Service of lights for all CARROLL COUNTY

December 21, 1992

The Service of Lights at Western Maryland College brought together 150 people of different religious persuasions at Baker Memorial Chapel this month. We hope the illumination of that ecumenical event will spread throughout the region in the spirit of this holiday season.

Now in its eighth year, the interfaith service draws both town and gown to reflect on the diverse centers of belief shared by people in Westminster.

It was a mild yet poignant reply to those who adamantly hold that the United States is above all "a Christian nation."

"People get a sense of awareness of different religions we have on campus and a sense of unity," explained senior Brenda Dorsch, who has taken part in the program for four years. "Everything fit together."

Candles were a unifying theme of the celebration -- the four Advent candles signaling the coming of Christmas, the eight tapers in the menorah for Hanukkah, the seven candles of unity of the Bahai faith, the candles marking the seven principles of African-American Kwanzaa. Stories and songs also celebrated these varying traditions.

To those who argue that religious observance is on the decline, organizers noted that attendance was twice as high as last year, despite inclement weather.

Once affiliated with the United Methodist Church, Western Maryland College traditionally held a Christian service at the end of fall semester. This ecumenical program replaced it, recognizing the spiritual diversity of the student body at the private school.

At this time of year, some people turn inward to the meaning of their own religion, others ignore the religious foundations and meaning of the holiday they secularly observe.

The Service of Lights offers a third path -- though not an exclusive one -- to cherish one's own cultural credo while understanding and reflecting on the holiday joy of others with different beliefs.

That is a spirit of peace and goodwill to all humankind that should infuse this season of celebration and reflection. The candles that burned at the college's Service of Lights in some small measure reflect the hope for peace and understanding that this world so very much needs.

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