Dozens of candles will flicker outside the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in Altoona on the night of Sept. 21 -- the International Day of Prayer for Peace.
More than 100 Christian worshipers are expected to converge on the Cathedral at 6:30 p.m. for the third observance of the Day of Prayer for Peace in the city.
"The Christian churches of Altoona would like to publicly express our desire for peace and pray for peace," said Monsignor Robert Mazur, rector at the Cathedral.
(Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski) Candles will be lit at the end of the International Day of Prayer for Peace service to be held Sept. 21 at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament. Representing churches that will take part in the observance are (from left) the Rev. Jennett Wertz, pastor of Garden Heights and Lakemont United Methodist churches; Minister Funteller Jackson of Mount Zion Baptist Church; the Rev. Marlys Hershberger, pastor of Hollidaysburg Church of the Brethren; and Monsignor Robert C. Mazur, rector at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament.
The first observance in 2007, held at the 28th Street Church of the Brethren, attracted about 30 participants. The second one was held at the Cathedral where about 100 people prayed, sang and reflected last year.
"There is a focus on God's call to peace in all aspects of our living," said Marlys Hershberger, pastor of Hollidaysburg Church of the Brethren, who was instrumental in organizing the first observance.
Historically, the Church of the Brethren is a peace church, therefore, participating in the International Day of Prayer for Peace made sense, she said.
"Within our denomination, the On Earth Peace agency is making participating in the day of prayer a priority. That's how I got interested a couple years ago, when our denomination made an appeal," Hershberger said.
"The power for me is knowing that this is an international effort on that day," she said.
The International Day of Peace was established in 1981 by the United Nations General Assembly.
After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the day was annually celebrated Sept. 21.
In 2004, the World Council of Churches established the International Day of Prayer for Peace to encourage a "global 24-hour spiritual observation for peace, which is meant to demonstrate the power of prayer and other spiritual practices in promoting peace and preventing violent conflict," according to the organization.
The local event is sponsored by the Ecumenical Conference of Greater Altoona and is being held at the Cathedral to appeal to more people.
"In any city, the Cathedral is to be seen as the place of prayer and gathering for all God's people," Mazur said.
Singing and Scripture readings will reflect various Christian traditions with members of five denominations reading Scriptures.
"It's the Christian church gathering, so it will reflect an ecumenical flavor," Mazur said. "It is sponsored by Christians, but the invitation is extended to those who are Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, anyone not in the Christian family. All are invited to gather at the Cathedral.
"The service will focus on five aspects of peace: peace in the world, peace in the nation, peace in the community, peace in the family and peace in the individual. At the culmination of the solemn service, church-goers will process out to the Cathedral's portico carrying lit candles. This symbolizes bringing peace to the world," Mazur said.
The gathering will symbolize the appearance of one light.
"It's important for the community to be aware of the need for peace. We are at war. We are very grateful for our men and women who are on foreign soil. We want their peaceful return home," Mazur said.
The group will pray for conflicts to end worldwide as well as within individuals.
"We want peace among nations. We want peace here in Altoona, in communities. There is a need for peace in families. Lastly, it's important for individuals to have peace. Many people are at war within themselves and they are not at peace," he said."
"Our greatest desire is that there would be peace," said Jennett Wertz, pastor of Lakemont and Garden Heights United Methodist churches.