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EXPAT Founded

Inclusiveness grounded

Emmanuel Church was founded in 1873 by a group of Americans residing in Geneva. The cornerstone was laid by former President Grant in July 1877, and the first service was held in the Church building on Easter Day, 1878.


The Church building, with a seating capacity of over 200, exists today in essentially the same form as when it was constructed. By 1923, the congregation recognized the need for additional space for Church school classes, office space, and social functions, and set about to construct the Parish Hall, contiguous to the original building, which more than doubled usable space. The building was formally opened in November 1930. Shortly thereafter the American Library was formed in a part of the Parish Hall, and has continued to expand its activities to the point where it is one of the largest English-language libraries in Geneva.


The discovery by U.S. businesses of the new opportunities offered by Europe after the Second World War led to an influx of Americans to Geneva, a "natural" location for European headquarters or operations. In more recent history, the Church accomplished the capital improvement of a new organ, considered to be one of the finest in the region for a Church of Emmanuel's size.


The demographic composition over the past 20 years has gradually become more diverse. Located in the heart of Geneva, only steps away from the city's beautiful lakefront, Emmanuel draws its members from the greater urban area as well as neighboring France. Emmanuel values its rich tapestry of cultures, and encourages the exchange of cultures among its members.

A 2016 Parish survey indicated that the largest part of our population still comes from the United States (45% vs. 54% in 2005) but increasingly we have become more multinational. Many did not identify one sole country of origin, but indicated that they felt clearly bi- or multi-national. Nine percent of our current congregation identify themselves as having come from Switzerland. 


A great many of our congregation (61%) consider English their native language (almost no change from 2005). The ability to speak multiple languages is astonishing in this small community: 57% described themselves as fluent in three or more languages. Only 7% considered themselves purely English speakers. Many other languages are spoken amongst our community, including Hebrew, Chilambia, Oriya, Chinese, German, Italian, Spanish, Amharic, Douala, Russian, Swahili, Malay, Afrikaans, Ga and Farsi. French is spoken by 87% of the community. 


Given that many people first moved to Geneva to take up senior employment, the level of education in our community is remarkable. Postgraduate degrees are held by 62% of the population, and a further 28% received some university level education. 

We speak many languages and come from many different Judeo-Christian backgrounds and traditions. This diversity of background has increased: Episcopalians make up the largest single group with 24% (32% in 2005), Roman Catholics 20% (16% in 2005); others come from either another form of Anglicanism (17%) or various Protestant churches (28%).

See more on our Wikipedia page.

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