- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 25, 2004

The thousands of people who attended Christmas services at the Washington National Cathedral were urged to put aside political beliefs to pray for the country’s leaders and the troops in Iraq and to remember that faith can overcome fear.

“This morning, over 150,000 servicemen and women are serving in Iraq and other parts of the volatile Middle East,” the Right Rev. John Bryson Chane, dean of the cathedral, told parishioners at the nationally televised Christmas-morning service. “No matter how any of us may feel about this war, they need our prayers and Christmas wishes at a time of great difficulty and danger for them, their families and the Iraqi people.”

Speaking about the Mideast situation, Bishop Chane said the Holy Land is “torn by violence and terrorism” this Christmas.

“Centuries of pushing and shoving has led to a situation that must make God weep,” he said.

Bishop Chane told worshippers that age-old disputes among Christianity, Judaism and Islam “have led to religious terrorism, violence and death.”

He also said the world’s interfaith communities have been “unable or unwilling to cooperatively confront” the problems.

Bishop Chane condemned action that he said “too often leads to violence, death and neglect of the poor in our cities and towns, and has threatened the stability of our nation and that of the global community.”

He urged parishioners to try to “make the world a better place, a safer and more forgiving place” for the sake of future generations.

At the 10 p.m. Christmas Eve service, the Right Rev. A. Theodore Eastman acknowledged the fears of today’s world created by the uncertainty of war, fewer jobs, dwindling life savings and even the recent discoveries that some trusted medication are perhaps unsafe.

Yet he reminded those who nearly filled the historic, 3,800-seat cathedral on Massachusetts and Wisconsin avenues that faith is the bridge from fear to hope. He also asked for prayers for President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

Worshippers who attended yesterday’s two-hour noon service were asked to remember those less fortunate.

“For many, there is no Christmas, there is no roasting chestnuts on an open fire,” said the Rev. Canon Eugene T. Sutton. “There are many who do not have. … Christmas is not for those who have everything. It is to lift up those who have nothing. You are their gift, your life is invaluable, and through Christ, you can do anything.”

Suzanne Peloquin said she came from Woodbridge, Va., to the cathedral with her husband and children to take part in a Christmas Day service.

“I think it is a wonderful message that we should try to remember all year long, and not just at Christmastime,” she said.

They were among the thousands who attended the two Christmas Eve and three Christmas Day services — highlighted by processions, Eucharistic services and choirs singing such traditional Christmas carols as “Silent Night” and “The First Noel.”

The cathedral, with its 10-story-high vaulted ceiling and grand bell tower, is the sixth-largest in the world.

Jeff Trask, of Silver Spring, who attended the services with his wife, also enjoyed the message.

“I think it is a good time for those of us who are fortunate — more fortunate — have a lot to be thankful for and to remember those of us who don’t,” he said.

Mary Szpanka, of Reston, attended the services to “rethink things.”

“This is a good time to come out and reflect,” she said.

Andrew Smith, of Chevy Chase, said he brought his 8-year-old daughter, Lucy, because coming to the cathedral is a Christmas family tradition.

“We don’t get to church very often, except on these types of holidays, so the cathedral is part of my childhood,” he said. “It is just a part of my memories of what Christmas means.”

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.



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