Written by Daniel Hazard
A winter solstice celebration at the UCC's Amistad Chapel in Cleveland will be webstreamed Dec. 21 through Jan. 2 at www.ucc.org.
"It is important that we affirm the interfaith connections that can unite us as a community, especially during this holiday season when so much of the world is in turmoil," says the Rev. Cliff Aerie, the UCC's minister for special events, creativity and the arts. "We will especially hold up prayers for peace to seek an end to war and open up new pathways for cross-cultural understanding."
"The Return of the Light: Winter Solstice Celebration" actually will take place before live audiences on Dec. 14 and 15, as a gift to Cleveland's interfaith community. However, an edited version of the event will enable more to participate — and learn from the experience.
The web-streamed program is being developed by the UCC's Ministry for Imagination, Creativity and the Arts (MICA) as part of a resource template to assist churches in planning ecumenical and interfaith events for their community, says Aerie, who leads the program.
"The mission of MICA is to affirm the role of the arts in ministry by nurturing individuals and congregations as co-creators with the Creator," he says.
Ancient and modern cultures throughout the world have observed winter solstice as the turning point of mid-winter — the day with the shortest daylight hours and the longest night of the year.
"Through ritual, prayer and supplication, ancient peoples sought divine assurance that darkness would give way to light and that the warmth of springtime would eventually reappear," Aerie says.
As calendars evolved, the solstice — usually Dec. 21 or 22 in the northern hemisphere — became the astronomical measurement of the first day of winter and religious traditions placed their holy and celebrative feasts on or near this day.
"This will be a wonderful event for families," Aerie says. "Adults, youth and children will be captivated by the stories, symbolism and music. I'm hopeful that this will become a holiday tradition and help our churches learn about the heritage from which our Christmas traditions arise."
Watch Dec. 21 to Jan. 2, at www.ucc.org.