St. Paul’s Anglican Church celebrates its 70th anniversary this year. Originally built by the Kuwait Oil Company as part of its commitment to meet the spiritual needs of the workforce, the church was consecrated and dedicated by the then Bishop of Jerusalem Weston Henry Stewart on November 16th, 1956. St. Paul’s Church was chosen as the name for the new church because St. Paul was the only apostle who is named in the New Testament as having spent time in Arabia.
The story of St. Paul’s in Kuwait and other denominations is told in the book The Christian Church in Kuwait – Religious Freedom in the Gulf by Rev. Andrew Thompson, who previously served St. Paul’s as its chaplain. Over the years, the community of St Paul’s has witnessed the changing fortunes of Kuwait. During the Iraqi invasion the church was miraculously left unscathed by hostile troops. This appears to have been because of a Kurdish Christian contingent in the Iraqi army who took it upon themselves to guard the property of St. Paul’s. The Kurds even used the premises to conduct their own Christian services. The English chaplain at that time was seized by Saddam Hussein when he attempted to lead a convoy to freedom. The chaplain spent the rest of the war as a POW in Baghdad, where he continued to faithfully minister to his fellow prisoners.
Ironically, it was the bombardment by the allied air forces which caused the most damage to the church building. All the stained glass windows were blown out by the bomb blasts and have since been replaced. Since most of the Western Christian community had fled at this point or were in hiding, it was the Indian Christian community who rallied alongside the liberating allied troops to restore St. Paul’s Church to a place of active worship.
One of the most moving events held in the church was the first Remembrance Sunday that took place after the liberation of Kuwait. At this event, the families of the forty seven British armed forces personnel who lost their lives in the conflict were in attendance. As part of the memorial, they laid poppy wreathes at the foot of the Gulf War Memorial.
St. Paul’s is deeply grateful for the sacrifices made to liberate Kuwait and for the peace that Kuwait now enjoys as a result. St. Paul’s is also deeply grateful for the hospitality offered by Kuwait Oil Company and Kuwait itself.