RAS AL KHAIMAH // The emirate's first Anglican church and the Gulf's largest was consecrated on Friday at the new church complex in the Al Jazeera Al Hamra area.
Hundreds of people of different nationalities arrived on buses from all over the country to attend the elaborate opening ceremony.
Bishop Michael Lewis, of the Anglican Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf, officially opened St Luke's to worshippers.
He gathered worshippers around the entrance before the service and said: "Let the doors be opened."
A hymn was sung after the procession moved into the church and the congregation took their seats.
There was an offertory procession, breaking of the bread and communion.
Bishop Lewis described the church as "a real sign of hope for the Christian community".
"The church exceeded my expectations. It's a beautiful building," he said. "I am grateful to the Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah, Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, for donating the land."
The church, which can accommodate 2,000 people and sits on a 5,600 square metre plot, is the seventh Anglican church in the UAE.
Others already operate in Dubai, Fujairah, Sharjah, Abu Dhabi and Al Ain, while another is likely to be built in the Mussaffah area of Abu Dhabi within the next two years.
All of the churches have been built on land donated by the UAE's Rulers. "We are thankful to them for their generosity and tolerance," said St Luke's chaplain, Rev Nelson M Fernandez.
Rev Fernandez said St Luke's congregation had worshipped in temporary accommodation on a rented property before the construction of the new church, which has one main hall and eight smaller halls.
"It's a big relief for worshippers," he said. "People of 35 to 40 different denominations can congregate here."
John Pavamani, a church community member who has been involved in the project since the first foundation was laid two years ago, said the church was accessible to worshippers from all emirates. "It's ideally located for people from Umm Al Quwain and Ajman to come and perform prayers."
Aji Augustine said he could feel the presence of God in RAK. "A lot of people are working here. The new church gives us a space to remember God."
Sabjal, a worshipper from Dubai, was impressed with the size of the building. "I would like to come here quite often and be in the church."