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||1360: Well of Life, Dubai Evangelical Church Centre,
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Mystery Worshipper: The Emirati Auntie.
The church: Well of Life, Dubai Evangelical Church Centre, Dubai,
United Arab Emirates.
Denomination: New Covenant Ministries International.
The building: The Dubai Evangelical Church Centre (DECC) is a two
storey building with lounge, bookshop and coffee shop, as well as rooms
for church meetings. It was intended to serve several churches of various
denominations, and so the decor is somewhat generic. Although at the time
of my visit Well of Life met here, I understand that they have since had
to vacate and are currently meeting elsewhere. Anyone coming to Dubai and
wanting to share in the church fellowship is advised to check their website
The church: Well of Life uses the Arabic word for life, hayat,
as an acronym summing up their mission: Holiness, Apostolic, Yielding to
the Holy Spirit, Authentically Christian, Training Christians to fulfill
their God-given destiny. In addition to communal worship, they also sponsor
smaller gatherings in private homes. They conduct ministries to children,
new mothers, the sick, and those in prison, among others. It's pretty international
in make-up and is planting throughout the Middle East.
The neighbourhood: Dubai is located on the southern shore of the
Persian Gulf and is sometimes called "the New York of the Persian Gulf."
In biblical times the area was part of the Persian Empire, ruled by the
legendary King Darius and his successor Xerxes. Today's modern city of 4.1
million features a skyline studded with skyscrapers and thrives on business
and tourism (but not, surprisingly, oil). The DECC is one of five buildings
on a parcel of land given to the Christian community (in its various guises)
in 2000 by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, ruler of
Dubai. Work was begun in 2006 on a Coptic cathedral, and shortly before
my visit adjacent ground was broken for a gurdwara (Sikh temple).
The cast: Pastor Mike Eltringham.
The date & time: Thursday, 23 November 2006, 7.00pm.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
The room used on this occasion is meant to hold 800 and was around half
to two-thirds full, including around 50 children who left the main service
before the address.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
DECC is a busy centre and there were other gatherings scheduled for other
rooms that evening, so there was no immediate welcome. After all, you wouldn't
want to shake hands with someone that might end up going to a different
service, would you? But once I arrived at the room where Well of Life was
meeting, I was hoping for a welcome. Although there was a table with some
printed materials, there was no one there to say hello. I wandered through
to a chair and hoped that someone would notice I was either new, alone,
or both, but no one did.
Was your pew comfortable?
The chairs were of a pre-formed plastic with metal legs and linked together
in fairly tight rows. I'm not very tall, but anyone over 5' 6" would be
quite uncomfortable in those chairs. In fact, the guy in the row behind
me thrust his feet through the chair next to mine for most of the address.
How would you describe the pre-service
Cacophony is the only way to describe the atmosphere. Lots of buzzing and
talking and some energetic children chasing each other, or perhaps they
were just practicing their slides on the polished tiled floor. The worship
group cut through the noise pretty quickly with some strong amplification
when the appointed time came.
What were the exact opening words of the
The first words I heard were "Jesus, you are indeed worthy of our praise,
we just want to lift you up," which served as a segue between worship songs.
What books did the congregation use during the
None at all. The words for the worship songs were on screen at the front
of the room, complete with funky graphics. Secondary screens had been set
up at other key locations, but nothing was being projected onto them. I
noticed a number of members had brought their own Bibles; and whilst there
was no reading as such, Pastor Mike referred primarily to New International
Verson texts during his address, quoting sometimes from the King James Version.
What musical instruments were played?
Wow, there was hardly any room left at the front! Electric piano, two electric
guitars, bass guitar, drums with a full percussion kit, plus two female
vocalists. One of the band members also served as the lead male vocalist.
Did anything distract you?
I know that when it comes to air conditioning, some like it hot and some
like it cold, but it seems that this church doesn't want you to get too
comfortable either way. It was absolutely freezing! Most of the regulars
were well prepared with pashminas and jumpers, but I had come straight from
work and had only my suit jacket, which I buttoned up as best I could against
goosebumps of the non-spiritual nature! There were lots of international
flags on the walls, and although they had captions telling you which country
they belonged to, I couldn't help but try to test myself before I read the
answer, nor could I help but wonder why there was an empty flag holder labeled
"Iraq." During the service I heard two mobile phones go off, each
playing its own inane little tune. Oh, and don't sit in front of a tall
person who sticks his feet through the chair next to you, especially if
he likes to wiggle his toes!
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or
It was a sea of waving arms. One would think that Right Guard was a church
sponsor! I knew about 20 per cent of the hymns and enjoyed singing them with
my eyes closed so as not to have to stare at everyone's uplifted arms. (I
had chosen a seat toward the rear and kept my arms at my side.) In some
of the more upbeat numbers, young people, and some not so young ones, were
bouncing up and down toward the front and in the aisles.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
1 hour and 10 minutes.
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 Pastor Mike liked to roam about the front of the church with his
Bible open before him. The presentation was very slick. It seemed he had
little in the way of notes, and if he did refer to them, I never felt that
he was reading something he had prepared earlier.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon
The kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of God is the rule of God.
In God there is no sickness or depression, only complete joy, peace and
Which part of the service was like being in
Eight new believers were "prayed into the church." The group had
recently attended a one day course on the vision and values of the church
and wished to formalise their committment to it. It's always great to see
new souls for the Kingdom, and when one of them is called Melody Maker you
can't help but revel in God's glory as well as her parents' sense of humour.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Well, um, for me the worship was a bit raving evo and as it took me a few
repeats to learn the tune, the Devil made the most of the hand waving while
I tried to concentrate. There was also quite a bit of talk about the manifestation
of demons, which was bit unnerving. And the mention of depression in the
sermon was upsetting. I have faced depression. Does that mean I am some
kind of phoney Christian, not truly believing in Christ, for according to
the sermon, in him there is only complete joy.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Yikes, it's as if I wasn't there! Even standing around looking lost didn't
seem to attract anyone's interest. Finally, putting on my best shy look,
I approached a table in the lounge area. One of the girls there asked me
if I was new, and when I replied "Kind of," her demeanour looked
a little fallen. But she recovered quickly enough and offered me some literature
and something to drink.
How would you describe the after-service
I'm not a tea or coffee drinker, but a team of people were serving hot drinks
in polysterene cups. There was also a selection of biscuits laid out. I
took water from one of the chiller dispensers, but it wasn't very chilled.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
5 There seems to be a great sense of community here and the teaching
I heard was mainly very good (it's just the depression thing that I found
a bit odd). I have since downloaded a couple of sermons from their website,
which are good. The music was not really my thing, but everyone seemed to
get the groove.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
Yes, it did. Although there were some things that did not personally appeal
to me, I must conclude that Well of Life has made some great initiatives,
and their style of worship is attracting some younger folk that might otherwise
be lost to God. So yep, it was good know we are all part of one big church
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Hmm, a close run thing between (1) depression being the sign of a lack of
faith or failing to submit to God's will, and (2) that the kingdom of God
is the rule of God.
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