23 Jun 2019

St. John’s, Casablanca: Grand opening of the new community centre

St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church in Casablanca has its new community centre, and the grand opening was celebrated in style.

The event was hosted jointly by HM Ambassador, H.E. Mr Thom Reilly, Bishop David, and the Chaplain of St. John’s, The Revd Canon Dr. Medhat Sabry and the church wardens. Among the invited guests were senior faith leaders and officials from the Moroccan authorities.

With over 200 attendees on a typical Sunday morning, St. John's serves a highly diverse, multi-denominational congregation. Although regular attendees hail from Europe, Asia and the Americas, more than half of the congregation comes from sub-Saharan Africa.

St. John the Evangelist was the first Protestant Church established in Casablanca. Constructed in 1906, it is the oldest Christian Church in the city still in use today. The site was originally provided to the British Crown under a property grant from the King of Morocco and has been the site of the British Cemetery since the 1860s. One of its most famous worshippers was Major General George Patton of the US Army who attended regularly during WWII. General Patton donated the pulpit and communion table that still grace the altar.

From 2013, St. John’s found it did not have the capacity to meet the needs of its growing congregation during weekend services, and that a plan would be needed for its future.  In addition, Sunday School classes were being held under a tent and in a re-purposed shipping container. In times of inclement weather this same tent served as the fellowship area between and after services. The church lacked a permanent on-site storage area or office space, and the restroom facilities were marginal.

An expansion plan was developed envisioning new meeting and education facilities, a food preparation area, an office for the chaplain, permanent classrooms, a multipurpose room for hosting meetings and receptions, and new restrooms.  And from 2015, Moroccan architect with a deep love for heritage buildings in Casablanca, Mr Abderrahim Kassou offered to take on this project…for free! 

You can watch a superb video on St. John’s and the development of the community centre project – it has already received close to 800 views since the opening!

Commenting on the grand opening, Fr. Medhat said:

“There have been many historical moments in the life of St. John’s Anglican Church, and today will stand among them as the fulfilment of a long-held dream God gave to the congregation several years back. 

We are grateful to the King of Morocco, His Majesty Mohammed VI, for his hospitality in this nation, and generosity in approving this project to go forward.  We are also grateful to all the appointed leaders who have been part of the approval process for the development project.  It is believed that this is the first time Morocco has granted approval for an addition to a Christian worship space in more than 60 years!

We are grateful for the opportunity to practice our faith and worship and serve God in this place, during our time as guests in the kingdom of Morocco.

It has been a long journey leading up to this moment, but today we celebrate this historic moment in the story of St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church in Casablanca, and we praise God that this long-held vision has become a reality!

May this community centre be a blessing to the congregation of St. John’s and the wider community of Casablanca, dedicated to God, and useful to His kingdom.”

Here are some more pictures of a day to remember at St. John's ...