ABU DHABI // Thousands of worshippers gathered in the capital to commemorate one of the most significant events on the Christian calendar, the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on Good Friday.
"As a Christian, I can say this is like a reminder to us that the Son of God has given his life for our sins," said 36-year-old Darwanto Simantupang, an Indonesian expatriate who attended mass at St Andrew's Church with his wife and two children. "There are two events in Christianity that are very important – Easter and Christmas, when he died and when he was born.
“But the way that I feel is Easter is more important than when he was born because, at this time, our sins have been written off, and he died because of us. So I can say this is the climax of all of the sacrifices that Jesus Christ has madefor us.”
About 25,000 worshippers were expected to attend one of many services being held throughout the day yesterday at St Andrew’s.
“That’s a conservative number,” said Rev Canon Andrew Thompson, senior Anglican chaplain at the church.
“During the holy week, we do have a lot of extra people coming.”
Rev Thompson delivered a sermon to a standing-room-only congregation at St Andrew's Church that recounted the life of Jesus through photographic snapshots. The story was reenacted with members of the congregation standing in as Jesus when he was a baby, age 12, age 30 and age 33, when he was crucified.
Rev Thompson said the crucifixion was “the single most valuable event” in Jesus’s life.
At the conclusion of the sermon, each of the 350 worshippers in the church took turns to tie a red ribbon to a large cross mounted at the pulpit. The ribbon was meant to represent the blood of Christ and, by tying it to the wooden cross, each individual was symbolically linked with the story of Jesus.
“The story lives on and it lives on through you,” Rev Thompson said.
Immediately after the service was over, the church quickly emptied only to be filled with a new group of worshippers, from the Church of South India Malayalam. Across the courtyard, the Church of Pakistan was also holding mass. About 62 different congregations share the facilities at St Andrew’s Centre.
“I like to say this is the gift of Islam to us in this country. Islam has brought us all together, it’s a surprising consequence of living here,” Rev Thompson said.
“That’s the gift of the United Arab Emirates to the Christian community, they’ve brought us together.”
Tomorrow, special services will be held to mark the resurrection.