1) Protestant influences on the Church. Today I attended a missionary parish that I will not name, and was very disappointed to see Protestant hymns being played during the time of communion. My closest friend are mostly Protestant, so I know and have come to enjoy these hymns, but during the liturgy? It just doesn't seem right.
I have heard often about this sort of thing happening, but have yet to witness it myself. Granted, I have just been in our tiny community of St. Bishoy in Albuquerque, NM, which is served by two priests from the churches in Arizona, which as far as I know are not specifically deemed "missionary parishes". I'm not quite sure what's different between those that call themselves that and a regular Coptic parish. Can you explain that to me? We already use English only for 75-80% of the liturgy, and those parts that are in Arabic or Coptic are provided in translation in both the service books and the Powerpoint slides, so this part is not really a problem. How is it different in a missionary parish? Is that "Coptic code" for "plays Protestant songs during liturgy"? I agree with you, that is highly inappropriate. If you can speak Arabic, have you talked to the priest (gently) about this? Or any of the laity? If they were not responsive, have you considered taking your concerns to the bishop? I do not think that there is any excuse or reason to use Protestant songs in any part of the liturgy, ever.
2) A huge lack of evangelism to non-Christians. The missionary parish that I attended has a stated goal of evangelizing to the surrounding community. But even within this Church, the Priest (a man that I very much love, absolutely nothing against him) is not fluent in English, making it very difficult for any American or non Arabic speaker to feel at home. That's not even touching on all the strictly ethnic parishes where evangelism to non-Egyptians seems nonexistent.
The language issue can be a big problem, yes. We are blessed in our community to have two priests who do speak English fluently (though the level of English fluency among the laity varies greatly; I am the only native English speaker), but I know not all are so lucky. I would get up on my high horse about this, but who am I kidding? I don't speak Arabic fluently at all, and since I know how hard it is to learn, I cannot condemn priests who try to do their best with the knowledge that they do have, and hopefully improve their knowledge of the language so as to be a more effective shepherd in the lands of immigration. For Holy Week celebrations this year we had a priest assigned to us directly from Egypt (a great honor) who did not speak any English. This was a special challenge and blessing for me.
But outside of occasions like that, I think we can all pray that as the Church grows in the diaspora, its integration within the new societies it find itself in is accomplished by the work of the Holy Spirit, which has already seen Coptic Orthodox churches established in Latin America (where they use the national language), the Pacific, Europe, etc. Hopefully, as time passes this becomes less and less an issue. If I had more knowledge of Arabic myself, I would certainly offer to work with the priest to help him learn English. I already do that in a way with our deacons, though it is limited since they have to know enough to describe to me they word they want: "it is, you know...like...fkayf taqulu ____ bil ingliziya?"
Basically: Work with what you have, and try to improve it if you can. Remember that only a few short decades ago we wouldn't have even had so many churches in the West to complain about in the first place. I myself moved 1200 miles from home before I could attend a Coptic Orthodox Church, and even then it is only twice a month if we are lucky, since we are served by priests who have to travel hundreds of miles to serve us. God bless them for their commitment to strengthen our tiny community and its faith.
I guess I don't understand why Protestants and Catholics are so much better at this.
Are they, or does it seem that way to you because most of your friends are Protestants and they are probably more upfront about their evangelistic efforts? I think we do have some things to learn from Catholics and Protestants, but we should be careful that they are the right things, and not the wrong things. Or even better: We should recover the evangelistic zeal of our own Orthodox fathers, who certainly spread the faith throughout the world without the catchy pop songs and "feel good" vapid theology of the Protestants, or the political entanglements and aspirations of the Catholics. Rather than looking at everyone else as better, look to the best among us, because that's what we have already. If the problem is cultural, and the Copts aren't "American" (or "European" or whatever) enough yet, then bring the faith as you can, in terms that you can use to relate to the people that you live among (I am assuming that you don't live in some kind of Coptic ghetto where you never interact with non-Copts). The Syrians who evangelized the Ethiopians did not share a common culture with them, and yet they still brought the truth...which is attractive to all people. In fact, I would say the biggest problem in evangelizing in the West is that everyone thinks they've already heard the Christian story. In a way, they're right, but they probably haven't heard the Orthodox story (I'm not painting Orthodoxy as anything other than Christian, just saying that in the USA at least, Christianity has come to mean everything, and by that, actually means very little, or almost nothing cohesive; this is the reality we struggle against). You have to believe that we can bring them that, because it was brought to us, too (whether recently, in my case, or nearly 2000 years ago, in the case of the Copts, Syrians, etc).
3) A lack of focus on the teachings of the Fathers. Again, I love the Church so, so much, but the lack of emphasis on the teachings of our Holy Fathers is very disappointing.
I have not noticed this in my own community, but I know it is a problem overall. As someone who is very interested in the Fathers, I have noticed (well, I didn't notice it myself so much as I agreed with Professor Sebastian Brock, translator and compiler of many books on Syriac Christianity, when he said it in an interview) that there is a big problem in that the writings of the Fathers are not very accessible. Sure, there are several translations of the Sayings of the Desert Fathers that are available as cheap paperbacks, and Fr. Peter has done us all a great service by heading the Oriental Orthodox Library, but an average person could go broke on $100+ books on non-Chalcedonian Christology, the writings of St. Severus, St. Dioscoros, etc. These things are treated as though they are or should be mainly the interest of historians and other academics, leaving laypeople like you and I out in the cold, or at best dependent on poorly translated or even poorly translated AND expensive pamphlets, or whatever we can find online via PDF. I am happy with those PDFs, but not happy that I have to be happy with them, if you know what I mean.
Again, whatever resources you have or can find, use them to the fullest, and share them.
Am I being too cynical here guys? Feel free to rebuke me if I am totally off base here, I just wanted to get these thoughts out there and see what people have to say.
I don't think you are being too cynical. We have real problems to face, as any church does. The question is how to do that. I don't think lamenting how others are better than we are is the answer. Not only do I not think it is true, I don't think it will help to fix anything. What will help to fix things is if we see how we can help remedy some of these problems. Like, you might not be able to teach the priest you mentioned English, but you obviously know English, so what is stopping you from bringing any curious people you know to the Church and explaining how the liturgy works, what such-and-such a phrase means, or answering whatever other questions they might have? I know it's a big responsibility, but you can't expect the priest to do it himself, and for all you know he might have ended up where he is now because there wasn't a more suitable (English fluent) priest available at the time. During the Holy Week celebrations I mentioned with the priest from Egypt who didn't speak English, I obviously didn't understand the majority of the sermon, so I had to ask one of the deacons to give me summaries of it. But even then, I started from what little I could understand: "I thought I heard Father say 'without the resurrection, there is no Christianity'. Is that what he said? What else did he say connected to that?", etc.
When there is a will to work through the problems, people will work through the problems. No church is without problems, and yet all have flourished in difficulty because men have been willing to do their part in cooperation with God.