For the past 29 years, a New Year’s Eve Interfaith Prayer Service celebration has been held at St. Ignatius Church at 740 North Calvert Street in Baltimore City. Started in 1993 by the pastor, Father William Watters, S.J., the Service has gathered representatives from many different faiths, government services and various city programs to thank God for the blessings received in the past year and to pray for blessings for the coming year.
The Service has been accompanied by beautiful music provided by the St. Ignatius Choir and instrumentalists. The attendees, a diverse gathering of 500-700 who fill the church, represent all facets of Baltimore life and join with the choir to sing the familiar hymns which are chosen to encourage all of those present to sing. A musical Prelude with pieces, chosen each year by choir director Paul Teie, begins the evening at 8:00 p.m. The choir initiates rehearsing for the Service at 6:30 p.m. while the attendees start arriving at that time to savor the uplifting and jubilant music that fills the church!
At 8:30 p.m. the procession of participants begins the Service with the congregation joyously singing. Clergy from Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and Christian traditions process into the church to the sanctuary, including Archbishop Lori, Representatives from Government, Arts, Medicine, Education, Social Services, Young People, Business, Media and Public Service process in with the clergy.
In 1997, Baltimore City Mayor Kurt Schmoke, participated in the Service. He offered a prayer for the city. In fact, at the last Service that Mayor Schmoke attended, he declared that participating in this Service was the most inspiring and important activity of his years in office. While he was both Mayor and Governor, Martin O’Malley also offered a prayer for the city and/or the State of Maryland.
In recent years, the Baltimore Police Commissioners and City Council Presidents have also participated and offered prayers. All those in the sanctuary either read one of the three Psalms, offer a brief petition while one of the clergy offers a brief Reflection for the evening. Throughout the Service the attendees raise their voices as they pray and sing along with the clergy and petitioners. It is truly a Service representative of the diverse people of the city.
The Service ends with the choir performing Nella Fantasia, a joyful hymn, followed by the blowing of the shofar. The Service continues the celebration with a reception in the church hall with delicious food in a spirit of festivity and fellowship.
The Annual Interfaith Prayer Service is a uniquely jubilant celebration of gratitude for the blessing of the passing Old Year and in petition for the hoped-for blessings of the New Year. Please come and join us for the 30th New Year’s Eve Service!
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