The first Coptic Orthodox Church in the Hills District has opened in Kellyville. The official opening of St Mary and Sts Cosman and Demian marked the completion of an eight-year project which I am pleased to say was supported by the NSW Government through our Community Buidling Partnerships Programme.

At its inception the congregation of the church comprised 10 families but 100 families now attend services. The church provides a much-needed permanent home for the believers and will put an end to the constant relocation they have experienced over the past few years. The church will build a strong local community for constituents, who have previously had to travel to attend church at Blacktown or Dural. The new building will be special for those of the Coptic faith and all Christians, with the church furnished from the labours of monks and nuns in Egyptian monasteries.

Equally important are community services and the church, led by my very good friend Father Joshua, will serve the community’s needs and he wants it to be open to everyone. Father Joshua has dedicated the new church building, complete with a games room for table tennis and billiards as well as a kitchenette. There is also a community hall, which received $80,000 in funding last year from the Community Building Partnerships Programme.

There are more stages of development to come for this parish and this will ensure that the church becomes a hub of activity. I was delighted that so many people of various Christian denominations were present.

While Egyptian Coptics are copping it in Egypt and surrounding nations where Muslim extremists are committed to destroying the Coptic faith, it should give the Coptics a sense of relief and encouragement to know that in Parramatta and the Hills the Coptic faith is growing. As I told members of the Coptic Church, they should know that, although they are being discriminated against in their own home, in Australia they will be forever welcome.

Community groups such as our Coptic friends make Baulkham Hills a vibrant and very multicultural place. It is a delight to see the first Coptic Orthodox church in my electorate. I wish the community, Father Joshua, all parishioners and particularly my friends Lydia and Naheen, who are so involved in that fraternity, a prosperous future.

Congratulations to Florence Sulaturio, the winner of this year’s Annual Christmas Card Competition!

Florence, of Our Lady of Lourdes Baulkham Hills, was confirmed as the winner after judging by my wife, Nicole. Florence’s entry, designed with the theme of The Nativity in mind, was a delightful demonstration of artistic ability, and our community will enjoy seeing her design on my Christmas cards this year.

All entries are now on display in my office until the new year. It will be a wonderful opportunity for the artistic abilities of our local students to be on display for all our community to see and I invite you all to visit my office to see our local talent on display.

As the next edition of the HTH that I contribute to will be published after Christmas, I want to take this opportunity to wish all readers ad very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year on behalf of all my staff and my family. I urge you all to slow down over the break, when we are sadly hit with a road toll which is always too high, and don’t forget to slip slop slap. On a more sombre note, I urge you all to take a few moments over the break to think of those who are serving our nation and will be away from their families at this most special time of the year.