Eastport United Methodist Church
Wednesday, July 17, 2019
Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors

New Year's Eve Interfaith Service

We held our tenth annual New Year's Eve Interfaith Celebration on December 31, 2018.  Participating were Jews, Baha'is, Buddhists, Episcopalians, Unitarians, Mormons, Muslims, and Quakers.   Music filled out the evening.  Our sincere gratitude to all who attended and participated. 
<2011 program>          <2011 pictures>
Memories from New Year's Eve 2010
Read what Barbara Krebs wrote on Patch.com. 
Let's face it, on New Year's Eve, it's all about the champagne, the noisemakers, the funny hats and the consumption of vast quantities of alcohol. Or is it?
The Greater Annapolis Interfaith Network, a coalition of faith representatives in the Annapolis area, offered a different option on New Year's Eve for those who were interested in ushering in 2011 in a more contemplative fashion. 
Hosted at Eastport United Methodist Church on Bay Ridge Avenue, a number of different faith groups – including Catholic, Protestant, Quaker, Unitarian, Judaism, Muslim, Baha'i and Buddhist – gathered on Dec. 31 to memorialize the old year and celebrate the new one to come. Civic and local groups were also represented, including the city of Annapolis Police Department, Eastport Civic Association, Annapolis Middle School, Light House shelter, Hospice of the Chesapeake and the Hispanic community.
The service, which started at 7 p.m., was preceded by a half hour of music. Alternating between live music and recorded artists, the pre-service spanned a wide range of music styles and faith communities. Whether the congregation listened to an original piano composition, a Gregorian chant, a Shaker song or recordings of Buddhist, Islamic or Baha'i music, the response was a respectful and thoughtful silence as they considered the words.
The service began with a welcome from Rev. MaAn Barcelo, pastor of the hosting church. The theme of the evening was quickly apparent – finding common ground despite different religious traditions and rejoicing in our diversity. With so many religions present, and with so many different cultures, the desire to honor others' differences and celebrate similarities was uplifting and encouraging.
The opening call to prayer, offered by Mohamed Ibrahim of the Islamic Society of Annapolis, was a case in point. In Arabic, he intoned, "God is the Greatest" ending with "There is no God but God." Translations were printed in the night's program but words were not necessary to understand the desire to find the spiritual center.
As the evening progressed, prayers and songs were offered in Hebrew, Spanish, Latin, Japanese and Arabic. When The Rev. John Crestwell, Jr., of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis, delivered his message, his words continued to reflect the general tenor of the evening.
"Bridge the gaps between our religions," he said. "Transcend what divides us."
He also spoke of "the amazing power we have when we work together." 
By the time the closing songs were presented, more than 150 people gathered were in the mood to raise their voices together jubilantly. Despite many languages and many faiths, the sentiment, "A song of peace for their land and for ours," was universal. 
After the service, folks gathered in the church's fellowship hall for refreshments and conversation. Despite a variety of options for the evening, those who attended the service were remarkably united in one thing – their desire for harmony. Kalim Hanna of the Annapolis Baha'i Group, explained that "religious unity is very important" in his religion. Ibrahim, who offered the opening prayer, said that his motivation in participating was to "share his religion with others and learn about theirs." In addition, he urged "respect for each other's religious beliefs." 
Others expressed "curiosity" about what an interfaith service would be like, while Sherrie Little of Eastport UMC confessed to some "hesitation" about attending a service that was not entirely Christian.  But having listened to each faith communities' thoughts that night, she was happy that she had come, despite her misgivings.  "It reminded me that we are all God's children, created in his image." 
Rev. Evelyn Speed, 64, an assistant pastor at Mt. Moriah AME who works at AMS serving children with behavior issues, reflected that the school is her mission and "prayer ... helps me reach children."
And speaking of time – it was only slightly after 8 p.m. One attendee smiled as she mentioned the two parties that she was heading to next. There was still plenty of time to make it to those events, enjoy a glass of champagne and figure out before midnight which channel was covering the ball drop in Times Square in New York City.