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EGYPT: 'Church of the Garage' in Cairo is no longer a joke

EGYPT: 'Church of the Garage' in Cairo is no longer a joke
Church Re-dedication in Ezbet el-Nakhl

By Dean Jos Strengholt
October 27, 2015

Jokingly, Egyptians from the slum area of Ezbet el-Nakhl in Cairo named the Anglican church in their neighborhood the 'Church of the Garage'. The church had, in 2008, bought a five-floor building but it could initially not afford to finish the place so they could only meet in the unfinished ground-floor garage. But the church is no longer a joke. On Sunday 25 October, archbishop Mouneer Anis of the Diocese of Egypt and North Africa with the Horn of Africa re-dedicated the five-floor building of 10,000 square feet in a joyful celebration with 150 church members present. It is now the Church of St Paul.

The building of St Paul's is in the heart of Ezbet al-Nakhl, a squatter district with over 500,000 people who emigrated from the poorer southern parts of Egypt to Cairo in hopes of a better life. But life in Ezbet al-Nakhl is only marginally better than in the rural areas of Egypt. In response, the Anglican Church began its ministry in Ezbet al-Nakhl, offering a variety of social programs. One major outreach that attracted many to the church is that, through its social affiliate Episcocare, the church offers classes for 100 or more children every weekend, helping them pass their school exams with good grades. This is critical in enabling these children to move out of the cycle of poverty. Ms Nahed Samir leads the work of Episcocare in Ezbet al-Nakhl. At the re-dedication service of the church, she handed out diplomas to nine members who had graduated from literacy classes.

'I am so glad that our building is finished', says Rev Reda Boshra. 'What used to be our garage is now a great church hall. And we meet on another floor where we have much more space'. Rev Reda hopes to soon begin with youth meetings as a whole new floor was also added to the building for this. More furniture is needed and some kitchens still need to be finished. 'We trust this to be finished soon', says Rev Reda.

'I hope people remember the joke about the 'church of the garage', says Archbishop Mouneer. 'We are not ashamed that we start churches in any place that allows us. If Christ could be born in a stable, his Body can meet in a garage; why not? But surely, our ministry is greatly helped by this whole building being available now. It means that we have many more opportunities to be available for the people.'

The Very Reverend Jos Strengholt is Dean of East Cairo

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