Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Importance of Cundletown's new Coptic Church

 The singing of traditional Coptic hymns plays a big part in each mass. (ABC News: Emma Siossian)
I am constantly fascinated by the diversity of life across Northern NSW, the broader New England. A case in point is the opening of the St Mary and St Pope Kirolos the 6th Coptic Christian Orthodox Church in Cundletown as reported by Emma Siossian for ABC Mid North Coast.

The Copts are one of the oldest Christian groups in the Middle East and still constitute a significant minority of the Egyptian population.. The Coptic Orthodox Church  is one of  the orthodox churches that formed in what was then the Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire during the schisms that marked the early Christian Church. I have read a little of Byzantine history, including the religious disputes, and find the whole thing remarkably complicated!

Photo: The old Cundletown dock yard
Cundletown near Taree in the Manning Valley lies a long way from Egypt. While young by Coptic standards, Cundletown is a historic village in its own right with its colonial remains.

The linkage between the Cundletown and Coptic Egypt is provided by Dr Moheb Ghaly, a long-time Manning Valley surgeon born in Egypt.

Over very many decades, the combination of political instability with religious persecution led to the emigration of many Egyptian Copts, some of whom settled on the North Coast. Like many other Copts, Dr Ghaly used to travel to Sydney for services. Now he worked to establish a church where local Copts could worship.
Local resident: "This will bring more people and families to the area. It's our community, it's us, it's our identity."  Dr Ghaly outside the new church. 
I have no doubt that the new church will assist in attracting new Egyptian Coptic residents. There is now a long history of such chain migration in New England including the Germans and Scots that came to New England from the 1840s-1850s and then, much later, the Indians who came to Woolgoolga

At a time when many parts of New England are struggling to attract people, when it's just so hard to get people to move from the metros, the creation of such community infrastructure, the welcoming of new people, is important in attracting new residents who, in turn, will attract new residents.The North gains from increased population and from added diversity to New England life.   .      

Monday, March 13, 2017

New natural history museum adds to Armidale's attractions and diversity - but can we fix Beardy Street?

The University of New England's new natural history museum is about to open.

Announced back in June 2015, the museum is intended to be a showcase of a new $27 million Integrated Agriculture Education Project precinct. The museum features the skeleton of a carnivorous dinosaur, and a diverse collection of animals, plants, and meteorites, building on the collection previously held by the Zoology Museum.

Armidale has two main museum/cultural precincts. The first centres on Kentucky Street in the south of this city and includes the New England Regional Art Museum (photo), the Armidale and Region Aboriginal Centre and Keeping Place and the Heritage Centre. The second covers the museums and displays at UNE to the north-east of the city.

These are not Armidale's only museums and cultural centres. The Armidale Folk Museum in the centre of the city is one of the oldest and best folk museums in the country.

I still live in hope that Armidale Regional Council can revitalise the centre of the business district with its bookshops, cafes and galleries. Poor planning decisions over a long period have fragmented the small CBD, turning it from a vibrant centre to something of a desolate pedestrian absent zone dominated by relatively small shopping malls at each end.

Beardy Street is the heart of the old Victorian city that constitutes one of Armidale's architectural gems. It should be the heart of the city, providing a central point for visitors and locals alike, a starting point for all the other attractions.