As Protestants and Catholics worship together for an Irish spiritual service in Tyrone next weekend, the disharmony in Northern Ireland will seem like a world away.
Despite sharing a name with County Tyrone in Northern Ireland, the borough of Tyrone in Blair County is anything but disjointed.
As a fitting end to its weeklong Irish Heritage Days celebration, Tyrone is hosting an Irish spiritual service at 7 p.m. March 20 at First Presbyterian Church on West 13th Street in Tyrone to promote unity among different Christian faiths.
(Mirror photo by J.D. Cavrich) Alice Mulhollan is coordinator for the annual Irish spiritual service that is part of the Irish Heritage Days Festival held in Tyrone.
"It's for everybody. We get everybody from Catholics, Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists and Lutherans. It's a good cross section of everyone in the area," said Alice Mulhollan, owner of Alice's Garden in Tyrone, who coordinates the event. "You're really touched and blessed when you leave there."
This is the fourth year for the service, and 250 people attended last year. The Allegheny Chorale will perform, as well as a harpist and an organist. Classical and traditional Irish music will enhance the theme of unity.
"A lot of troubles in Ireland are between religious factions. We want to heal Ireland from the inside out," she said.
Mulhollan, whose family emigrated from the Emerald Isle, has visited Northern Ireland.
While she adores the beauty of the region, Mulhollan knows unity is needed. Her love for her family's home country prompted Mulhollan to collect more than 50 Celtic crosses, which are reproductions of the high holy crosses in Ireland.
"They're absolutely amazing. They actually have carvings of Bible stories on them," she said.
Tyrone has its own Celtic crosses at First Presbyterian Church, the location for the service.
Pastor Jeff Miley of the Church of the Brethren in Tyrone is the speaker. He plans to spread a message of unity of the spirit. Christians need to focus on their similarities of faith in Christ and not their differences, he said.
"The biggest thing when you think of Ireland is disunity or disruption of peace in the Northern part," Miley said. "We need to celebrate the good parts, the heritage, but also talk about the unity that is needed and should be there, and we hope and pray will become ingrained in their culture."
The borough of Tyrone does not lack unity, Miley said.
He explained that pastors of various denominations work together frequently.
In years past, ecumenical services were held weekly in Tyrone, Norman Huff, retired pastor from Church of the Good Shepherd in Tyrone said. (Huff now pastors at Spruce Creek Presbyterian Church.)
"I think it's important that the people of the Tyrone come together to unite our voices in song, in praise to God and fellowship with one another. That we will recognize that we are one people under God and that it is in God we trust as our forefathers remind us," said Huff, who is the host for the service.
"We are all Christians. We have to show unity," said Father Jozef Kovacik of St. Matthew's Catholic Church in Tyrone.
Kovacik said he will probably attend and will encourage church members to attend the service that will be preceded by a meal at Wesley Methodist Church on Logan Avenue.
Bringing different faiths together is important to Tyrone, Huff said, to show tolerance, acceptance and love for everyone.
"The foundation is that we have one God who should bring us together in a way that we're not in competition with each other, but that we are striving to make the world more caring and loving and to support each other in prayers and our relationship with God, whether we're Catholic, Protestant or whatever. We can unite together," Huff said.