It is very encouraging to visit a church which is growing in diversity, in size and in outreach – as St. John’s Casablanca is doing. Looking at older photos of St. John’s, it is evident that the congregation was once dominantly European and American. Today, it is a glorious assembly of African, Asian and European/American – with a Middle Eastern chaplain, Canon Medhat Sabry.
Medhat has worked hard to build a chaplaincy council that represents these different backgrounds: the photo above shows some of the council members.
St. John’s had the problem that its building wasn’t big enough for its growing congregation. So it embarked on an ambitious building programme, to extend the church westwards and to construct a new gallery. When I visited, the building works were in full swing.
Here you can see the original 1906 doorway, with the new 2020 doorway on the western extension built next door to it.
In addition to a big church extension, St. John’s has constructed a new community centre. The centre is on two levels, with a large meeting room, a suite of Sunday School rooms, a chaplain’s office, kitchen and toilets. It is built very neatly into the existing British cemetery surrounding the church and within the curtilage wall. And it functions as the worship space whilst the church is being extended. Here you see the architect and main contractor, who are rightly proud of their work. It is all beautifully done and wonderfully functional, and I hope the architect wins an award for his design work.
The gardens around the community centre make a great place for after-church mingling and coffee.
Yes, St John’s has been growing in diversity and in size… but also in outreach. A few years ago, the Council committed to start worship centres in Marakesh and Rabat. Marakesh at three hours distance proved too difficult to sustain, but St Augustine of Hippo, Rabat is thriving.
Courtesy of the Roman Catholic Church, the Rabat Anglican community has the use of the delightful chapel of a peaceful convent. Here, musicians are rehearsing before evening worship. The chapel was decorated with bird of paradise flowers from the convent garden, which also features some lovely fruiting loquat trees.
During my visit to Rabat, I had opportunity to call on the Roman Catholic Cardinal Christobel Lopez (left) and Papal Nuncio Mgt. Valetto (right), and to thank them warmly for their advice and support in our ministry in Morocco.
And finally, how about this for a fund-raiser: these beautiful travel mugs illustrated with a picture of St. John’s!
The Anglican Church in Morocco operates by permission of the King of Morocco, who is committed to defending the three Abrahamic faiths. Of course, Morocco is dominantly Muslim, and so the pastoral ministry requires a proper prudence. It is accepted that our ministry will be directed towards the migrant, the ex-patriot, the refugee and the stranger. It in this demanding context with a transient population that St. John’s demonstrates its own remarkable vitality.
I reflected that it is indeed on the edges of our diocese, in some of the most demanding situations, that we are seeing the most striking examples of Christian hospitality, of deepening faith and numerical growth.
My visit to Morocco lasted the inside of five days. It was time very well spent. I was immensely grateful to Canon Medhat and the people of St. Johns and St. Augustine of Hippo for arranging a full and rewarding programme. I left feeling greatly encouraged by all that God is doing through our work in Morocco.