Sunrise services on Easter mean that several Toledo-area churches begin Sunday reliving Bible stories and experiencing nature early in the morning as they celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.
“One of the gospels says it was still dark when the ladies went to [Jesus’] tomb,” said the Rev. George Goodrich of Bono Baptist Church in Martin, Ohio, which will have a 7 a.m. service at the pier at Lake Erie’s Metzger Marsh Wildlife Area.
The Rev. Tim Goodman of Faith Bible Baptist Church said that the intention of the ladies going to the tomb “of course was to wash [Jesus’] body, but we know he wasn’t there.” Pastor Goodman’s service of songs and a devotion, which he has been leading at the 232 N. McCord Rd. church for 20 years, starts at 6:30 a.m.
Worshiping at a sunrise service carries “the excitement of being the first to greet the special day and the symbolism that ties back to all those emotions that the first witnesses to the empty tomb would have felt,” said Carol Williams-Young, student pastor at Epworth United Methodist Church. Ms. Williams-Young will lead Epworth’s 7 a.m. service on the Valleyview Drive portico at Epworth, 4855 W. Central Ave.
“When we [have the service] at sunrise, it carries us back to that time, gives us the chance to be the first ones to tell that good news,” she said.
Zoar Lutheran Church in Perrysburg holds its sunrise service at Fort Meigs Cemetery at 6 a.m., the Rev. Tim Philabaum said. “We have candles that we light, and as Mary would have come to the tomb on Easter morning, we come to the place where a lot of our friends and relatives are and proclaim that Christ is risen from the dead.”
In Waterville, the the community will have a sunrise service in Memorial Park at 7 a.m., led this year by First Presbyterian Church.
For the first church meeting of the morning, some congregations focus on story rather than grand ceremony. At Toledo Mennonite Church, 5501 Nebraska Ave., the 7:30 a.m. service held indoors “is a very basic service. It’s a combination of some scripture readings and hymns, and there’s also a dramatic reading of some different voices that we encounter during Easter,” said the Rev. Joel Shenk.
At St. Michael’s in the Hills Episcopal Church, 4718 Brittany Rd., the 7:30 a.m. service is largely what other congregations might have held the night before, the Easter vigil.
“We begin outside lighting the new fire,” said the Rev. Margaret Holt Sammons. “Then we light the [Easter] candle and process inside to the library room and hear readings from Hebrew scripture. As well, people are holding candles. And then we process into the [entrance to the sanctuary] singing, and either have baptism or renew our baptismal vows, and then at the end of that, exchange the Easter acclimation [that Jesus was resurrected] for the first time.” Also at that service, congregants “hear the Easter gospel and have the Eucharist,” the Rev. Sammons said.
For the first Easter service of the morning, don’t look for fine clothes. “We’re there to praise God,” Pastor Goodrich said. “If someone’s dressed up, it’s because they’re on their way to another service. I’ve seen people come in their pajamas. It gets pretty cold; some people come with a parka, but you see their pajamas underneath.”
Do look at the scenery, though. “The lord brings a beautiful paintbrush. You go out to the lakeside and we’ve seen brilliant splashes of color,” Pastor Goodrich said. And “we’ve seen an eagle fly by.”
Contact TK Barger at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6278 or on Twitter @TK_Barger.