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Peace Light brought to local Scouting council for first time

Flame originating in Bethlehem travels to Hagerstown

December 01, 2011|By JULIE E. GREENE | julieg@herald-mail.com
  • Mason-Dixon Council of Boy Scouts of America Board Member Mike Mittel journeyed to central Pennsylvania to bring to Hagerstown a flame that originated in Bethlehem, Israel. He transported the flame in a lantern on a two-hour ride to the council's home on Crestwood Drive.
By Kevin G. Gilbert, Staff Photographer

It took a blast-proof miner's lamp, at least two plane flights and two road trips, a crate, a bucket and bungee cords to bring the Peace Light to Hagerstown.

For Mike Mittel, the Boy Scouts official who drove the light from Reedsville, Pa., to Hagerstown this week, bringing the light to Hagerstown "means a lot to me, knowing that there is something tangible that we have from the nativity of the birthplace of Jesus," he said Thursday.

The Peace Light originated with a flame that for more than 1,000 years was kept lit in the grotto in Bethlehem, Israel, where Jesus is said to have been born, and serves as a physical reminder of the reason for the Christmas season, according to a news release from the Mason-Dixon Council of Boy Scouts of America.

Community members can bring an oil lamp or an enclosed candle to the council office on Crestwood Drive to light from the candle. The Peace Light will be available from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Dec. 23.

That the Boy Scouts can help spread the Peace Light warms Mittel, he said.

"It fills me up. It makes me feel hopeful. It gives me hope. It gives me gladness, joy, love," said Mittel, a board member for the Mason-Dixon Council. Hope to spread at a time when society is dealing with a rough economy, he said.

Each year, a child from Upper Austria fetches the light from the grotto and it is carried in two blast-proof miner's lamps on an Austrian Airlines jet from Tel Aviv, Israel, to Vienna, Austria, according to PeaceLight.org. The light is distributed around Europe.

The Peace Light also is flown to New York City, where Boy Scout leaders light their lanterns from the miner's lamps and distribute the light around the United States, said Tade Sullivan, the Mason-Dixon Council's district executive for Washington County.

It was Sullivan who suggested bringing the Peace Light to the Mason-Dixon Council for the first time. Sullivan used to work with the Mid-Iowa Boy Scouts Council, which has been receiving the Peace Light for a couple of years, he said.

Volunteer Joe Reding, from Minnesota, brought the light to Reedsville, Pa., where Mittel used it to light his red camping lantern.

Mittel drove the Peace Light to Hagerstown on Wednesday, often peering over to his front passenger seat during the two-hour drive to make sure the light was still lit, he said.

He strapped a milk crate on the seat with bungee cords and the seat belt, Mittel said. He stabilized a bucket in the crate by pushing objects between the bucket and crate to keep it from sliding around.

The lantern was suspended in the bucket using bungee cords, Mittel said.

Mittel drove the lantern from his Hagerstown home to the Mason-Dixon Council's office on Crestwood Drive in Hagerstown's North End on Thursday morning, where a brief ceremony was held as the light was transferred to a candle at the council's office.

Boy Scout officials said they are hoping to keep at least one of the candles in the Perpetual Adoration Chapel lit year-round with the Peace Light. The chapel is on the campus of St. Maria Goretti High School north of Hagerstown.

Sullivan said they also are planning to use the Peace Light to light a lantern that will be kept at the Boy Scouts' Camp Sinoquipe in Fulton County, Pa.

After Thursday's ceremony, Sullivan and Andy Hoffman, the Boy Scouts' district chairman for Washington County, also discussed the possibility of using the Peace Light to light a luminaria for the Memorial Illumination at Antietam National Battlefield this Saturday.

Hoffman said he has a friend who has a propane attachment for a torch that allows it to burn at a low setting. The trick is to transfer the Peace Light to the luminaria without burning the paper bag, he said.

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