After 10 years of serving as a priest in an established Coptic Orthodox Church in Northern Virginia, Father Anthony Messeh felt a strong call to start a church that invited people from all backgrounds to join the rich spiritual legacy of the Coptic church. Father Anthony shared his call with his senior priest, then the bishop, and ultimately received the Coptic Orthodox Pope of Alexandria’s approval and blessing on December 11, 2011. In 2012 St. Timothy and St. Athanasius (STSA) Church was launched.
Many churches intertwine spiritual and cultural practices and traditions. Father Anthony believes that “The church should have no one culture above another.” De-emphasizing the ethnic and cultural elements of the Coptic Orthodox Church frees others to join in and be blessed by a faith that Father Anthony calls “the best-kept secret.” In a region like Northern Virginia, this makes it easier for persons of Egyptian heritage to invite their spouses, friends, and neighbors who come from other ethnic and cultural backgrounds.
A key part of this strategy is a second service each Sunday called “The Well.” After the traditional liturgy each Sunday, the congregation pauses to “break fast” together (Coptic Orthodox Christians fast for at least 9 hours before taking communion each Sunday). They then reconvene for a time of worship with contemporary music and a sermon from Father Anthony. Some who are new to the Coptic church learn to know the community by attending these hour-long services. You can check out Father Anthony’s sermons from “The Well” on STSA’s YouTube channel.
Father Anthony also started STSA Ministries to provide resources and encouragement to Orthodox leaders in other parts of North America who are also trying to bring an ancient faith to their modern world.
Currently, STSA Church meets in rented facilities in Arlington, Virginia. Blueline designed a new church building for STSA that has both a traditional Orthodox sanctuary and a contemporary “black box” auditorium with the capability to broadcast services to other locations. The facility also includes Sunday School classrooms, offices, a kitchen, and a roof-top gathering area. The church is anxious to move into its facility in early 2022.
“Having a permanent place of worship is vital to authentic Orthodox worship,” says Father Anthony. From the iconostasis to vestments to the use of incense and Holy Communion elements, the liturgy is full of symbols and stimulation for the senses, all aimed at celebrating the glory, power, and mystery of Jesus Christ. The contemporary worship venue will allow the church to live-stream to other locations. Orthodox Churches throughout North America can log into “The Well” service after their local liturgy. STSA also plans to host conferences and make their space available to other groups for meetings and celebrations.
When I asked Father Anthony what this ancient faith has to offer our modern world, he quickly responded, “Our ancient faith has solutions to all the problems of this world.” Father Anthony goes on to explain that we live in a world of unknowns, with lots of questions people cannot answer. Each Sunday, the liturgy celebrates a God who is both unknowable and mysterious yet has not left us alone. It recounts the Good News of God’s saving act in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and His abiding presence in the Holy Spirit. And the liturgy tells the stories of Saints through the ages who bear witness to a God that sustains us in a troubled world.
Blueline is grateful and honored to serve STSA and deliver a building that amplifies their mission to bring an Ancient Faith to a Modern World.