Introducttion to the background and culture of the Coptic Church in America (8 min)
Deleted scene: discussion about Judas (2 min)
Many Copts immimgrated to the United States together over the last few decades because of--among other reasons--religious freedom and the chance for a higher standard of living. Consequently, the first generation of American-born Copts grew up with many cultural forces pulling them in completely different directions, living in a progressive United States but being raised in a conservative 1900-year-old church. Now this generation is entering adulthood, looking towards a future in which they are leading the Coptic community, and many of them wonder: will the church be the same 30 years from now? It's the Coptic Church's biggest challenge since coming out of Egypt.
Saint George and Saint Joseph Coptic Orthodox Church of Campbell--or "St. George" as its members call it--serves the Coptic Orthodox Christian community of the San Jose area. The community was founded in the early nineties and a building was purchased in 1995. Up until that point, Copts from Monterey to San Francisco to Sacramento all attended St. Antonious Church in Hayward, the first and largest Coptic church in Northern California; some families drove over 2 hours each way every Sunday to attend a service. In 1995, St. George was the second church in Northern California; now there are 8.
It's estimated that about 80 families attend St. George regularly, which makes it about medium-sized for a Coptic church in the United States (some churches have upwards of 1000 families while some have less than 10). For these 80 families, there are plenty of church-related activities to attend. Along with Liturgies every Sunday, Wednesday and Friday, there are weekly youth meetings, Bible studies, recreational activities, vesper prayers, and a barrage of other events such as weddings, baptisms, and youth group retreats. It's not uncommon for Copts to see other members of their church 6 or 7 days a week.
It's painfully clear that the St. George community needs a new church building. The sanctuary is often overcrowded, as is the meeting hall, and every conceivable space has been turned into a Sunday School classroom: the office, the back of the church, and even the grassy lot outside that is usually used for overflow parking.
Speaking of that grassy lot (pictured above in 2003), the community has been trying to build a new sanctuary there for what seems like forever. It's a difficult situation that many Coptic communities face now--they feel that they are big enough to necessitate the construction of a Coptic church, but not big enough to fully fund it. Yet the St. George community will keep pushing forward in its attempt.
Andrew Ishak, the director of OUT OF EGYPT, founded Force of July Productions in 2000 and it seems only natural that his first documentary deals with a subject that he is very familiar with. As a Copt growing up in the United States, Andrew has had this conversation many times:
Friend: What did you say you were?
Andrew: I'm Coptic Orthodox Christian.
Andrew: Have you heard of Greek Orthodox? It's kind of like that but Egyptian.
As a member of St. George Coptic Orthodox Church, Andrew is very involved in the content of OUT OF EGYPT. Part of the documentary deals with Andrew and his fiance, Heather (right), preparing for a big fat Coptic wedding. Another part of the story focuses on the San Jose Dragon Slayers, the church's basketball team on which Andrew plays. And much of the movie is focused on the Ishak family, one of the larger Coptic families in the Bay Area.
Andrew hopes the documentary will give viewersthe opportunity to learn about the Coptic church as well as help St. George Church receive the financial support that God wishes for it.