St George’s Anglican church was first founded in 1864; it was and remains the only Anglican church in Iraq. The present building was built in 1936 as a memorial to the soldiers of the British Empire who lost their lives in Mesopotamia in the First World War.
For part of its history, St. George’s functioned as a church for expatriates, yet at present the congregation is entirely Iraqi. The Church stopped functioning after the first Gulf War but Canon Andrew was allowed to take services after beginning work in Iraq from 1998 onwards. As it had not been a functioning church for about 14 years, the building had been totally looted – not a pew remained. Many of the windows had been broken, the organ was removed, and the only church fixture that remained was the solid marble font.
Following the 2003 invasion, the church was mainly used for services by diplomats and the military. However, following the outbreak of the insurgency, the situation soon became too dangerous and military and political figures could no longer leave the Green Zone to enter the church. Meanwhile, the decrease in Coalition presence was supplemented by an increasing number of Iraqis who started coming to the church chiefly because it became too dangerous for them to travel to their own services.
With funding from the British Embassy in Baghdad and the Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf, a basic restoration took place. Glass and doors were put in place, plastic chairs were purchased and a carpet was laid. An electric piano was provided and hymns and liturgy were projected onto a screen at the front of the church.
Canon Andrew now tries to spend three out of every four weekends in Baghdad and, despite all the difficulties coming from violence towards minority groups in Iraq, the church continues to expand and grow.
St George’s Church in Baghdad is part of the Anglican Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf, with sister churches in Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, Abu Dhabi and the Northern Emirates of the UAE, Aden, Qatar and all over Cyprus.
The ministry and work of St George’s is also supported by the Jerusalem and Middle East Church Association (JMECA), a registered UK charity, that supports the churches throughout the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East.