Nestled away in the backroads of Perth is a hidden gem—a beautiful property of over 200 acres. It feels like a ranch. As you near the front gate a “Private Property” sign is clearly visible and those who know where the long dirt driveway leads cruise slowly along, one foot on the brake, ebbing and flowing with the curving path that leads to a beautiful wooden building. It used to be a home but, after being on the market for two years, it was sold to the Brothers of St. Anthony of the Egyptian Coptic Church. On my way to Ottawa, I stopped by to deliver their Bibles and Bible Resources order—why not, it’s on the way and we’re always encouraged to take the path less trodden! Mena, one of the monks there, was my contact and he welcomed me in his earthy brown monk’s garb and a warm heart. He took the time to show me around the building, complete with a chapel (which used to be the home’s indoor pool!) that is meticulously and lovingly decorated in the Coptic aesthetic from wood that has been imported from Egypt.
They’ve only been on this property for two years but you can feel the history and sense the spiritual legacy of the Coptic Church in the icons and their place of worship.
There are a few others on the property who have come here to find respite and renewal. As Brother Mena offers me some Egyptian tea and coconut lemon cake, they walk discreetly, nodding in acknowledgement but not saying a word. We sit and talk about his story—how did a young man come to desire the monastic life? He shares about this life in Egypt and how he immigrated to Canada and spent some years in Woodstock, Ontario but that he always felts a desire for something simpler. He tells me that large group from Montreal is visiting later that morning and almost, as if on cue, you can hear the slow, heavy tires making their way up the dirt driveway. As our conversation winds down, I take one last look out the bay windows that overlooks the pond. It’s beautiful and indeed, an ideal place of retreat.
I hear the bustle of the visitors, French-speaking Egyptian Coptics, mostly elderly, all pilgrims from Montreal, coming to worship, to pray and to find rest in Him. Brother Mena packs some juice and goodies for the rest of my trip, about an hour and a half, to Ottawa. I hope to find my way back to Perth and, next time, stay a little longer.
-Rev. Lisa Pak, Regional Director of Ontario and Nunavut for Canadian Bible Society