By Ed Runyan
Christians who may never make it to Bethlehem to visit the Church of the Nativity still can have the light of Christ in their own homes.
For the second year, the Greater Western Reserve Council of the Boy Scouts of America has received the Peace Light — a continuously burning candlelight taken from the Grotto of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the site where Jesus traditionally is believed to have been born.
Tuesday morning, Jim Kennedy of the Juniata Council Boy Scouts of America in Reedsville, Pa., brought the Peace Light from Mifflinville, Pa., where he received it from Scout executives who had received it at JFK International Airport in New York City on Monday night.
The flame was flown from Israel to New York as part of an 11-year tradition and an effort dating back to 1986 by the Austrian Broadcasting Co. to help children.
At a brief ceremony at the local Boy Scouts council offices, Kennedy passed the light on to Jason Wolf, Greater Western Reserve Scout executive, who is in turn making the light available to others through Dec. 21.
“We bring you this light in the spirit of the one who was born [in Bethlehem] over 2,000 years ago, Jesus Christ, the one that the Bible calls the Light of the World and Prince of Peace,” Kennedy said.
“The prophet Isaiah, long ago spoke these words: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness — on them light has shined,” he said.
“This light gives us hope that even though there is much darkness in the world, we can still see the signs of loving and peaceful community.”
Wolf said Boy Scouts and others in the community are invited to come to the council offices at 4930 Enterprise Blvd. NW near the state Route 5 Bypass on Parkman Road to receive the light and take it home with them. Hours are 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Last year, people from throughout the multi-county council came to Greater Western Reserve Council to receive the light. The council includes Trumbull, Mahoning, Ashtabula, Lake and Geauga counties and part of Portage County.
Bud Bower, camp director and Cub Scout leader in the schools, said one man came to Warren from Wickliffe near Cleveland to receive the light and take it back home with him.
“One guy said he probably gave it to 350 people. It’s a neat thing to do this time of year,” Bower said.
Wolf said he first became aware of the Peace Light when he was working for the Boy Scouts in Des Moines.
Kennedy admitted Tuesday he gets a little nervous carrying the flame from far away for fear that it might accidentally go out.
He keeps two lanterns lit with the flame and keeps them in an industrial-sized bucket with special rods through the top to hold the lanterns upright.
Wolf was scheduled to continue the westward advance of the Peace Light on Tuesday, taking it to Parma. From there, others were scheduled to take it to Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, Iowa and Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Wolf also takes Warren’s Peace Light to Sorrento’s Banquet Hall on Parkman Road, where the pilot light on the furnace and stove at the restaurant are blown out and re-lit with the Peace Light.
That way, the Boy Scouts Council always has a backup Peace Light.
“It’s important that it’s a continuous flame,” Wolf said.