Service Industry

Arabic Baptist Church American University Park

Pastor: Esper Ajaj

Prayer Leader: Faris Abu Farah

Service Length: 1 hour

Congregation Size: about 300

Sample Worshipper Dress: bright-green oxford shirt, khakis

Hand-Clapping: intermittent, spirited

Congregational Fervor

An English-language service is conducted in a small downstairs chapel for the benefit of the younger generation, but the church staff will go to great lengths to accommodate non-Arabic speakers who wish to attend the main service. Wireless earpieces are available, through which a staff member translates the service from a control room at the back of the church. At a recent service, the translator also gently corrected this first-time visitor’s faux pas, such as trying to read the Arabic hymnal backward.HHHHH

Food for the Soul

During the opening portion of the service, velvet-voiced Abu Farah crooned hymns with smooth yet righteous vigor over piano and computer-orchestrated background arrangements. “Let’s not focus on the rhythm but really concentrate on the meaning of the words,” Abu Farah advised the congregation when introducing “How Great Thou Art.” To aid the congregation, the words were projected onto the wall in Arabic over images that included calm seascapes and Christ dying on the cross. HHHHH

Food for the Body

Coffee-hour snacking at Arabic Baptist takes on a decidedly American slant. A recent Sunday evening service offered a veggie tray, cookies, coffee, and a box of after-dinner mints.HHHHH

Overall Worship Power rATING

Though Baptists they may be, the members of the Arabic Baptist Church have little in common with their fundamentalist Southern brethren—especially those in powerful posts. “These people have brought disaster to the Christians of the Middle East,” says congregation member Raja Hawit. His feelings extend to the Christian commander in chief. “This president has only made things worse. Where is the love, justice, firmness, and liberty that he talks about?” HHHHH

—Aaron Leitko

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