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December 06. 2012 10:40PM

Peace Light will glow once again in Bedford

The Bedford Presbyterian Church will continue a tradition begun last year, as a mother and son travel to New York City to pick up the Peace Light of Bethlehem.

Gretchen Osgood and her son, Joshua, a Boy Scout in Manchester Troop 135, will head to the John F. Kennedy Airport Monday to wait for the light's arrival.

The Peace Light, a holiday tradition in Europe since 1986, will then be presented and shared at the Bedford Presbyterian Church on December 16 from 4 to 7 p.m., the same day Boy Scouts in Europe will receive it in Vienna.

Each year, a child from Austria retrieves the light from Bethlehem. It is carried in two blast-proof miner's lamps on an Austrian Airlines jet from Tel Aviv, Israel, to Vienna, Austria, and is not permitted to go out.

From there, it is distributed at a ceremony to delegates from across Europe, who take it back with a message of peace to their own countries. Austrian Airlines then flies the lit lamps containing the Peace Light to New York City.

The goal is to get it to travel to as many locations as possible, spreading a message of peace wherever it goes. It's transported by Boy Scouts throughout the U.S. and Canada, but had never reached New Hampshire, said Gretchen, who volunteered to be the state's first Peace Light coordinator last year.

The response from the community after last year's event was overwhelmingly positive, Osgood said.

"Several people told me that this was the most meaningful Christmas present they had ever received," she said.

For Osgood, the Peace Light experience has made an already meaningful time of year even more special, and she is happy to have been able to continue the tradition.

"For many, the religious significance of receiving a flame which has been kept burning at Jesus' birthplace for over 1,000 years was a deeply moving experience," she said. "For others, the beauty and significance of this project lies in the symbolic act of protecting and sharing a delicate flame, along with a message of peace, with thousands of others throughout the world."

Osgood said receiving the flame each year at Christmas time can be a poignant reminder of how much work remains to achieve peace in the world.

"So as long as Austrian Airlines flies the Peace Light flame to New York City and there are people in New Hampshire wishing to receive it, I hope to continue the tradition - and help it to grow - for years to come," she said.

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Kathy Remillard may be reached at kremillard@newstote.com.


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