Richmond Arabic Christian Fellowship
The Richmond Arabic Christian Fellowship was established in 1992. A Presbyterian pastor from Egypt moved to Richmond to attend Union Theological Seminary. Recognizing the need for an Arabic ministry, he founded one at Ginter Park Presbyterian Church. The church has subsequently moved to Crestwood Presbyterian Church on the Southside before settling in 2000 at its current location, the Third Presbyterian Church. A new pastor assumed leadership of the congregation in 1996 when the average attendance was ten to fifteen worshipers. The congregation has since grown ten-fold.
The church defines in mission in the following way: “Believing that God has put all things under the Lordship of Jesus, and that He is the Head of the Church, we gather as a family to proclaim the Gospel for the salvation of all, and to nurture, shelter and ensure the spiritual fellowship of all. We gather also to promote adequate worship of our Almighty God, sharing the Sacraments, and performing evangelism, counseling, healing, and service especially to those coming from the Middle East.” Members celebrate the traditional holidays of Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Although the Fellowship celebrates the traditional Christian holidays, there are slight differences in their observance. Easter is considered the biggest holiday of the year (as opposed to Christmas for Western Christians). It is known as “The Big Feast,” and is celebrated as such. Thanksgiving is also observed slightly differently. Whereas Westerners celebrate this as a time to be with family, the Fellowship has expanded this to be a church celebration where the entire congregation comes together for a meal and time of worship. Since the church observes the Eastern (or Orthodox) calendar, Christmas falls on January 7 th, and Easter is always celebrated one week later than in America.
The Richmond Arabic Christian Fellowship has both its worship and teaching (Sunday school) service early on Sunday evenings. During this time, hymns, prayer, offering, scripture readings, and a sermon from the pastor is the typical program for the day. The entire service is conducted in Arabic. Communion is taken twice a month on the first and last Sundays. After each service there is a time of fellowship including light snacks. Once a month, there is a fellowship dinner after the worship service as a means of creating a sense of community and family among the congregation. There are prayer, youth, Bible study, and women’s meetings during the early evening through the week. English classes are offered on Sundays prior to the evening service.
The Richmond Arabic Christian Fellowship has many outreach activities geared toward the Arabic community (primarily Arab Christians) in the greater Richmond Metropolitan Area. For the most part these outreach activities are assimilation services, such as airport transportation, locating housing, furniture, and employment opportunities; school enrollment; banking and driving license assistance; language translation (in schools, hospitals, job interviews, etc), food and clothing provision; and teaching English as a Second Language. The members of the Fellowship also operate a furniture bank. Donated furniture is stored and distributed to new immigrants from Arabic-speaking countries. In a similar fashion, the congregation sponsors a food service for new immigrants by providing groceries and meals for their first week in Richmond. Special activities, such as picnics at various locations, trips to Washington DC, and an annual church-wide retreat in December are planned throughout the year. The overall missions of the Fellowship’s services are to identify new immigrants from the Middle East, help them understand and adjust to American culture, and invite them to participate in Christian fellowship and worship.
The average attendance for Sunday evening worship ranges from 100-120. Congregants are from various countries in the Middle East, including Egypt, Sudan, Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq, and Jordan. There are a few Americans (4-5) who attend on a regular basis. English-speaking attendance fluctuates. When English-speaking attendees are present, the service is translated via headphones provided by the church.
Richmond Arabic Christian Fellowship
(Third Presbyterian Church)
600 Forest Avenue
Richmond, VA 23229
(804) 282-4645 [ext. 122]
Profile prepared by Rachel Everly