Thousands of Christians around the world joined with worshippers in Washington and Bethlehem Saturday for the annual Bethlehem Prayer Service in Washington, D.C., and simultaneously in Bethlehem.
The service delivered a message of hope and peace for the Holy Land, from both the nave in the Washington National Cathedral and the Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem, the town of Jesus’ birth. The broadcast was also available online, at the National Cathedral’s website, enabling visitors from around the globe to join in the historic Christmas-time event.
“This is our fifth year to participate in a simultaneous service with our brothers and sisters in Christ in the land of the Holy One,” said the Rev. Canon Jan Naylor Cope, vicar at the National Cathedral, to The Christian Post. “As we gathered to pray, read Scripture, and sing in both English and Arabic, we were reminded that despite differences in language and geography, we are united in our purpose and prayer to lift up the light of Christ to a hurting and suffering world.”
After the opening music, the carol “Silent Night” began the program in Palestine, as the Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb, of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan, welcomed worshippers around the world to the service.
“We gather to remember the ancient yearning for peace,” he began. “The people of Jesus’ homeland still wait for peace,” he said. “It has become a tradition to connect … the religious and political capital of this world with the Christian capital of this world,” to connect Bethlehem with Washington, in the tradition.
The service in Washington as well as in Bethlehem, via simulcast, continued with hymns, carols and a message read by several members of the clergy. An offering was collected to raise money for the Bright Stars of Bethlehem Center, to support various ministries in Bethlehem.
The webcast aired successfully, with only a few stops and starts, unlike the first year the service was held in 2006. That year, the service started late, the picture was poor and the connection between Washington and Bethlehem was lost a few times.
“This is not primetime broadcast TV. This is a ground-up effort between the two places,” stated Craig Stapert, the cathedral’s associate director for online strategies, in a media release announcing the event.
“We give God great thanks that God loved us enough to take on human flesh and dwell among us,” Cope said to the CP. “It is with hope and expectation that we await the coming of Christ when we will welcome the Christ child in our hearts once again.”
She noted, “Our prayers at the Washington National Cathedral continue daily for an everlasting peace in the Holy Land.”
To see a video of the webcast and a program of the service, click here.