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GETTING INTO THE SPIRIT <br> AMID THE MILLENNIUM HOOPLA, CHURCHES ARE USHERING IN THE NEW YEAR WITH A DIFFIRENT KIND OF GATHERING: WORSHIP SERVICES

While many Western New Yorkers are popping champagne corks at midnight Friday to mark the arrival of the new millennium, others will be cracking open hymnals and Bibles as they celebrate the unique event in a more prayerful way.

Because the arrival of the year 2000 is so historically significant, many churches that do not ordinarily conduct New Year's Eve services will hold them this year.

On the other hand, African-American congregations and such denominations as the Assembly of God traditionally conduct New Year's Eve or "Watch Night" services.

Churches that are initiating the practice this year are linking it specifically to the new millennium or the Jubilee year proclaimed by religious leaders. In some instances, church members asked their pastors to help them usher in the new year in a prayerful way.

Regardless of the exact motivation or past practice, Catholics, Baptists, Episcopalians, Methodists, Lutherans and others will include God in their New Year's Eve plans this year.

"This has not been a long-standing practice in the Episcopal Church," said the Rev. Allen W. Farabee, dean of St. Paul's Cathedral, Church and Pearl streets. "We are doing it this year because of the millennium. We'll be interested in seeing what happens."

Although the Episcopal Church has a specific service of prayers and Scripture readings for use on New Year's Eve, Farabee said this will be the first time in his 25 years as a priest that he will use it.

St. Paul's 9 p.m. service, similar to a Sunday Eucharist, will be conducted by Bishop J. Michael Garrison, leader of the Episcopal Diocese of Western New York. Farabee will preach.

Formerly a venue for Buffalo's First Night entertainment events, St. Paul's is offering a spiritual version of First Night this year.

The program will begin at 6 p.m. when the Third Rank Dance Company performs a sacred dance on the cathedral's labyrinth. From 6:30 to 8:30, the labyrinth will be available for private walking meditation.

A block away at St. Joseph's Cathedral, Bishop Henry J. Mansell of the Buffalo Catholic Diocese will celebrate a New Year's Eve Mass, a cathedral tradition, at 10:45 p.m.

A number of First Night events, including musical performances, storytelling and exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, are scheduled in St. Joseph's beginning at 7.

One of the more unusual New Year's Eve services will bring together Catholic and Baptist congregations on Buffalo's East Side. That event will be held at St. Lawrence Catholic Church, 1520 E. Delavan Ave., where parishioners will be joined by members of the Edison Street Baptist Church for a family-oriented celebration beginning at 7:30 p.m. and including a Mass at 11:30.

"It was requested by parishioners. They wanted to go into the new year and the new millennium in a prayerful way," said the Rev. Paul D. Seil, pastor of St. Lawrence.

The Rev. E. Darlene Williams, pastor of the Baptist congregation, will be guest speaker at the service.

"Praising in the New Year" will be the theme of a New Year's Eve event at St. Gregory the Great Catholic Church, Maple Road and St. Gregory Court, Amherst.

"Rather than having a boisterous new millennium party, we decided to concentrate on the sacred," said the Rev. William J. Quinlivan, parochial vicar.

The schedule for the evening will include quiet Eucharist adoration from 8 to 10:30 p.m., songs of praise by the Voices of Mercy from St. Luke's Mission of Mercy at 10:30 and Mass at 11:30.

The Mass is scheduled at 11:30 so that the consecration of the Eucharist occurs at midnight, Quinlivan explained.

At St. John Vianney Catholic Church, 2950 Southwestern Blvd., Orchard Park, Mass will be celebrated at 10 p.m. followed by a nonalcoholic, family-oriented party.

"We thought it would be a good way to start the new year. Some people were asking for something special for the millennium," said Monsignor William J. Gallagher, pastor.

A first-time-ever Family Holy Communion Service will be held at 5 p.m. in Parkside Lutheran Church, 2 Wallace Ave.

"Several people asked for a special service. I guess they wanted closure on the past and reflection on the future," said the Rev. John A. Buerk, pastor.

"People are really aware of and sensitive to the passing of time because of the historical date we are celebrating this year," he said.

The Rev. Darius G. Pridgen, pastor of True Bethel Baptist Church, 907 E. Ferry St., said he is expecting 600 to 700 people to attend the traditional 10 p.m. worship service at his church. The two-hour service will include interpretive dancing to gospel songs.

Pridgen plans to preach on the Y2K issue, suggesting that if any problems develop they will be because of "man's mistakes" since "God does not make mistakes."

A two-hour service at 10 p.m. in St. John Baptist Church, 184 Goodell St., will be preceded by a concert at 9.

Expressway Assembly of God, Route 33 and Eggert Road, will conduct its traditional Watch Night service at 10:30 p.m.

However, many Assemblies of God and some other denominations that hold services every year are conducting them earlier than usual so members who are concerned about potential Y2K problems can be home well before midnight.

The cloistered nuns at the Carmelite Monastery of the Little Flower of Jesus, 75 Carmel Road, have invited the community to a New Year's Eve Mass at 11:30 p.m. in their chapel.

The liturgy is planned "to thank God for the graces of 1999 and ask his blessings for the year 2000."

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