The Anglican Centre in Doha’s church complex, is halfway complete in terms of infrastructure and preparations, and is set to be fully operational by the end of next year, according to the rector of the church, Father Bill Schwartz OBE.
Father Schwartz explained that the centre, designed to offer a location for a wide selection of Christian Protestant denominational groups to worship, has been under construction since 2008, and the QR35mn project is on track to be fully operational by the end of 2012.
“Building is moving ahead apace, and moving ahead in line with our expectations,” he said, adding “the building should be usable by Christmas next year.”
At the moment, the centre is already providing space for some 42 different groups, who use the variety of permanent and temporary buildings on a regular basis.
“On a Friday, we have all the groups using the rooms on a rotational basis,” he explained, adding “every week we have around between 4,000 and 5,000 people using the centre.”
The centre is part of the church complex which was opened in 2008 with the aim of providing a space to worship for the Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Coptic denominational groups, as well as the inter-denominational centre which hosts a number of Indian church groups.
The complex was opened by government officials, who declared the launch as a major step forward for the country and a gift for the many expatriate workers who have come to work and live in Qatar. While many groups were restricted to worshipping in private homes and school buildings in previous years, the complex represents a new phase of development for inter-faith groups here, who now have dedicated spaces in which to worship publically and legally.
Hundreds of thousands of expatriates are worshipping members of the Catholic, Protestant and other churches, and the country now possesses a centre in which to offer these expatriates a place to worship, even if the buildings are not allowed to display any signs of worship from the outside.
The Anglican centre is one of the buildings in the multi-million riyal complex, and although there is still a large amount of work to be done, the centre already has the infrastructure in place to construct the rest of the main building, which is currently a third complete.
At the moment, Father Schwartz’s congregation, the ‘Church of the Epiphany,’ is still unable to use the site regularly as there is currently not yet enough space for the 300-strong group to gather in one room.
However, when complete the group will use the main room in the centre, which will have a capacity of 650, and the entire facility will be able to host around 14 congregations worshipping simultaneously.
“People are very pleased about having a place to worship freely and confidently which gives them an identity,” he said, adding “this is also a part of the country’s development, where worship for these groups used to be illegal.”
“Personally, I am very encouraged,” he said, explaining, “we are making very steady progress in terms of our planning and also in terms of co-operation among the groups.”
“We have definitely learnt a lot about management during this process,” he added. One of the most significant issues affecting the new centre is a lack of parking spaces, with the initial designs choosing to allocate more needed space for worship rather than a larger car parking lot.
However, Father Schwartz is hopeful that a solution can be found.
“The churches committee is currently co-operating with the government and is pleased with the government’s intentions to solve the parking problems,” he said.
“There has been a very strong sense of co-operation and willingness to work together on logistics issues so far,” he said, adding “there is a strong sense of positive co-operation and I am very pleased about that.”
“The Christians of Qatar are grateful to HH Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani and his government for the religious tolerance we are experiencing in Qatar,” he added.
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