By Habib Toumi, Bureau Chief, www.gulfnews.com
The Anglican Centre in Doha's church complex will be fully operational by the end of next year, the church rector has said.
According to Father Bill Schwartz, the 35 million Qatari riyal complex, under construction since 2008, will be ready by the end of 2012 and will offer Christian Protestant denominational groups a location to worship.
"Building is moving ahead apace, and moving ahead in line with our expectations. The building should be usable by Christmas next year," he said, quoted by Qatari daily Gulf Times.
The centre is currently 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," the rector said. "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 a major step forward for the country and a gift for the many expatriate workers who have come to work and live in Qatar.
It represents a new phase of development for inter-faith groups in Qatar who now have dedicated spaces in which to worship publically and legally after they were restricted to worshipping in private homes and school buildings in the past.
According to the daily, thousands of expatriates are worshipping members of the Catholic, Protestant and other churches.
However, 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.
But, the group will be able, after the complex is completed, to 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," Father Schwartz said. "This is also a part of the country's development, where worship for these groups used to be illegal. Personally, I am very encouraged. 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 said.
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. There is a strong sense of positive co-operation and I am very pleased about that."