In today's troubled times, the message of hope is more important than ever.
An interdenominational event to get that message across will be held at 3 p.m. Nov. 20 at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament. Known as the Festival of Hope, it is sponsored by the Altoona Area Christian Coalition.
The Rev. K. Joy Kaufmann, general presbyter of the Huntingdon Presbytery, said the service is usually held the first Sunday of Advent, but the date has been changed this year because Bishop Mark L. Bartchak of the Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown will be in Rome at that time.
(Courtesy photo) Maryann Joyce Bistline and Anna Bistline place candles inside the Advent wreath at last year's event.
Bartchak, who will deliver the message for the service, said it will center on the idea of hope. He also spoke of the unity that lies at the heart of the service.
"It's an ecumenical gathering, an opportunity for us as Christians from different denominations to come together in prayer," he said. "We believe God can be a source of hope and a source of strength."
The service will consist of Scripture readings and hymns. Clergy and community leaders in the business, education and the medical fields will take part.
"They'll be reading the Scriptures and any brief prayers we'll have," Kaufmann said. "Our planning team came up with a good mix of people to invite."
The theme is "Thanksgiving Hope in Altoona."
Kaufmann, who will be offering a brief meditation, said the theme is relevant on the religious and secular fronts.
"As disciples of Jesus Christ, our hope is in him. He calls us to be signs of hope in our community," she said.
Along a more secular vein, Kaufmann said the coalition thinks Altoona is at a good point in its life in areas such as education, medical care and small businesses.
"The town is becoming a healthy place once again," Kaufmann said. "We want to emphasize that it's a good place to live, and we want to be a welcoming community."
"In other years we called it Advent of Hope for Altoona," said the Rev. Rebecca Zeek, pastor of Twenty-eighth Street Church of the Brethren. She will offer a prayer.
Zeek praised the ecumenical service.
"One of the unique things about this service is it brings together a large portion of the Catholic and Protestant community," she said. "It breaks down barriers."