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Jos Strengholt

Early Church Studies with the Coptic Orthodox Church

One of the project I am working on, is the development of a BA and MA study in ‘Early Church’ for the Coptic Orthodox Church. I feel honored that I was asked to do this.  

We began this project in August 2018 and hopefully I will be able to deliver the BA-stage ‘on a latter’ to the Church around August 2020.  

The BA-stage entails the development of about 55 courses of 12 lessons each.  This whole project will be delivered online. For each lesson we create reading materials for the students, an introductory video, questions to be answered, and each course ends with the student having to write a paper.

It is quite a challenge to find the right teachers! ideally, they are Coptic Orthodox, experts in the area of the course, Arabic speakers, and good teachers at the same time.  We have some very good experts for whom we can tick all boxes, but we also have to be creative here and there.

Thus far we have videod about 20 courses.  Language courses, like Coptic, Greek, Syriac, Latin.  We have also prepared courses on St Athanasius and St Kirollos, on the Apostoilic Fathers, on Monasticism, on the history of the Syriac Orthodox Church, on the development of liturgy, on the Creed, etc etc. 

In the coming months we hope to finalise at least 25 courses, and hopefully a few more.  On 1 October 2019, we want to allow 30 students to begin the study – as a sort of guinea pigs. We want to see, for instance, that the online system works smoothly.  We have to sort out how much staff we need per student, how to arrange the grading, etc etc.

And we will start the process of accreditation.  That will be a major hurdle to take! This is always in the back of my mind, and it is a good worry as it forces us from the outset to have good level teaching, and also to develop a proper administration for our course.

And right now, I do not even want to think yet about the next stage, when I have to begin with the development of the MA-phase of the project… But one thing I know: those MA studies will not be online only, and for that stage we will have to teach in English.  There are simply not enough Arabic sources and scientific books available to make a MA in Arabic viable… So we will have to work in English.  And for an MA, all teachers must have PhD’s as well.