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Chapel hosts multi-cultural 'lighting' ceremony

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. S.J.B. Bryant
  • 39th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
The Incirlik chapel staff hosted a multi-faith “lighting” ceremony Nov. 25 at the chapel at 6:30 p.m. as part of the Air Force Chief of Staff’s religious tolerance initiative.

The ceremony allowed three different religious groups -- Jewish, Christian and Earth-Based -- to perform various “light” ceremonies jointly instead of having separate ceremonies for each, which is a first for U.S. Forces in Europe chapels.

“This is the first time in USAFE that these three faiths have come together in unity to celebrate their holiday traditions,” said Chaplain (Capt.) Dallas Little, protestant chaplain. “It is one thing to allow separate groups to share building space, but quite another to come together in the spirit of unity and understanding while performing age-old traditions sacred to each of them.”

As the sky grew dark, it set the perfect background for the lighting of the Christian Advent candles, Jewish Menorah and Earth-Based Yule Log, said Chaplain Little, who planned for the ceremony to take place only two hours after the base-wide tree lighting ceremony the same day.

The ceremony began not with any one specific religious tradition but with a single line of participants passing a flame from person to person beginning at the back of the chapel until it reached the front where the candles and log sat on a prepared table.

During the half hour ceremony, Capt. Jordan Murphy, 39th Maintenance Squadron maintenance supervisor and representative of the Jewish faith community, lit the candles of the Menorah and sang three traditional prayers in Hebrew. This tradition is to commemorate the Jewish Maccabees’ victory over the Greek-Syrian army and the one day’s worth of pure oil that miraculously lasted for eight days in the Temple, according to Captain Murphy.

Representing the Christian community, Tech. Sgt. Gene Taylor told the advent story while his wife and four children lit the first of the Advent candles. Advent is a term from the Latin word ‘adventus’ which means ‘coming’ and is a time of waiting for the arrival of Christmas -- remembering Jesus’ birth as well as waiting in expectation for his second coming. The Advent candles are lit during the four Sundays before Christmas, with the fifth Christ candle being lit Christmas eve.

Senior Airman Andrew Kirschbaum, 39th Logistics Readiness Squadron, explained the tradition of the Yule Log and the practice of tying wishes to the log with bright ribbon and burning it to mark Winter Solstice. This is the time of the year when the light returns as the sun shifts and starts to move northward again. Attendees were given paper and pens to write down wishes, if they chose, and went to the picnic area beside the youth center to watch the large log placed on the fire and burned.

“This was very interesting and educational,” said Chaplain Little. “It is not important that everyone accept the different beliefs, but to understand and be tolerant of differences. I think this combined ceremony opened up channels of communication and respect between very different faiths.”