The Evangelical Community Church of Abu Dhabi celebrates its 50th anniversary by honoring the tolerance of the United Arab Emirates
“The United Arab Emirates is today a world leader in promoting well-being and understanding among the many communities that call it home. It is a model for how it embraces freedom of worship and demonstrates hospitality to those with different values and belief systems,” Sequeira said.
“His leadership has created a cohesive society with people from different backgrounds living together in harmony, which makes the country a pioneer. Over the past five decades, it has enabled us to practice our faith and empowered the community to blossom.
Created in 1972
The Evangelical Church was the first in the capital in 1972. In fact, some of the earliest members of the Evangelical community – Dr Pat Kenedy and Dr Marian Kennedy – are famous for establishing the emirate’s first hospital in Abu Dhabi to Al Ain, the Oasis Hospital. , now known as Kanad Hospital.
The Kennedys were part of the Evangelical Alliance mission and their work in the UAE attracted two other mission members – Carl and Barbara Sherbeck – to the UAE. Carl Sherbeck was trained as a pastor, and when he moved to the capital of the United Arab Emirates to help the hospital with port-related processes, other evangelicals approached him to set up a service of pray.
“The community first began meeting in the living room of the Sherbeck, then rented a warehouse for services until 1974. Eventually the community approached Abu Dhabi leaders for a housing project that could also be used as a gathering place, and secured land off Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Street,” Sequeira said.
The community continued to grow over the years and, following another request, was granted land in 1990 to establish a church there. The Evangelical Community Church was finally opened in the Al Mushrif area in 1994. As the community continued to grow, a larger building was developed on the same site in 2009 to accommodate an increasing number of worshippers.
Sequeira said more than 15,000 people visit the church each week, with services held in 16 other languages for various ethnic groups and congregations.
freedom of worship
“We are very grateful for the freedom of worship that has been granted to us in this country. We have a space to meet and there are legal avenues for clergy to exist which was formalized with the establishment of the Abu Dhabi Department of Community Development in 2018,” the pastor said.
In fact, this tolerance of different faiths even helps the UAE attract talent to its shores and ensures that families feel safe and comfortable in their new home.
“Many members of the evangelical community check first, before moving, if there is a church present. And that allows them to continue to thrive. In fact, one of our oldest members has lived here since 1977 and continues to stay here as an investor.
Crossroads between East and West
Sequeira himself moved to Abu Dhabi from the United States in 2017.
“I wanted to pastor a congregation and was drawn to Abu Dhabi, which is at the crossroads between East and West. The previous pastor, Jeramie Rinne, was looking for someone to help him, and I applied for the job. And when my wife and I came here, we were amazed by the community and fell in love with the congregation,” he said.
Following Rinne’s departure, Sequeira was appointed senior pastor of the church in 2021.
“It is not uncommon for many individuals and families, when they leave Abu Dhabi, to share with us that the church and church community has been the highlight of their time here, and that they have grown spiritually from in a way they could never have imagined. That’s another reason I chose to come here: the potential for global impact. Being involved in the spiritual formation of people from all nations, who are here in the UAE, who will then go from here all over the world, more nurtured in their faith, allows us the potential for global impact,” added Pastor.
As part of the 50th anniversary celebrations, the church held a special event on Saturday, November 12 which was attended by members of the community and various dignitaries. A VIP pre-event also saw the presence of officials from the Ministry of Tolerance and Coexistence and the Department of Community Development Abu Dhabi, as well as the presence of the Ambassador of the Philippines to the United Arab Emirates and regular participant in the church, Hjayceelyn M. Quintana. Former Senior Pastor Cam Arensen (1990-2015) was also present as the church traced its history and looked to the next 50 years.
The morning and evening services the following day continued to celebrate the anniversary.