Churches pray for a new era

Published Monday, January 3, 2000, in the San Jose Mercury News

Churches pray for a new era

Across the state, they ponder the importance of the 2,000th year

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Pastor Richard Byrd summoned his 50 faithful to stand, then led them in a rousing welcome to the new year.

``Something good is going to happen to me, this very day,'' they sang, clapping and swaying to the rising harmony. ``Something good is going to happen to you, this very day.''

Focusing on the good the future holds was at the heart of Byrd's service at South Central Los Angeles' Christ Unity Center, which blends Christianity with African spirituality.

But it was a common theme at churches throughout California on Sunday, as congregations renewed their faiths and promoted hope that the dawn of a new era will hold brighter promise for humanity.

In his sermon later, Byrd told his faithful they must prepare their ``hearts and minds . . . to bring about the resurrection of our community.'' Love and sharing, he said, are the only ways to fight the evils of hunger, poverty and injustice.

``The era that is coming is an era where all of those things will be righted,'' he said. ``It may be a 100-year process; it may be a 200-year process. But in the scope of human existence, it's not that long.''

In addition to preaching to their own Sunday, churches throughout the state held interfaith services to celebrate the new millennium.

In Huntington Beach, members of 20 faiths marked the day by praying and releasing white doves. In Hacienda Heights, just east of Los Angeles, Catholics, Mormons, Buddhists and members of the Baha'i faith danced, sang and cut loose a cluster of balloons to promote world peace.

In San Francisco, where Sunday dawned bright and brilliant with a cloudless sky reflected in a deep blue bay, the Rev. Douglas Fitch exhorted the congregation at Glide Memorial United Methodist Church to start fresh in the new year.

``It is a new day. It is a new way,'' he said to loud ``Amens,'' from the cheerful crowd of several hundred, who warmed up for the sermon with hymns led by a spirited choir.

It's time to come out from behind the ``highly edited version of ourselves'' that has become familiar, he said.

``That's why I like the new year,'' Fitch said. ``It gives every one of us the chance to tell the secret of who we truly are, even if we only tell it to ourselves.''

©Copyright 2000, San Jose Mercury News
Original Story

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