Members of the Romanian Community are celebrating their first Christmas in their newly built church in Co Dublin.

The Betania Church, a Christian community of around 1,200 members, was established in Ireland over ten years ago and is open to all nationalities.

The church began when a small group of Romanian people met at a prayer meeting in 2010.

They decided to rent a premises from a Nigerian church in Dublin 15, but as the congregation grew, they sought a new location.

Three months later, they secured a unit that they converted into a church and remained there for nine years.

The group included Camilla Laza, who moved to Ireland over 20 years ago.

Without the support system of home, prayer and god became more important in her life, so the Betania Church became her new home.

It is clear that Camilla was not alone in her search for that security. As more Romanians arrived in Ireland, the church continued to grow.

In 2015, it purchased a piece of land from Fingal County Council and two years later planning permission was granted for construction.

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When the architects and engineers on the design team asked what the budget for the project was, they were told that there was no budget, that the church would "build by faith".

Amused and astounded, the design team told the church representatives that they were "crazy".

When the banks told those leading the project that they would not be able to fund the construction, the pastors turned to their own people.

They raised the money by requesting funds called "giants" from Romanian people in Ireland, according to Pastor Avram Hadarau.

Pastor Avram Hadarau

That request was made five times and each time, funds were provided in bulk.

"The whole church came together, and every family or member said, I can give a thousand or I can give five thousand towards the project, and we basically put all the money together."

Finding construction workers was an easier task because, as the pastor pointed out, many Romanians came to Ireland over the last 20 years in search of work in the construction sector.

In 2006, there were 7,696 Romanians in Ireland, according to the Central Statistics Office. By 2016, that figure had grown to 29,186.

Up to 80 construction workers dedicated their time to the building, which rose rapidly on the hill in Tyrellstown, Co Dublin.

TCD student Josh Jurjea helped to build the church

All trades came together, including on Saturdays and afternoons.

"They sacrificed a lot," Pastor Hadarau said.

The next generation also went to the site after school or college to help. They included Josh Jurjea, who is a student of Psychology at Trinity College Dublin.

While he said the younger generation are not experts in construction, they did what they could to lend a hand, and now the result is there for everyone to see.

That result is breathtaking.

The sanctuary is a theatre with seating for 1,200 people, with top of the range acoustics and a high-definition video wall that spans the length of the interior.

It is a commendable leap from the first service that was held in an empty field back in June 2018.

Despite the project being delayed by Covid-19, small groups continued to gather when restrictions were lifted for prayers and holy communion on the construction site.

The community firmly believes their prayers were answered.

Officially opened in September, the church holds three services on Sundays; one in English and two in Romanian.

To mark the first Christmas in their new building, the Betania Church wants to let people know the doors are open to everyone, regardless of nationality.

Larry Hill and his wife Ruth are among the Irish people who attend the church.

Larry Hill is among the Irish people attending the church

They work as Christian volunteers in China and India mainly, and find the Betania Church a welcoming sanctuary when they are home.

The Hills discovered the church in January this year and travel from south Dublin to Tyrellstown to attend services and meet the community.

They have also coaxed a few friends who are not religiously inclined to the church, who they said have been blown away by the welcome, the service and the music.

Larry said that as a christian, the presence of the lord is evident at the Betania Church because of the friendliness and goodness of the people behind it.

He said the christian ethos of giving back through local projects is evident.

Those activities now extend beyond the locality with the establishment of projects like Feed Dublin - which involves 20 younger members of the church bringing food parcels for homeless people into the city centre on Sundays.

Around 650 children are involved in the choir, the orchestra, youth camps and summer camps, which are open to all children in the locality to encourage integration.

The Romanian community knows what it is like to arrive in a strange country in search of work and for a better life.

Rebecca Ometita said the church is there for everyone, including those who may be new to the country and do not know where to turn.

Rebecca Ometita and her son Mark

Indeed, several Ukrainian families have joined the church since their arrival in Ireland.

Pastor Avram Hadarau said the church is eager to give back to Ireland and thank the Irish people for the generosity they have shown to the Romanian community.

"Thanks you guys. May God bless you," he said.