Hundreds of worshipers will soon be able to visit the long-awaited new Church of South India which is nearing completion in Abu Dhabi.
The winged exterior of the peach and sandstone structure prepares to welcome Protestant worshipers from across the Emirates.
The community of parishioners in South India have been waiting for their own worship space for over four decades.
“We have been here for 43 years and it is our dream come true to have our own church,” said the parish priest, Lalji M Philip. The National.
“The construction site is almost finished.
“We are very grateful to the UAE government for giving us this land for a church.
“We are not a very large community and we are very grateful to have the chance to have our own space.”
People have been worshiping every Friday night at St Andrew’s Church in Abu Dhabi since 1979.
Construction began in September 2020 on the steel and cement structure, which awaits power and water connections from local authorities.
Chandeliers will be installed in the central skylight, wooden benches and an organ will soon be added, and a multi-purpose room has been built on the ground floor.
The building will accommodate approximately 750 people, with an upper balcony overlooking the main prayer area on the ground floor.
While the community of 5,000 is small in the United Arab Emirates, it is the second largest group in India after the Roman Catholic Church.
Located in the Al Shahama area of Abu Dhabi, the land is near a Hindu temple under construction, off the busy Sheikh Zayed Road highway that connects Abu Dhabi to Dubai.
One of the large windows of the church will have a view of the temple in the adjacent area.
Both holy sites are symbols of religious freedom in a country that prides itself on being open to diverse religions and cultures.
The involvement of the local community is evident in the planning of the church, which cost around 10.8 million dirhams.
Eight high windows have been fitted with stained glass which depicts scenes from the Old and New Testaments in warm, vivid colors.
The designs feature Noah’s Ark and the Ten Commandments on one side of the room, and the birth of Jesus on the other.
A close-knit group of church members are part of the project management team and provided the design and theme for the stained glass windows.
They regularly visited a workshop in the Musaffah area of Abu Dhabi to check on the progress of the panels.
Architect Maher Lamie spoke of the community spirit that galvanized the project.
“Angel’s wings on an elevation outside – it’s like the angels are taking care of the church. They feel like the guardians of the church,” said the Egyptian, who built mosques, churches and towers in the United Arab Emirates.
“It’s a simple octagonal structure from the outside. But inside it is circular, the idea being to signify a continuous space, one where there is no end.
The land for the church was granted by Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.
Father Philip said the church would be open to all, in line with the UAE’s policy of tolerance.
“We pray that whoever visits the church will find peace, serenity and all of God’s blessings,” he said.
“No matter what community or religion visits here, we pray that it will be a place of blessing for all who come.
“Prayer is the backbone of the community.”
The church will have a choir of 50 parishioners, who will welcome people from all the emirates for Sunday prayers.
Updated: April 22, 2022, 03:00