America and Bethlehem unite at the National Cathedral in prayer

(Photo courtesy of the National Cathedral)

Thomas Warren,

WASHINGTON – Americans and Palestinian Americans from the National Cathedral and a church in Bethlehem joined together in a prayer service today.

The event was billed as a bridging together of religious denominations and cultures around the world.

The Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church in Bethlehem joined via simulcast.

The pastor, Dr. Mitri Raheb, who runs the church in Bethlehem, called the gathering a meaningful tradition in his welcoming remarks.

“We want tonight to build a bridge. Reaching out, and reminding the Christian community worldwide that Bethlehem is a real city, under occupation,” Raheb says, as he spoke from Bethlehem.

Raheb has served as leader of the church since he was ordained in 1988. The 110- year-old church has about 200 baptized members and its campus is in downtown Bethlehem.

The Reverend, Mariann Budde, who is the newly-consecrated bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, gave the greeting and acclamation.

“We gather in Bethlehem and in Washington to celebrate the great gift with which God blesses all creation in the birth of Jesus Christ our Lord,” Budde says.

There were scriptures read by clergy members from the National Cathedral, as well as churches in Bethlehem and Jerusalem.

Some were read from Bethlehem in English and some were read from the Cathedral in Arabic.

The Wartburg Choir, from Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa, was the guest choir in attendance providing the Hymns and Christmas songs.

This year marks the fifth the National Cathedral has hosted the Bethlehem prayer service.

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