Everyone at the church seemed to have friends and relatives who were trying to leave Egypt. Parents picking up their kids said they were bracing for an Islamic takeover of their homeland. Church officials said there had been a steady stream of newcomers seeking help or coming to Arabic Masses. One man, who had arrived from Cairo three weeks ago, reached by a church counselor on a cellphone, nervously told his story through an Arabic translator.
"I am going to apply for asylum and get my family out as soon as I can," said the man, 34, who gave his name only as Zekry. "The Islamists are taking over, and disaster is coming very soon." In the last several months, he said, he had been threatened for sheltering Muslims who had converted to Christianity, and his wife had been harassed for not wearing a veil when she went to pay their Internet bill. "The clerk told her, 'Next time come back with your head covered. Your time is over,' " he said.
For Egyptian Americans, the turbulent election 9,000 miles away was far more than a subject of heated but theoretical debate. Highly educated and politicized, their community is deeply involved with homeland politics. On Arabic Dish channels, they have followed every twist of the turbulent 16 months since the popular uprising in Cairo's Tahrir Square.
Moreover, 27,000 longtime emigres are dual citizens or U.S. residents registered to vote in Egyptian elections. Last month, nearly half of them cast absentee ballots - about 3,000 at the Egyptian Embassy in Washington and thousands more at consulates in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston.
The choice, many Coptic Christian immigrants said, came down to the lesser of two evils. One of the final candidates was Ahmed Shafiq, a former cabinet minister for the ousted regime of President Hosni Mubarak that had oppressed religious minorities for 30 years. The other was Morsi, a conservative member of the Muslim Brotherhood, which had been an aggressive anti-Christian force in Egypt for just as long.
Among exiled voters in the United States, Shafiq won with 75 percent of the ballots. But in Egypt, Morsi won with more than 51 percent. On June 24, the results were announced in Cairo just as hundreds of people were arriving for the morning service at St. Mark. Suddenly, worshipers recounted, people in the pews started weeping or hugging. One man cried out, "Egypt is ruined!"
Leaders of Coptic Solidarity, an exile movement that held a conference on Capitol Hill to assess the post-electoral situation and press for support from the Obama administration, were almost apocalyptic in their predictions of an increasingly bleak and suffocating fate for Copts and Egypt.
"We don't hate Morsi, but we know the Brotherhood and its history," said Magdi Khalil, one of the conference organizers, who is based in Virginia. "No matter what they say, the future is going to be darker and darker. They may not continue burning churches, but there will be a war of attrition against us, and Egypt will go towards a total Islamic state."
At the conference, angry Egyptians in the audience accused State Department officials of abandoning their cause and supporting the Muslim Brotherhood. Michael Posner, an assistant secretary of state, tried to reassure the group, saying the Obama administration shared the Copts' concerns.
Not all Coptic immigrants agreed with Khalil's dire scenario. Some said they were willing to give Morsi a chance, especially since he has been sounding magnanimous and inclusive in his postelection speeches. Morsi, who once lived and studied in the United States, has promised to respect minority rights, penalize forces who killed unarmed protesters, and appoint a Copt as one of his vice presidents.
Samia Harris, the principal of a private school in Woodbridge, Va., said she decided to boycott the final election round because she was uncomfortable with both candidates. But she said she felt "better about Morsi's intentions after I heard him speak. Now let's see if he delivers on his promises."
Harris, who is active in promoting U.S.-Egyptian relations, said she would be part of a delegation that was to travel to Cairo to meet with Morsi later this summer.
"We want to offer our services," she said, "and we also want to keep him accountable."