Along a solitary dirt road, five miles north of Interstate 15 in Newberry Springs, if you know where to look, you can find Saint Antony Coptic Orthodox Monastery, part of the worldwide Coptic Church.
Coptic Christians have been around since about 42 AD. Clearly, they are not a fad nor a cult. Some might say they were the original Christian Church, in fact.
In case you’re wondering, the word, “Coptic,” comes from the Greek word for “Egyptian.” Egyptians, along with other Christians from the Middle East form the majority of church members, although all are welcome.
Approaching the monastery, your eyes will immediately fall on this magnificent church. Named in honor of an early Coptic Christian martyr by the name of Moses the Strong. Not the Moses of Ten Commandment fame, if you were wondering, and not even the Charlton Heston Moses.
The Coptic community, primary composed of Egyptian and other Arabic speaking Christians has undergone much persecution throughout the ages, and are still targets of attack in the Middle East. Here in the Mojave Desert in California, they are safe to worship as they please.
Visitors are welcome. Please be respectful of the resident Monks and parishioners. You will see bearded Monks wearing their traditional robes. It is an amazing place of reverence and peace.
The first Coptic Monastery ever to be built outside of Egypt. The land was purchased in 1972. Over the years the monastery has grown in stature and importance to the church.
St. Moses Church, which is beautifully decorated in accordance with traditional Coptic architecture, and can accommodate large numbers of visitors, was completed in 2012.
On the day we arrived we anticipated St. Moses Church would be closed. However, a few people were exiting the church and noticed our curiosity and cameras.
A few minutes later, a young man shyly approached us in the parking lot and informed us we had missed Mass but he had saved some sacramental bread for some of his family who couldn’t attend, and offered us some.
He carefully unwrapped a partial loaf of bread, and extended it towards us. We broke off a couple of small pieces and thanked him for his generosity. It was some of the best bread we have ever eaten. He gave us a big grin before departing in his vehicle with a friendly wave.
Monks bake the bread at the monastery. St. Antony Monastery bread can be purchased at the Victorville Farmers Market held in front of Victor Valley College on Bear Valley Road every Thursday morning during the summer.
Upon entering the church, we met a woman paying her respects with her daughter, about 10 years old. Seeing that we were newcomers, she carefully removed her shoes as an example before entering the main part of the church, called the nave. We asked if it was alright for us to come in to take photos and she was delighted. We tip-toed around like church mice in awe.
Interior of Saint Moses the Strong Coptic Orthodox Church, on the outskirts of Newberry Springs. Please remove your shoes when entering and leave them near the door.
It is good for the body and mind to just sit here in solitude, listening to the desert wind and contemplating life. Things regain their perspective and problems seem to float away. Relish being in the present.
Later, the Mother and daughter we had briefly met as we entered the church politely asked us if we had visited the Saint Moses the Strong shrine on the grounds at the back of the Church. They obviously were quite proud of it, and led us to a marble monument.
The little girl spontaneously leaned forward and gently kissed it, as did her Mom. So I did too. Then we all smiled.
Maybe my awkwardness showed, but I was glad I was able to share such a sweet moment with these humble, deeply faithful people. There was no judgment.
One of three picturesque churches at St. Antony Monastery in Newberry Springs, California.
Note: Various mapping programs may direct you to the wrong location at 43725 Bragdon Road to find the monastery. The actual location is a few minutes north of the location that automatic GPS systems may find. You just go north on the same dirt road; the landscape is flat, and the monastery will be very easy to find as you approach it.
The Monastery’s facilities include a U-shaped main building with Saint Antony Church, four cells, a refectory for the monks, and even a pond.