Dubai: The Reverend Canon Dennis Albert John Gurney, who served the Holy Trinity Church and the Chaplaincy of Dubai, Sharjah and the Northern Emirates as the Senior Chaplain for 17 years, has died in the UK of age-related ailments. He was 87.
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.
'His legacy continues'
“Reverend Canon Dennis Gurney was instrumental in building the Protestant Christian community in Dubai and other emirates,” Rev Canon Harrison Chinnakumar, the current chaplain of Holy Trinity Church, said.
“He was a tireless worker who toiled hard in difficult situations. He constructed many halls at the Holy Trinity Church compound for Christians to gather together for prayer. He took the initiative of building Christ Church, Jebel Ali. He established a good relationship with the rulers and government authorities, and that legacy still continues. On behalf of Holy Trinity Church, Dubai, I convey my sincere condolences to all those who mourn his death.”
Rev Gurney arrived in Dubai in September 1984 where he led a small, mainly British, congregation in Dubai and Sharjah. Sometimes considered a one-man institution, he established his authority through a scripture-based ministry by welcoming members of other Protestant churches represented in the expatriate community.
“I had the opportunity to associate with him from the day we met in the 1980’s till last month when he was admitted to a hospital at Exeter. We met him last in April 2019. Rev Gurney was a kind, intelligent and compassionate person. He was a man of action and was treated as an ambassador of Christians who lived in Dubai and the northern emirates,” said John Thomas, a member of the Holy Trinity Church.
“He had a very pleasing nature of greeting everyone – from a petrol station attendant to a corporate head - with the same warm handshake, saying 'Hello, my friend'.
“He was ready to help any person 24/7, going all out to ensure that their needs were met,” Thomas added.
In an earlier interview with Gulf News, Rev Gurney described his first impression of Dubai. “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.”
During his time in Dubai, while catering to the Christian community, Rev Gurney survived two serious car accidents, rescued refugees and set up desperately needed clinics in Yemen.