Y2K is spiritual milestone for many

BY SUSAN KIM | WASHINGTON, D.C. | March 26, 1999


(WASHINGTON, D.C. - March 26, 1999) - Faith organizations are preparing for

Y2K not only physically and financially -- but also spiritually. During a

workshop at the National Cathedral earlier this month, members of the

InterFaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington (IFC) shared what the year

2000 will mean to local faith communities.

The Rev. Dr. Clark Lobenstine, IFC director and a Presbyterian pastor,

encouraged churches nationwide to participate in a "Millennium Meal"

together on January 1, 2000. Organized by Authors for a New Millennium, a

Washington-DC based community action group, the Millennium Meal campaign

urges people of all faiths to break bread together sometime on New Year's

Day in a spirit of Thanksgiving and world understanding.

"We need a shared moment," said Lobenstine. "The millennium is a time of

transition that can be marked in various ways."

For IFC board member Anthony Franchina, a Roman Catholic, recent travels to

Rome and the Middle East indicated the worldwide importance of the

millennium. "So many people -- young and old, rich and poor -- are wondering

what's going to happen," he said. "For Roman Catholics, the year 2000

represents a Great Jubilee that deals with conversion or a change of heart.

During 1999, the year of "God the Father," Roman Catholics are encouraged to

be actively engaged in a heart-and-soul dialogue with all the world's

religions in a pilgrimage of reconciliation and wholeness."

Prof. Sulayman Nyang, a Muslim scholar who teaches at Howard University in

Washington, DC, said that the year 2000 also represents a time of world

interaction for his faith. "What we are going to witness in the Muslim world

is an increase in interaction with the non-Muslim world. Muslims are living

in a global system in which more and more people participate," he said.

"This period is one of renewal and also one in which human beings are being

forced to rediscover their roots."

"There is nothing in the Koran about a missile coming at the end of time,

but the millennists among Christian groups do have counterparts among people

of my faith."

The wish to redefine tradition and challenge long-held assumptions was

common among interfaith leaders. Rabbi Danny Zemel is participating in

"Synagogue 2000," a campaign that encourages Jewish congregations to

question long-held assumptions about their faith. "Judaism is used to

thinking about things in the long-term. From the Jewish perspective, we're

in the year 5,759," Zemel said. "If you'd stood on the steps of any of the

great European synagogues in 1899 and said that the great Jewish centers

would be in New York and Israel, they would have laughed. After a certain

amount of time we take things for granted."

The new millennium represents a time to start looking in earnest for the

second coming of the

Savior, said David King a lay leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of the

Latter Day Saints. "Nobody is being dogmatic as to when

the Savior will come -- the exact month, day, year -- but we do believe that

this will be the millennium in which He returns. I don't think any Latter

Day Saint is counting on Him coming January 1. On the other hand, this is a

wonderful time for cleansing the earth, and for cleansing our national and

individual sins," King said.

Anuttama Dasa, director of North American communications for the

International Society for Krishna Consciousness, said that the new

millennium represents an auspicious time for people to come together in song

and spirit no matter how they see God.

"From a Hindu perspective, the universe goes through seasonal cycles. Right

now we're living in the winter season. We're about 5,000 years into that,

and we have about 427,000 years yet to go before we move onto spring. In

certain Hindu traditions, this season is described as a difficult time for

spiritual life because of the pressures of, say, just trying to maintain

one's family. People need to listen to one another and learn from one

another," he said.

Faith communities are also planning events such as special services,

fundraising

campaigns, food drives, and neighborhood open houses to ring in the new

millennium. The Metropolitan Washington Human Services Coalition, which

includes local branches of Lutheran Social Services and Catholic Charities,

has launched a "Y2K Buddy" project in which volunteers assist human service

nonprofits in preparing for Y2K.

Youth from nine denominations in Washington, DC, have organized to issue a

challenge to adults on March 23 during a public dialogue sponsored by IFC.

They will encourage adults to pledge to "act from core values, promote

harmony among all faith traditions, and to be better champions of the

millennium working to create a better world."

The Unitarian Universalists have created Y2K Connections, a "what-if" card game

for youth and adults. Cards offer a scenario such as: "You lose electricity

for 10 days," then pose related questions: "How many candles and flashlight

batteries would it take to keep light in your home? How will you keep warm

and cook food while the power is out? Does your water pump work without

electricity? Your refrigerator?"

Unitarians have also developed a special website that includes information

and suggested responses to Y2K.

Posted March 26, 1999


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