Mass choirs, gospel singers and monks sang out God's praises at the Day of Churches held at Switzerland's national exhibition, Expo.02.This content was published on May 19, 2002 - 22:42
Timed to coincide with the religious festival of Pentecost, some 4,300 singers performed at the four Expo sites of Neuchâtel, Biel, Murten and Yverdon-les-bains.
Eight orchestras played simultaneously on the sites' so-called arteplages or stages, constructed over the lake.
Visitors to Biel and Yverdon were also entertained by bands and choirs performing Christian pop and gospel music.
The Swiss church is dynamic
"We wanted by way of the Day of Churches to show that the church is dynamic, that it goes to where the people are," Georg Schubert, a director of the Association of Swiss Churches at Expo.02, told swissinfo.
Christians from all over Switzerland witnessed to Expo visitors about their faith. Some visited the seven Expo pavilions, dotted along Lake Murten, that are dedicated places of reflection.
Pentecost is the Christian festival celebrating the descent of the Holy Spirit on the disciples of Jesus after his Ascension, and is held on the seventh Sunday after Easter.
Some 2,000 choir-singers accompanied liturgies conducted by the assistant bishops of Lausanne, Geneva and Fribourg in Yverdon. Pastor Thomas Wipf, president of the Association, led Biel's liturgy.
Murten held its own "Holy Ghost Celebration" with around 800 singers performing.
"Although I didn't come especially for the Church event, I still thought the songs were very nice", said one elderly man from Zurich after the performance at Murten. "I thought the singers were wonderful and there was a great atmosphere."
Church is no monolith
The Pentecost services were the result of many years of collaboration between several Christian organisations and 14 churches.
The Day of Churches is "unique" in the history of Swiss churches, Wipf told swissinfo. "Collaboration has never been done on this scale before," he added.
The aim of the Expo event was to foster inter-religious dialogue. His Grace, Pierre Bürcher, underlined that it is diversity and complementarity that sustains the church.
"The church is not a monolith, but a way to live together in peace," he said in his sermon.
The Day of Churches is one of two "events" organised by the Association of Swiss Churches for Expo.02. The second is due to take place on Sunday, September 15.
Some 266,000 people have visited the national exhibition since its opening last Wednesday, delighting organisers with almost a quarter more guests than anticipated.
Biel is the most popular site with 89,219 visitors so far, followed by Neuchatel (79,173), Murten (57,749) and Yverdon (43,465).
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