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Boost for Middle East Christians as newly renovated churches re-dedicated

Posted on: October 27, 2015 12:42 PM
Archbishop Suheil Dawani re-opens Emmanuel parish church in Ramleh
Photo Credit: Diocese of Jerusalem

[ACNS] Two Anglican churches in Egypt and Israel are celebrating after completing renovations.

Earlier this month, the Most Revd Suheil Dawani, Archbishop of Jerusalem, inaugurated the newly refurbished facilities at the Emmanuel Anglican parish church in Ramleh (Ramla) in Israel, midway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

The church built a parish hall with a rectory apartment on the top floor and removed asbestos from the parish hall which now houses office space that was previously in the sacristry.

“May this place continue to be a place of peace, prayer and reconciliation for all people in this land,” Archbishop Dawani said as he inaugurated the new facilities during the diocesan Feast of Thanksgiving service.

Church members were accompanied at the inauguration service by local dignitaries and heads of other churches in Ramleh, including leaders of the Orthodox and Catholic communities.

“We praise God for the completion of this project and extend our most heartfelt thanks to all our friends namely the American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, Mt. View Presbyterian Church, Scottsdale Arizona, Calgary Canada, and Talahasi, Florida who have sustained us through prayers, moral and financial support,” the parish priest, the Revd Canon Samuel Fanous, said. “Without their support, this project would not have been possible.”

The joy was mirrored in Egypt, where Archbishop Mouneer Anis of the Diocese of Egypt and North Africa with the Horn of Africa re-dedicated a five-floor 10,000 square feet building which houses the church of St Paul, in Ezbet el-Nakhl, a slum-area of the capital Cairo.

The church was founded in 2008 and became known as “the Church of the Garage” because having brought the five-storey building, the congregation could only afford to prepare the ground floor garage area as a meeting space.

“I hope people remember the joke about the ‘church of the garage’, Archbishop Mouneer said as he re-opened the newly renovated church last weekend. “We are not ashamed that we start churches in any place that allows us. If Christ could be born in a stable, his Body can meet in a garage; why not? But surely, our ministry is greatly helped by this whole building being available now. It means that we have many more opportunities to be available for the people.”

St Paul’s Church was planted in Ezbet al-Nakhl by the Anglican church to minister to the 500,000 residents of the squatter district. The church offers a variety of social programs, including church classes for 100 or more children every weekend, which helps them pass their school exams with good grades.

“This is critical in enabling these children to move out of the cycle of poverty,” the Dean of East Cairo, the Very Revd Jos Strengholt, said. At the re-dedication service on Sunday, Ms Nahed Samir, who leads the work of Episcocare in Ezbet al-Nakhl, handed out diplomas to nine members who had graduated from literacy classes.

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A diploma is presented to a graduate of the literacy programme at St Paul's Church in Ezbet al-Nakhl during the re-dedication service. The church programme has huge potential to break individuals out of cycles of poverty and poor education. Photo: Diocese of Egypt.

“I am so glad that our building is finished,” parish priest the Revd Reda Boshra, said. “What used to be our garage is now a great church hall. And we meet on another floor where we have much more space.”

The churches at Ramleh and Cairo are not the only churches in the Middle East to be re-opened after improvement works. The Church of St Andrew in Abu Dhabi recently re-opened after nine-months of renovations.