Christians honor God on holiday
Denver Post Staff Writers
Jan. 1 - While millions partied around the globe, millions also gathered to pray, meditate and rejoice at religious services.
For Christians, the arrival of the millennium marks the 2,000th birthday of Jesus. New Year's Eve for them was a time to thank God for his birth and pray that the Christian faith be spread around the world.
That was the aim of 2,170 boisterous Southern Baptist youths at the Colorado Convention Center for YouthLink 2000.
Simultaneous events were held in six other cities Friday night. At each, the youths were asked to pledge to "take the Gospel to every teenager in the world in the year 2000." Planners had hoped to gather a total of 200,000 youths at the seven sites, but the figure was closer to 46,000. Many parents, worried about possible Y2K problems and terrorism, kept their kids at home. But the full $9 million program went on with elaborate staging, notable Christian speakers and fireworks at each site. In addition, a satellite linked the seven venues to one another and to teenagers on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.
At other religious gatherings, members of many faiths focused on breaking down the barriers between religions, as was the theme of an interfaith service at Jefferson Unitarian Church in Golden.
The service ended with a dark sanctuary, save for a single candle. A child moved forward in the darkness and used the solitary flame to light his own candle. Another child followed. Then another and another.
Finally, more than 350 people had lit their candles and filled the sanctuary with light. They marched into the dark night, singing and vowing to share the light of compassion with the world as it moves into a new era.
The service included Christian, Jewish, Buddhist and Baha'i religious traditions.
"A new millennium is an invita tion to start over," said the Rev. Jim Symons, founder of Toward a Millennium of Compassion and re cently retired minister from Columbine United Church.
"The 20th century has brought many advances to the human family, but it has also seen unprecedented greed, prejudice and violence. Now there is a growing movement of compassion that is evident in the millions who have responded with caring to disasters like hurricanes, terrorist activities or tragedies like the Columbine High School shootings. Each of us can create our own millennium of compassion by the way we act here and now. Choose compassion!" The Millennium of Compassion was started by Symons, who hopes to boost interfaith and cross-cultural cooperation. "All religions have compassion as a tenet of the faith," he said.
The Baptist youths ended their service with gospel rock and an indoor fireworks show - huge colorful sparklers of light that shot up from the floor.
Earlier in the day, the teens scattered throughout the metro ar ea, painting and remodeling churches and homes, visiting the ill and serving the hungry.
"This is a spiritual party for us," said Ryan Hooser of Roswell, N.M.
He said it makes him feel good when he can do something for someone else.
"And we're going to pray for the partyers. They party because they think it will make them happy. But the only thing that makes you happy is to have God inside you. Then you don't need to drink." He said he is sorry that the birthday anniversary of Jesus has been lost in the worldwide year 2000 celebration.
"Some people don't seem to give a hoot about Jesus," Hooser said.
Among the other religious gatherings on New Year's Eve: Muslims held services as part of Ramadan, a month of fasting, prayer and penitence; Jewish congregations met for their traditional Shabbat; and many Christian congregations held special services.
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