A Tribute to The Reverend Canon Dennis Gurney, OBE 1931-2021 (90 years)

The Reverend Canon Dennis Albert John Gurney, who served the Holy Trinity Church and the Chaplaincy of Dubai, Sharjah and the Northern Emirates (Anglican Church, Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf) as the Senior Chaplain for 17 years, has died in the UK of age-related ailments. He was 90.

Rev. Canon Dennis Gurney OBE (2002) – Image Credit Gulf News Archive

Rev Gurney, who led the Holy Trinity Church in Dubai from 1984 to 2001, was awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for his services to the community in the Middle East. He is survived by three sons and two daughters. His wife, Naomi, died in January 2019.

File photo of Rev Gurney (standing third from left) with family in the UK. Wife Naomi (standing first from right) Image Credit: Supplied

Rev Gurney survived two serious car accidents, rescued refugees and set up desperately needed clinics in Yemen.

He was a close friend of the Mar Thoma Parish in Dubai. The Christian Book Shop managed by him in the Holy Trinity Church compound was a great blessings and resource centre to the Sunday School, and other organizations of the Parish. With his demise, Nalloor Library has lost a real close Christian friend who introduced us to many International Christian Organizations and their activities. He opened before us the wide spectrum of Christian Literature. We thank God Almighty for his dedicated Christian life and activities. The Funeral Service will be at St Peter’s Church, Sidford on Friday, December 17th at 11.30 a.m.

Connection with the Mar Thoma Church Dubai

Before the Mar Thoma Church Dubai was given a place of their own to build their church in Jebel Ali, they worshiped at the Holy Trinity Church. On 25th December 1975, the Mar Thoma Parish Dubai shifted its communion from the Our own School premises to the Holy Trinity Church, after that a worship service was started on Friday evening in the year 1988 for members who were not able to attend the Thursday service. The Trinity Church was also the venue for all the Sunday School classes on Friday mornings, the yearly VBS, New Year, Passion Week, Good Friday, Easter and Christmas services, Harvest Festival, Conventions in the church compound. As the church grew in leaps and bounds, giving way to a second generation of members and newcomers who were not well-versed in Malayalam, an English prayer meeting and Holy Communion was initiated early in 1997 that was held in the Trinity Church compound. This continued until the Mar Thoma Church shifted to their own church on 14th December, 2001.

Rev. Canon Gurney, OBE (2002)

For old photos of Holy Trinity Dubai Church and a short history. Photos used in collage are copyright under Gulf News and John Tidy 1970

Information courtesy: The Telegraph, Gulf News, Newsletter of Diocese of Cyprus, Gulf News and the Newsletter of the Holy Trinity Church Dubai.

Magazine Interview with Rev. Dennis Gurney from 2001

Departing reverend looks back on moments of turbulence
June 07, 2001

http://www.comeandsee.comA Christian Magazine from Nazareth

https://www.comeandsee.com/view.php?sid=108

“All told it’s been an eventful 17 years,” says the Reverend Dennis Gurney speculatively, as he settles back in a large office chair amidst the chaos of nearly two decades worth of packing.

“Eventful” would not be the word springing to most people’s minds when considering the extraordinary experiences of this calm preacher’s life in the UAE. Turbulent, smattered with danger, the odd brush with the after-life and incredibly hard work, would actually seem more appropriate when “all” is told.

For Gurney – who will resume the mundane life of a British vicar in the UK when he leaves the Gulf for good in 10 days’ time – has not only survived two serious car accidents ? one of which caused doctors to fear he would never walk again ? but has rescued refugees, wrested fire-arms from a distraught wife, set up desperately needed clinics in Yemen and even killed a camel.

All this has happened alongside catering to the UAE’s Christian community which has grown from one tiny church in 1984 to serving a Friday turnout of 20,000 from 86 congregations who worship in 32 languages.

The 75-year-old father of five still takes it all in stride. Describing his first impression of Dubai, he said: “When I came here in 1984, I had no idea what to expect because I’d never been to the Gulf – but I do remember being surprised at just how green and tidy the emirates were.

“At that time the church complex was very small, housing one chapel, a prefabricated bungalow for my wife and I and a tiny church hall. We’ve since managed to expand through a lot of hard work to provide places of worship in all the emirates.”

But the road to righteousness has been more than a little rocky – the past 13 years having had their fair share of trauma. “One of my clearest memories was in 1989 when I opened the chaplaincy door to find 28 Iranian refugees standing there.

“They’d fled the war in Iran on dhows to Dubai with nothing more than the clothes they stood up in. None of them had papers and all were frightened, hungry, sick and desperate. Over a period of three years we managed to house them, cover their medical expenses, find them jobs and visas – but it wasn’t an easy task.

“Then in 1990 I was almost killed when a car swerved off the road and hit me outside the British Embassy. I can’t remember feeling much pain even though both my legs were smashed and one was skinned completely from the knee down. The most terrifying part was flying through the air and having absolutely no control over where I’d land.

“The doctors at the Rashid Hospital did a marvellous job in patching me up but warned me I might never walk again. Amazingly I spent just three months on crutches and was soon back at work.

“In 1993 I had another accident when driving back from Fujairah at night along the Dhaid road. “A large camel stepped out of nowhere right in front of the car and although I braked as hard, we collided with tremendous force. The camel was killed instantly and it really was by the grace of God that I escaped with my life.”

An even more bizarre incident the following year was only brought back to Gurney as he began to pack his belongings just days ago. “I was clearing out my filing cabinet when I discovered a heavy object covered in cloth. When I unwrapped it, I realised it was a gun I’d managed to take away from a lady in Ras Al Khaimah who was planning to murder her husband.

“She’d suffered terrible violence from her husband who frequently beat her and smashed her head against walls. On previous visits she’d even asked me if I could get hold of a firearm for her ? but I’d always laughed and told her it would be impossible in the UAE.

“Then, on another visit, she showed me a gun she’d managed to acquire and told me of her plan to shoot her husband. “I was shocked, but managed to persuade her to hand it over. I took it back to the chaplaincy, put it away and didn’t think of the incident again.

I don’t know if it’s been loaded all these years – or even if it has a safety catch – because I won’t be pulling the trigger. I’ve decided it will be buried in the foundations of the new church being built in Jebel Ali. That way it can’t cause any harm to anyone!”

Accomplishments and benefits to the community have been many during Gurney’s term. “I am delighted with the news that two medical clinics we set up in Yemen have treated over 30,000 mothers and babies in the past year which is a real achievement,” he said, adding: “The church is also currently supporting three refugee families from Somalia who came here after fleeing the war.

We are doing our best to house, feed, clothe and legalise them because life here for the poverty-stricken is much harder than it used to be.” Is he sad to be leaving? The answer is a definite “yes”.

“I was asked by one of the Rulers recently why I was leaving when I could easily go to heaven from Dubai. “I told him that although this was possible and I could happily stay another 17 years, my wife thinks the UK is heaven which is why we’re going home.”

And who will succeed a man with such a hard act to follow? “The answer is we don’t know,” he says. “But anyone taking on this job will need flexibility, patience and a big sense of humour.”

Taken from https://www.comeandsee.com/view.php?sid=108

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