ABU DHABI, 3rd October 2018 (WAM) – The St Andrews Church in Abu Dhabi marked its 50th anniversary today, in the presence of Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Tolerance.
In a speech he made to mark the event, Sheikh Nahyan lauded the St. Andrews Church as “a shining example of unselfish service to the community.”
“From your humble beginnings near the Corniche, on land given by the founder of our nation, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, to this location dating from 1984, and now your planting of a sister church in Mussafah on land given by our President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, you have been a shining example of unselfish service to the community,” he said.
Amongst those taking part were Bishop Michael Lewis, Anglican bishop of Cyprus and The Gulf, the British Ambassador, Patrick Moody, and representatives of other Christian denominations in Abu Dhabi.
The first Anglican chaplain travelled to the UAE in the late 1950s offering services to the expatriate community.
The first church building erected in 1968 on the Corniche provided worship facilities for oil and gas workers. From the very beginning St Andrew’s became a centre for the international Christian community residing in Abu Dhabi. Within 10 years, services were being conducted in 12 languages.
Today St Andrew’s church hosts over 50 congregations from Christian traditions as diverse as Ethiopian Orthodox through to the Nepali Evangelical through to a Brazilian Pentecostal congregation.
The text of Sheikh Nahyan’s speech runs as follows: “Reverend Canon Thompson, Ambassador Moody, Excellencies, Members of the St. Andrews Congregation, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen: St. Andrews Church has been a valued member of the Abu Dhabi community for 50 years. From your humble beginnings near the Corniche, on land given by the founder of our nation, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, to this location dating from 1984, and now your planting of a sister church in Mussafah on land given by our President, His Highness the president, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahayan, you have been a shining example of unselfish service to the community.
It is always humbling to see people who walk their talk. While much has been written on how people should treat each other, doing to others as you would have them do to you is as concise and complete a summary as exists. Throughout your 50 years, St. Andrews has lived this golden rule.
There is one example in particular that I would like to highlight. St. Andrews has chosen to share this facility with a variety of other denominations. Rather than keep it solely for your own convenience and use, you have opened your church home and your hearts to others so they can worship and fellowship together here. Many congregations have found a home in the St. Andrews facilities. Many others will find a home in the All Saints Church you are helping to establish in Mussafah.
Your concern for your fellow man, expressed in words and deeds, is a remarkable example to the community. Of course, your generosity in sharing your church buildings and grounds, is a great example of tolerance and tolerance is the key value and characteristic that has made the United Arab Emirates one of the safest, most peaceful and prosperous places on Earth.
The late Sheikh Zayed chose to welcome talented people from around the world to help develop the United Arab Emirates. He believed every person deserved respect and the opportunity to live a fulfilling life. Like you, he understood the importance of worship and fellowship to the wellbeing of the individual, the family, and the community. You have only to step outside this compound to see the houses of worship of many religions in this immediate neighborhood. That every Friday people of so many different faiths can compete peacefully for parking shows what a remarkable place the UAE has become.
My Friends: I would like to commend you on your decision to plant a Gaff tree to commemorate this day. The Gaff tree is a fitting national symbol, and a common sight across the UAE. In the desert it usually grows in community with other Gaff trees by sending out roots, which spread and then reach upward as new trees. Sheikh Zayed often took shade under a Gaff tree. I suspect many conversations, which helped shape the formation of this country, took place under these trees. I hope your tree thrives and provides shade to those seeking to continue the development of St. Andrews and the UAE.
Thank you for the honor of sharing in your celebration today, and for the good work you have done in helping Abu Dhabi to become the community it is. You have been faithful stewards of St. Andrews. While I can’t imagine what the world will look like 50 years from now, I am confident that your good work will continue and that St. Andrews will always be a vibrant and important part of Abu Dhabi. The future looks very good indeed. Thank you!”