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Monday, June 29, 1998 Published at 23:06 GMT 00:06 UK


Churches campaign for millennium meaning

Churches in England will emphasise the religious meaning of the millennium

A campaign to prevent the millennium becoming a secular celebration is being launched by English churches.

Churches across the country will be urged to seize the opportunity to reinforce the Christian significance of the anniversary, rather than leaving it up to Millennium Dome or festival organisers.

The campaign is to be "commissioned" by church leaders including the Archbishop of Canterbury and Cardinal Basil Hume at a service underlining its importance.

[ image: The Millennium Dome will contain the Spirit Zone]
The Millennium Dome will contain the Spirit Zone
A mission statement for the Churches Together in England team says their millennium task is to "forge a link in people's minds between the year 2000, the name of Jesus Christ and the possibility of personal meaning and public hope".

It goes on to state: "If the churches do not do this, nobody else will."

Organisers will be working alongside the Millennium Commission and the New Millennium Experience Company, but they will put emphasis on local celebrations among churches nationwide.

The Moderator of the Free Churches Council, the Rev Baroness Richardson and Rowena Loverance of the Religious Society of Friends will also be presiding at the commissioning service.

It is the first time the four church leaders have jointly recognised the work of an inter-church team.

The service coincides with the launch of a guide for churches planning millennium activities including details of plans to give out basic information on planning local events.

Rev Stephen Lynas, the Archbishops' officer for the millennium, said it would be a disaster if the anniversary was seen only in terms of the Dome.

He said: "Churches are realising we need to do something otherwise the millennium will be a totally secular beanfeast and that mustn't happen.

"We have to remind the rest of the population what it is about. For people living more than 50 miles from London, Greenwich is remote.

"It's what happens in their local town or village that matters to them, that's why we want churches to get involved. It's not the job of the Dome or Peter Mandelson to preach the Christian message."

[ image: Dr Carey will join other church leaders to launch the campaign]
Dr Carey will join other church leaders to launch the campaign
Mr Lynas said despite reluctance among some churches to get involved with millennium celebrations, the mood was swinging as the date approached.

A New Start approach is being adopted by churches for the year 2000, indicating a New Start at Home, with God and for the World's Poor.

Dome organisers said they were working closely with all church groups to include a religious dimension to the Greenwich exhibition.

Events over the Pentecost Weekend inside the Dome, already been designated the highlight of Christian celebrations, are continuing to be discussed.

A spokesman added that latest plans for the Spirit Zone inside the vast structure included a "Pilgrims' Progress" taking visitors through the Christian story and the history of other religions.

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