Historic Premier of an English Hymn in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church
The words መዝሙር (mezmur), ማኅሌት (mahilayt) and ዘፈን (zefen) deserve their own post so that we can look at their intricacies, nuances and contexts with as much attention and focus as is humanly possible. This is not that post. Excuse the extra-ness and superfluity, I’m a Semite. In case you were not celebrating ጥምቀተ ክርስቶስ* in Los Angeles, CA last month, let me tell you what happened. We made history. I say we, because I am disclosing to you that I was the Master of Ceremonies/Mic Controller and teacher at the English language Orthodox Christian conference, within the larger conference hosted by Virgin Mary’s Orthodox Church, that debuted this English hymn (mezmur) to the world. Kudos to ዘማሪት ዘርፌ ከበደ (Gospel Singer Zerfey Kebede) for being the first professional Ethiopian Orthodox Gospel Singer to publicly sing a hymn in the English language. The British Orthodox Church, the Coptic Church in Australia and people of Caribbean descent in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church of New Jersey, all of whom are in communion with peoples of Ethiopian descent in the entire Ethiopian Orthodox Church, have been chanting in English for years, but Zerfey’s English hymn is still a milestone for the Ethiopian Orthodox community writ large. She has a forthcoming English album – historians jot your notes now. Don’t sleep.
When our hearts are broken and our eyes are open, we see some, if not all, the good that girdles us.
*Ttimqete Kristos/The Baptism of Jesus Christ of Nazareth/Epiphany/Theophany.