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General News of Sunday, 1 January 2006

Source: GNA

Christians usher in New Year with church services

Accra, Jan. 1, GNA - Christians in Ghana ushered in the New Year with a vigil, prayers, singing of songs of praise, hymns and charismatic Holy Ghost dancing of waving white handkerchief, shouting and jumping in honour of God for the birth of 2006.

Most churches were full to capacity with regular and occasional worshippers, who wanted to bid farewell to 2005 and enter into the New Year with commitment and re-dedication to the Almighty God. At the Presbyterian Church of the Resurrection in Accra, a Presbyter, Emmanuel Tete Wilson bemoaned the indiscipline that had engulfed the Ghanaian society.

He said indiscipline was at the height of almost all activities to the detriment of society to the extent that now there was no difference between a Christian and an unbeliever.

"Both Christians and unbelievers alike, struggle to sell on streets and pavements, knowing very well that it is wrong. Both Christians and unbelievers alike are late to work, having lackadaisical attitudes to their jobs. Both Christians and unbelievers behave the same way within our communities that it has become difficult for one to tell the difference between these two groups," he said.

He reminded Christians that the Bible admonished them to be examples onto the unbelievers through their acts. "Through their acts you may know them," he quoted the Bible as saying.

Presbyter Wilson appealed to Christian leaders to minimize the prosperity messages and focus on the teaching of disciplinary way of living as a way to change societal behaviours.

"We should teach more about love, forgiveness and good neighbourliness among other Christian virtues," he said. "We need to resolve that societal discipline would start with as us Christians so that we in turn would be able to teach others to make our beloved country a better place to be," he said.

The Reverend Tetteh Suomi Akunor, District Pastor, urged Christians to pursue holiness in their walk with God.

He called on Church Leaders to help bring back the old Presbyterian training and discipline to the church and especially to the youth.

At the Accra Calvary Methodist Church, the Circuit Minister, the Reverend Atta Archer urged Christians to enter the New Year with righteousness and holiness and put their trust in the Lord.

"As David said some trust in chariots, some trust in horses but we will trust in the name of our Lord even when we have small faith", he said.

He encouraged Ghanaians to be prayerful and to let the word of God be their watchword. "Pray without ceasing and allow Christ to direct your steps."

Rev. Archer advised government to ensure that the monies accrued from the debt cancellations were used judiciously for the benefit of every Ghanaian and this "we hope would end poverty, which is destroying our people".

He urged President John Agyekum Kufuor to cut down his international travelling and do more local visits to the villages to assess their situations and address their needs.

Rev. Archer encouraged Ghanaians to change their habit of speaking more than working, adding, "this year we should be do more working and less talking about things that would disrupt the peace Ghanaians are currently enjoying".

Members of the International Central Gospel Church (ICGC) began their watch night service with worship and praises at the Independence Square where thousands of worshipers danced all around the large space to await the New Year.

The worship was interspersed with words of exaltations by a number of Pastors in the church and they centred on the theme: "Advancement". The church service also served as a climax of a three-day conference dubbed: "The Crossover Conference."

Some worshipers sang and shouted while others either stayed on their feet or sat down to anxiously wait for about 30 minutes during the service when there was a technical problem with the public address system.

When the everything was restored the Reverend Dr Mensah Anamuah Otabil, General Overseer of the ICGC churches to led the large congregation into 2006.

Rev Otabil said the New Year should see Ghanaians living up to the word of God that urged them to have dominion over the earth. Basing his message on Psalm 115, Rev Otabil said the call to dominate the earth was not limited and that it was meant to take place within countries, ethnic groups and families.

This, he said, required Ghanaians to strive to overcome poverty and grow their businesses and to invest in other countries instead of waiting for foreigners to come and invest in Ghana.

He said it was time to stop thinking that everybody with a light skin was superior and, therefore, had the answers to the country's problems.

Rev Otabil observed that the limitations to advancement among Ghanaians was in the mind and, therefore, urged them not to believe that certain visions were unattainable.

As an example, Rev Otabil noted; "where two or three Ghanaians are gathered, there is a complaint," saying, "while we are complaining, others keep on buying our gold and bauxite among other things and by the time we finish complaining, everything would have been bought".

He said the phenomenon was obvious in the trend of airline operations where the exit flights are full of Ghanaians fleeing from the national shores while the incoming flights were full of foreigners coming to do business in the country.

He, therefore, urged members of the church and the whole nation to strive to overcome the limitations in order to among other things worship the Lord; acquire wisdom and advance in every aspect of their lives.

At the Harvest Chapel International, the service took the form of intercessory prayers, singing, dancing and word of encouragement to Christians and the National Leadership.

Prayers were offered for political leaders, national development agenda and for spiritual and physical breakthrough. Prayers were also offered for President John Agyekum Kufuor; Vice President Aliu Mahama; the Cabinet; Parliament; Judiciary; Police and the entire nation.

Preaching the sermon the Reverend Emmanuel Titi-Lartey, Associate Pastor of Harvest Chapel International, called for greater sacrifices in the year 2006.

He said the new year was not only about new resolutions and commitments but "it is about sacrifices for the attainment of those goals is easy to set goals but the individual must be prepared to forgo something in order to achieve those set targets. "Some of you have to forgo your sleep, reduce your food intake, come out of groups and companies, be courageous and stand firm to defend your position and take pragmatic and consistent steps for the attainment of your goals."

Rev Titi-Lartey urged Christians to have faith in God as they entered the New Year.

He said the New Year would bring challenges but these should not make Christians to lose hope and challenged all to allowed 2005 to go away with all the negative things and move into the New Year with positive thoughts.

He said Christians should do the right things so that they could benefit from the blessings of God, adding: "We do not get the required blessings because we do not do the right things."

At the Pentecost International Worship Centre (PIWC), Pastor Michael Asiedu, Resident Pastor of the Church, urged Christians to gird themselves for tougher challenges in the year 2006.

He said as the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ drew nearer, the Bible had indicated that there would be more challenges and perilous times for Christians and, therefore, the time for "drinking milk should give way to eating more solid foods."

Pastor Asiedu further urged Christians to desist from boasting with their religion, as religion was no basis for receiving salvation from the Lord and said the need to be meek and to seek the presence of God for direction was more important for total salvation.

"You must be obedient to the voice of the Lord and to the Holy Spirit," and assured those who truly submitted themselves to the Lord of the fact that the year would bring them great breakthroughs.

He reminded Christians of the promised made in Proverbs 21:1 which says the heart of the king is in the hands of the Lord and He turns it as He turns the course of a river and said the Lord would turn the heart of their enemies in their favour in the year 2006.

Pastor Asiedu urged Ghanaians to enter the New Year with much hope and zeal and with a renewed spirit to be able to overcome the challenges ahead and reap bumper harvests for the Lord.

President John Agyekum Kufuor and his family and some Ministers of State worshipped at the Christ the King Catholic Church to usher in the New Year.

The Senior Minister, Mr J. H. Mensah; Mr Felix Owusu-Agyapong, the Majority Leader in Parliament, among others accompanied President Kufuor to the watch night.

For the first time, the First lady, Mrs Theresa Kufuor was absent in such religious gatherings due to ill health, according to an insider that Ghana News Agency (GNA) talked to.

The Reverend Father Stephen Adu-Kwaning, the Parish Priest, in a sermon called on both Christians and National Leadership to get closer to God than they did in the last year so that they could bring peace and national unity to the people.

He said as Christians "our responsibility is not only to preserve and keep the faith but to trade it to others to make it bear good fruits".

Rev. Adu-Kwaning said 2006 had lots of promises for those who would obey the laws and commandments of the Lord and would walk in His footsteps and urged the congregation to eschew practices that would not build good relationship between them and God.

"Every one of us must develop and use the talents and gifts that God gives us profitably to improve on our lives and that of others and also enhance services in our communities," he said. He, therefore, thanked God for his choicest kindness he bestowed on the Christian community the world over throughout the year and prayed for His guidance and protection in the New Year.

Rev. Father Peter Badoo; Rev. Fr. Daniel Tetedzie and Rev. Fr Prince Adelayiter all of the Christ The King Parish assisted Rev Adu-Kwaning in celebration of the Eucharist Mass. Although the church service was scheduled to begin at 2200 hours, the church was full by 2000 hours when the GNA arrived. Most of them were in a joyous mood waiting for the celebrants and other dignitaries.

Few people interviewed were grateful to God for seeing them through the past year and prayed for God's blessings, protection and prosperity in the years ahead.