Shining through a world of darkness
The Balboa Union Church was established during the construction of the Panama Canal and was originally known as the Union Church of the ...
The Balboa Union Church was established during the construction of the Panama Canal and was originally known as the Union Church of the Canal Zone and by many locals as “the foreigners’ church”and its history follows the wave of English-speaking people living in Panama. It was officially created by representatives of the Christian Leagues of different Canal Zone communities. The church faced an economic crisis near the turn of the century after the exodus of the U.S. military and the closing of the bases in Panama. It is again gaining impetus with the increasing population of English speaking expats arriving from North America ans Europe the country.
A sea of candles. Besides its historical value, its most appealing characteristic to me is a tradition that has continued for more than 60 years. Every year on Christmas Eve, the church holds a candlelight service. According to members of the church, the tradition of placing candles on the lawn following the service began in 1941, when two servicemen wished to leave candles burning in honor of their loved ones at home.
The first candle lighting had special meaning for two reasons. Literally , it helped light the way in the middle of a blackout in Panama. Mrs. Marie Van Clief of the Balboa Union Church had obtained permission from the Governor of the Canal Zone and the Commander of the Armed Forces to place candles on the lawn to help illuminate the area.
Metaphorically, the candles brought light to a time of darkness for the young men and women stationed overseas. On Christmas Eve of 1941, the Second World War was only a little over two weeks old for the United States.
According to a Church press release, “for a brief moment, light shone through the world of darkness, lifting spirits and reminded them of God’s peace.” The candle’s light reminded everyone that we are called to be “the light of the world.” 67 years later, the message ingrained in the first candlelight ceremony stills holds relevance. Whether in honor of men and women stationed abroad, or to bring light to darkness in a personal, national or worldwide sphere, I can’t think of a better or more beautiful way to spend Christmas Eve.
The service has become a famous Christmas tradition for many. Last year, even President Martin Torrijos and his family joined in the activity.
This year, the service will be held on Wednesday Dec 24 at 7:00 p.m. and conducted by the Reverend Luis A. Veagra, Pastor of Balboa Union Church. Special music will be featured with Professor Reynaldo Taylor as pianist. Simultaneous translation in Spanish will be provided, as well as valet parking. For more information, contact 314-1004.
Calendar Fundraising. In the spirit of Christmas, Balboa Union Church is also selling its 2009 Calendar. Beautifully printed in colors, this traditional bilingual calendar has a bible verse per month, serving as inspirational pieces. Adjacent to every monthly page are picturesque scenes of different Panamanian sites. It also includes Panamanian national holidays. The Balboa Union Church sells the calendars to raise money to help support missions and outreach programs fot the less fortunate across Panama.