be the 10th Coptic Orthodox church in Pennsylvania.
"It will be the first one built by a Coptic architect," Salib said.
The church will also have a daycare and a community center, available to the general public.
St. Mary & St. Kyrillos Coptic Orthodox Church has existed in the Hatfield area for five years. For the past year, it has had its worship services out of a warehouse on Bergey Road. Salib said fundraising and bank loans helped make the new church a reality.
"The amazing thing is, about 80 percent of our congregation lives in Hatfield Village," he said.
In September 2007, Bishop David met with about 28 Coptic families in the Hatfield area to discuss starting a new Coptic Orthodox church. By January 2008, the St. Mary & St. Kyrillos Coptic Orthodox Church was formed in the area.
The contract to obtain the large open space on Unionville Pike was signed on July 24, 2010. Hatfield Township Commissioners approved a zoning change on Oct. 26, 2010.
Salib expected construction to begin in mid-February and be completed in about 16 months.
"This is good news in Hatfield Township," said Brown. "We are a welcoming community and we are happy to have these folks here."
Lansdale Borough Councilmen Steve Malagari and Jack Hansen were also honored guests at the groundbreaking and ceremony.
"Our country was founded on religious freedom," Hansen said, "and it continues today."