The presence of the Evangelical Church in the UAE goes back as far as the founding of the nation of the United Arab Emirates. It all began with the arrival of Christian doctors who founded the Oasis Hospital in Al Ain.
When Drs. Pat and Marian Kennedy, first arrived in November 1960, at the invitation of His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and his brother Sheikh Shakhbut bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the infant and maternal mortality rate in Al Ain was unusually high. Because of this and other endemic diseases like tuberculosis and malaria, the population of Al Ain was actually declining and in desperate need of quality healthcare. Soon this hospital became the sole source of medical care for the patients of Al Ain and was privileged to be the birthplace of many members of the royal family. The Al Ain Evangelical Church began here with the kind permission of the rulers. Drs. Pat and Marian Kennedy served here till 1975.
The Evangelical Community Church of Abu Dhabi was started in 1972, when a small group of English-speaking Christians met together in the home of Carl and Barbara Sherbeck on Hamdan Street. The small congregation soon outgrew the Sherbecks’ living room, and moved to a warehouse next door. The Evangelical Community Church continued to grow under a succession of pastors: Carl Sherbeck (1972-1977), Herb Lyon, (1977-1979), Gordon Stinson (1979-1983), Jimmy Smith (1984-1990), Cameron Arensen (1990-2015), Jeramie Rinne (2016 – present). In Dubai a small fellowship of expatriate oil and gas workers constituted themselves as a church in 1977 which was then called the International Evangelical Church of Dubai. The church was then meeting on Sundays in the Jumeirah American School (now the American School of Dubai), and Sunday School was held there in the afternoons.
In 1980, due to international tensions, the church was asked, for security reasons, to leave the Jumeirah American School. For a while the church met in hired hotel rooms and later in Our Own English School and The Cambridge High School, by arrangement with the school’s owner, Mrs. Varkey. In 1990, the church leased a large Arabic style villa in Jumeirah (the “Jumeirah Villa”), which remained the church’s home until September 2003, and continued thereafter to be used for Sunday evening services and other churches’ meetings until the Dubai Municipality ordered the villa’s closure in June 2006. The Villa was also used by other Christian groups, including the Arabic Evangelical Church of Dubai (AECD). In 1994, an informal group composed of United Christian Church of Dubai (UCCD) and the Arab Evangelical Church of Dubai (AECD) and others applied for a grant of land from the Ruler of Dubai on which to construct a church building. The Ruler of Dubai in 1998 granted a piece of land to these churches, and fundraising commenced for a building.
In September, 2003, the Friday services commenced at the new Dubai Evangelical Church Centre (“DECC”) in Maranatha Hall. In 2010 UCCD sent out a number of members and staff to establish a new church, Redeemer Church of Dubai, on the opposite side of Dubai. UCCD then planted the RAK Evangelical Church in 2012 as the rulers of RAK were very generous and kind to grant the church land for a building. In 2013 Grace Evangelical Church was commissioned in the Emirate of Sharjah under the leadership of our Senior pastor, Anand Samuel. Grace Evangelical Church currently rents space from the St. Martin’s Anglican Church Building as we do not have a building to call our own. Although licenses to hold Christian worship or build churches in the UAE are limited, pastors of the Evangelical church express their gratitude to the Government for their freedom to meet. Today, almost fifty years since the small fellowship was begun in the sands of Dubai, we remain committed to same Evangelical vision of its founders: to proclaim “the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor 4:6).