- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 25, 2003

Christmas prayers for President Bush and world peace echoed yesterday through the vaulted ceiling of the Washington National Cathedral as the region celebrated the holiday.

“There is no one here who has not been touched in one way or another by what could be called a miracle,” said Bishop John Bryson Chane. “We are gathered to remember and celebrate the powerful truth that miracles can and do happen.”

Later in the service, the 1,100 churchgoers raised their voices in a special prayer for Mr. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, the Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, and “for all who lead where many follow, especially those who work for peace throughout the world.”

Events around the area yesterday attracted thousands — with services held at the Church of the Nativity, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and community-service day at the D.C. Jewish Community Center.

The National Cathedral was filled with children, Washingtonians, visitors from around the world and some homeless people. For some, the service was one of dozens they had attended at the cathedral, while others were seeing the grand church for the first time.

Boston native Rhoda Pappert said she misses her old Episcopal church and was a newcomer to the cathedral.

“A friend told me about the great music and great spirit here, and said it will nurture my soul,” she said before walking into the 10-story-high cathedral.

“I’m overwhelmed by the beauty of this place,” said Ken Lawton, a D.C. resident.

Bill Freeman has been making the trek from Nova Scotia to the cathedral for eight years.

“It’s become a family tradition,” he said. “This church is great.”

John McDowell brings his parents to the service every year when they visit from California.

“We’ve made this our tradition to come here every year,” he said, adding that his favorite part of the service is the “guy with the incense.”

Christmas takes on a special meaning for Dan and Jean Winship, who got engaged on Christmas last year.

“It’s our first Christmas here, and we want to celebrate,” Mr. Winship said. The two were married May 31. The Winships will move to Chicago next year and are spending their last Christmas in the District.

A choir dressed in crisp white and purple gowns began the nationally televised service with “Gloria in Excelsis Deo.”

Bishop Chane recognized those from all faiths at the service and said all are children of God.

“As Christians, Jews and Muslims, we share the same God and messenger. … [We must] work together to make the world a haven,” Bishop Chane said. “May each of us stretched across the nation and the world be renewed for our love and by our love for one another.”

Visiting the cathedral yesterday were Presbyterian minister Thomas Schmid and his wife, Beth. “We love to do this,” Mr. Schmid said. “We’re just delighted to be here.”

The cathedral is the sixth largest in the world and is where Martin Luther King preached his last Sunday sermon. The crowd yesterday was slightly larger than last year’s, and the cathedral holds about 3,800 during a packed service, said cathedral spokesman Greg Rixon.

At the Jewish Community Center, nearly 1,000 volunteers carried on a 17-year tradition by holding a blood drive and going to D.C. hospitals, senior centers and soup kitchens to help those in need.

“I cannot say enough about the volunteers, and the kids really loved it,” said 33-year-old Lorren Ney Robinson, who lives with her three children at Community of Hope in the 1400 block of Girard Street NW, one of several places visited by the volunteers.

Lavinia Balaci, an event organizer, said: “It’s the Jewish community’s way of saying they are part of the larger community.” She added: “If you are hungry or homeless and you don’t have a Christmas gift, it’s our privilege to be able to help you and to show you someone in the community cares about you.”

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