Concerts seek to promote peace
Special to the Advocate
“Peace on earth” is a popular Christmas sentiment that this year will take on more meaning for one United Methodist pastor from
The Rev. Sam Morris has spearheaded an all-volunteer team of
“With the hope of a just peace looming on the horizon, it is time to ‘prepare the way,’” said Morris, senior pastor of
The Christmas Eve concert — the final leg of the “Prepare the Way Concert Tour 2007: Peace on Earth, Good Will to All,” will be a highlight of the annual festivities celebrating the birth of Jesus that include processions by various local churches and coordinated in part with the Peace Center in Bethlehem.
The choir includes professional, collegiate and church musicians and singers from seven states.
The group left Dec. 14 to join with Israeli and Palestinian musicians. However, the seeds of the concert were planted seven years ago. On Sept. 28, 2000, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon took Israeli Defense Force members and Israeli police to the
The event and rumors over how many police participated and the meaning of those numbers virtually derailed the peace accord that was on the verge of being signed.
“I have seen first-hand the mistreatment of Palestinians who have done nothing more than be born Palestinians,” Morris said. “And because I know how important symbolism is for the people of the land, I prayed for another symbol.
“About two years ago, a group of us, including Charles Page, dean of the Jerusalem Institute for Biblical Exploration; Jim Sawyers and Paul McCracken, United Methodist ministers; Moses Hanania, who is from
Morris said his friendship with Bob McBain and his contacts in music circles gave the idea leg. “Bob’s friendships in the music world put the team together, and we started planning,” Morris said.
“Somewhere along the way we picked up a couple of Israelis, a few Jewish Americans and about 40 members of the Palestinian Youth Orchestra of the Edward Said National Music Conservatory.
“The teenagers in the orchestra are among the most compelling reasons for us to make this journey,” Morris continued. “The concerts, other than
The more than 150-voice chorus traveling at their own expense from the
“While the music is the traditional Christmas music of Handel and John Rutter, the presence of the singers, orchestra and soloists transcends the differences existing among peoples of the world and unites us in friendship and hope in this deeply symbolic season,” said Morris.
Since 2000, visitors have been trickling back into
“I pray for Christmas Eve this year. It has been a dream of mine for many years to try to remind people everywhere that the world can live in peace — a just peace.
McBain chose the evening’s selections.
“It seemed so appropriate when choosing the music to think of one of the most famous Christian works of all time, Handel’s Messiah, and of the words of the Prophet Isaiah: ‘Comfort ye my people, saith your God, Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, That her warfare is accomplished, That her iniquity is pardoned. The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare, ye the way of the Lord,’” he said. “At the close, as an act of friendship and a prayer for peace, the choir will sing Peter Lutkin’s The Lord Bless You and Keep You.”
Since 1993, Morris has taught courses for clergy and laypeople in the
“My first trip to
Much of his teaching today centers on the life of Jesus in the setting of the first century, helping modern people experience the Bible with a new, fresh approach.