Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A new church building

This weekend, the first purpose-built Mormon chapel in the entire Middle East will be dedicated in Abu Dhabi. Where have we Middle Eastern Mormons been meeting all these years, then, you ask? In rented villas or in private apartments, mostly. It works, but it's not ideal.

Villas (homes) are not especially well-suited to the mechanics of Mormon services. We need one big room for the first hour of the meeting, and then a lot of smaller rooms (but some medium-sized ones) for the meetings of the men's group, or the women's group, or the big children's class, which then breaks into smaller children's classes, plus an indestructible room for the Nursery (babies/toddlers) class, and then at least one administrative room. It's great if there's a kitchen or food prep area, too, and maybe a bigger outdoor space for non-Sabbath events. You can see why the words "purpose-built" are music to our ears, because all the quirks of a Mormon service are accommodated in such a space. In our villas, not so much.

In fact, I'll get into it a little, just to make you think (and be grateful for what you have, DANGIT...if what you have is a purpose-built Mormon chapel, of course). We are so lucky to have a villa to meet in in Sharjah. But there are a few struggles (some of them more than minor).

  • There is a big space in front of the pulpit for our main meeting, but it's not big enough, so the rest of the congregation has to sit in an area that is at a right-angle to the speaker. Not a big deal, though, if a little odd.
  • There is only one bathroom (with a single toilet - this is a house, remember) in the entire villa that is not inside of a classroom space. That means that if you have to use the bathroom at any time after the first hour when everyone is contained downstairs in the main room, you have to interrupt a class to do so. I get a little touchy about this (I'm in charge of the children's class) because one of the bathrooms is inside of the Sunbeam (3/4/5-year-olds) classroom and the last thing those kids need is to be disturbed by grown-ups coming into the room who they hope with all their hearts is their own dear mama come to get them.
  • I don't want to hear your complaints about standard-issue Mormon mother's lounges anymore (and I have done my share of complaining about them in the past). The "mother's lounge" in our villa is a couch in the foyer (=area by the front door entry). And there are no built-in diaper-changing facilities anywhere, because...villa.
  • There aren't quite enough rooms with doors. The children's class suffers from this the most (says me, but again, I'm in charge of them). We have a divider up to help block off our space. But while a divider gives the illusion of privacy, it does nothing to block out noise.

ANYWAY. Just a few challenges of having church outside a proper church building. Which is why I was almost brought to tears by the Abu Dhabi building when we visited it two weeks ago. Check it out.
Upstairs foyer area (the building is a few stories tall). I like how it's Mormon-y, but still Middle East-influenced. There were other spaces that gave this impression better but I was running around this building like a kid on Christmas morning so I didn't take nicely staged, thoughtful pictures for you. Sorry.

THE PRIMARY ROOM. A podium! With a microphone! Connected to wired-in speakers! Carpet! Space! A door! THAT CLOSES! Be still my heart.

This is our long-suffering tech guy, whose name I will not mention here but who deserves a medal from someone. I saw him tucked away in a back room off the gym (yes, GYM) and asked if he was enjoying his second home. He grumbled good-naturedly and said that actually, this has been his first home recently. This building is a Stake Center (regional headquarters, and our region here encompasses several countries) so it needs to be outfitted to broadcast meetings to other far-flung congregations. He let the girls work the cameras for a while.

The chapel.

The outside. I wish I had a daytime picture. The location of this building is a little funny - I'm not sure why they got the parcel of land they did (and we are so grateful for it) but it's in a rougher part of town.

The gym. I repeat, THE GYM. Nearby there was a small food preparation room.

There are lots of spaces I didn't take pictures of. It was all just too awesome. We are so happy to have this building in the UAE, even if those of us in Sharjah won't get to use it week to week.


Steven said...

I like the style of the building. It looks like Jeremy's parents' house, if I remember correctly.

Myrna said...


Bridget said...

Yeah, it does! I knew it reminded me of something.

Lucia- insert creative nickname said...


Kathy Haynie said...

Interesting to think about the implications of having an LDS chapel in the middle east. I wonder how many more there will be 20 years from now? That's great that the first one is YOUR stake center! It's beautiful.

Katie Lewis said...

So cool! I will be so grateful for our tiny CTR 6 classroom every Sunday now. :)

Britney said...


Liz Johnson said...

That is AWESOME. I attended church at a villa growing up in Mexico, and also in Romania - I'd agree with you on all of the issues you brought up. Especially the inability to block noise. Sheesh.

okielois said...

Hi Bridget,
Steve's mom here. I sent him an LDS news link on this chapel & he returned with a link to your report. I enjoyed it very much.

Then I clicked on your link to being in Syria earlier & there was a pic of Steve. Funny.

Bridget said...

Awesome. :)


Related Posts with Thumbnails