A Nov. 27 Religion page article gave the incorrect dates for YouthLink2000, a seven-city event sponsored by the Southern Baptist Convention that takes place Dec. 29-31 in Anaheim, Atlanta, Denver, Houston, Philadelphia, St. Louis and Tampa. (Published 12/13/99)
The millennium carries the most religious significance for Christians because of the traditional belief that the Gregorian calendar--introduced by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582--begins with the birth of Jesus. But there would be no universal talk of a new millennium, no Y2K problem or related phenomena, without the Christian calendar.
This week and next, the Religion Page highlights millennium activities inspired by the perennial hope and optimism of the world's major religions. Just listen to the talk of a new dawn, a new light, forgiveness, sharing, reconciliation. And note the focus on the world's youth, the next generation.
"Most adults know exactly where they were when man first walked on the moon, or when Kennedy was assassinated," said Richard Ross, co-chair of a nationwide celebration called YouthLink2000. "In the same way, the next generation of young adults will always remember where they were at midnight on Dec. 31, 1999. We want 200,000 students to remember they were in the presence of God in a way that marked their lives forever."
Tens of thousands of people also are expected to flood into the holy cities of Rome and Jerusalem for Christmas and New Year's festivities--or simply to walk the same streets or pathways familiar to ancient and medieval saints. They, too, are unlikely to forget where they were when the world marked a new millennium.
What follows is a list of notable faith-based events taking place in the United States and abroad. Some will give new meaning to "epic sweep" as thousands or millions are expected to share in celebrations via satellite or the Internet, while others offer the intimacy of a small group experience.
Next Saturday's page will list Washington area activities.
Parliament of the World's Religions, Cape Town, South Africa, Dec. 1 through 8. More than 4,000 people are expected to attend this interfaith gathering modeled after parliaments held in Chicago in 1893 and 1993. Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs and others will call for a "just, peaceful and sustainable" world in the new millennium, according to a 48-page manifesto published by the Chicago-based Council for a Parliament of the World's Religions. Participants will do more than talk: They will design projects involving religious and secular leaders in government, science, medicine and education who can work together to address global issues such as the environment, the spread of AIDS and ethnic violence. The Dalai Lama is scheduled to give the closing address.
Registration ranges from $100 to $350, depending on the number of days of attendance, and can be done on site at Cape Technikon, a convention center in Cape Town, or via the Internet at www.cpwr.org; 312-629-2990.
Celebration of the Birth of Jesus, Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Dec. 4. To avoid the massive crowds in Bethlehem on Dec. 25, Christians living in the Holy Land decided to have a private birthday party three weeks early. For the first time in history, leaders of the ancient churches that share guardianship of the Church of the Nativity will enter, together, the grotto beneath the sanctuary believed to be Jesus's birthplace. Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant parishes assist in the grotto's upkeep and all worship there--but always at different times, said the Rev. Joe Hale, general secretary of the World Methodist Council. Hale and representatives of the Baptist World Alliance, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, the Lutheran World Federation and the worldwide Anglican Communion have been invited to observe. Congregations around the world are invited to share the celebration by meeting at 10 a.m. (EST), about the time the patriarchs will enter the grotto, to read stories of Jesus's birth and sing carols.
Jubilee Year 2000, in Rome and cities throughout the world, Dec. 24 through Jan. 6, 2001. On Christmas Eve, Pope John Paul II will inaugurate a yearlong celebration of Jesus's birth when he opens the Holy Door at St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican during a midnight Mass. The door is reserved for use during Holy (Jubilee) Years, which occur every quarter-century. Year 2000 is the 26th Holy Year in the history of the Catholic Church and carries extraordinary significance because it ushers in the third Christian millennium. The symbolic door opening will be mirrored at other basilicas, including the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington on Christmas Day. In Catholic parishes throughout the world, Dec. 25 services will focus on the themes of the Jubilee, traditionally a period of forgiveness, reconciliation, hope and justice. On New Year's Eve, the pope will lead a prayer vigil at St. Peter's for safe passage to 2000 and hold a World Day of Peace Mass on Jan. 1. The closing of the Holy Door on Jan. 6, 2001, Epiphany, officially ends the Jubilee Year. For more on Jubilee Year 2000, consult the Vatican Web site, www.vatican.va/, or the National Conference of Catholic Bishops site, www.nccbuscc.org.
The 72 Hours Project, in 40 countries, Dec. 31 through Jan. 2. A few months back, the United Religious Initiative, a San Francisco-based interfaith group, put out a modest call for a three-day period of prayer and peaceful action to welcome the new millennium. Today, the organization (www.united-religions.org) identifies more than 125 projects worldwide scheduled to begin on or before New Year's Eve--peace marches, dance festivals, songfests, seminars on nonviolence, dramatic performances. In Rio de Janeiro, an interfaith group will destroy handguns on Copacabana Beach as part of a 72-hour ceasefire in 600 city slums; in Calcutta, 2,500 children will walk for peace through the city's streets; and in Seattle, in a candlelight service spearheaded by First Baptist Church, members of various religion groups will circle one of the city's lakes in symbolic expression of forgiveness for the acts of abuse, hatred and violence--especially religious violence--committed in the last century.
Genesis 2000 Millennium Celebration, in Bermuda, Canada and the United States, Dec. 31 and Jan. 1. Sponsored by the youth ministries of the Silver Spring-based Seventh-day Adventist Church, this program links via satellite 2,000 churches in three countries. About 250,000 youths, including groups at 75 Washington congregations, will view musical performances, join in prayers and hear inspirational messages originating from sites in New York, Dallas, Denver and San Bernardino, Calif. Live satellite feeds from India and Australia are anticipated during the four-hour broadcast, along with a greeting from New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. www.gen2k.org; 301-680-6314.
The Dawn . . . an Epiphany, Indianapolis, Dec. 28 through Jan. 1. Christian superstar Kirk Franklin will ring in the New Year at the RCA Dome before a crowd of about 10,000 Presbyterian students and young adults. In the days leading up to New Year's Eve, participants will meet for Bible study and select from more than 130 workshops on such topics as interactive seders, hip jewelry, sacred exercise, God in movies, suicide prevention and growing herbs. They also will hear performances by contemporary Christian artists Jars of Clay, Steven Curtis Chapman and Michael W. Smith and view a laser and fireworks show. The event is sponsored by the youth and young adult ministries of the Presbyterian Church (USA) and planned with three age groups in mind: 12 to 18, 19 to 25 and 26 to 35. Registration is $160, and forms are available on the Internet at http://horeb.pcusa.org or by calling 502-569-5473.
YouthLink2000, Philadelphia and six other cities, Dec. 31 through Jan. 2. For two days and three nights, 200,000 students in Anaheim, Atlanta, Denver, Houston, Philadelphia, St. Louis and Tampa will celebrate the New Year at a party thrown by the Southern Baptist Convention. Gathering in the Houston Astrodome, Tampa Ice Palace and other convention centers, young people from ages 13 to 22 will sing and worship with one another. They also will share reports of inner city cleanup and soup kitchen projects planned for participants in each city Thursday and Friday afternoons. Each night, a satellite link to the Holy Land will have interactive broadcasts with American teenagers in Israel as they visit such sites as Golgotha, where Jesus was crucified, the Garden Tomb and the Mount of Olives. The event, conceived in part by True Love Waits founder Richard Ross, features inspirational speakers and many top names in contemporary Christian music: Audio Adrenaline, Jaci Velasquez, Rebecca St. James, Third Day, Caedmons Call, Anointed.
Registration is $90 and can be done by calling 888-968-8455, or visiting the Web site at www.youthlink2000.org
The Catacomb Project: Hope for 2000 and Beyond, individual churches nationwide, Dec. 31 and Jan. 1. At all-night "lock-ins" around the country, thousands of teenagers will pretend to be 1st-century Christians hiding from Roman authorities in the catacombs beneath the city of Rome. Using guidelines developed by the United Methodist Publishing House, leaders will take students on candlelighted walks through custom-made catacomb stage sets or into unfamiliar parts of the building. Participants will be asked to reflect on and defend their faith--much as early believers would have done when being a Christian was a crime punishable by imprisonment or death. In the weeks before or after the New Year event, the youth will study the Book of Revelation, focusing on advice for maintaining a strong faith during times of persecution and other adversity. The project is open to anyone, and Lutheran, Episcopal and Disciples of Christ groups also have ordered materials, said spokesman Tony Peterson. Study guides and Catacomb Project planning materials can be ordered via the Internet at www.catacombproject.com, or by calling 800-672-1789.
Light the Night, individual churches nationwide, Dec. 31. This week, the Colorado-based men's group known as Promise Keepers has been mailing copies of a 45-minute video to 302,000 churches with the suggestion that pastors show the tape to their congregations on New Year's Eve. Called "Hope for a New Millennium: Light the Night," the video features messages of "hope amidst crisis" from nine preachers, including Promise Keepers founder Bill McCartney. It's not about the organization itself but is a "call to the church at large, a Christian kingdom thing," said Gordon England, Promise Keepers director of evangelism. England said the group abandoned its plan to gather Jan. 1, 2000, at the 50 state capitols--announced at the end of its "Stand in the Gap" assembly on the Mall two years ago--after realizing men should be home with their families New Year's Day. Instead, Promise Keepers is encouraging men to be "lighthouses" that day by praying for their neighbors and helping those in need. The term comes from the Lighthouse Movement, a collaborative effort among Christian churches and organizations to "preach the message of Christ to every person in the country by the end of 2000," he said. For information, see www.promisekeepers.org and www.lighthousemovement.com.