Saturday, April 23, 2011

7 Things: Easter Sunrise Services

As long as I can remember Easter Sunrise Services were a part of my life.  Beginning in middle school our youth group always played a part in the service, and from the time I took over as Youth Director at New Garden Friends Meeting in 1979 they became an important part of our ministry.  Today, with the glorious celebration of Resurrection Sunday awaiting us tomorrow, I give you 7 random Sunrise Service memories from over the years.  Enjoy, and have a blessed Easter.  He is risen!!!
  1. At New Garden we had the service (weather permitting) in the church cemetery.  The cemetery is very old, with graves dating back to the Revolutionary War.  There was something unique about celebrating the empty tomb in a graveyard.  It was a 6 AM service and the youth provided a breakfast afterwards.  I remember picking up hundreds of Krispy Kreme doughnuts one year, and making something called Hot-Crossed Buns another.  Seriously.  Insert bun joke here.
  2. At Springfield Friends Meeting (1986-1994) we tried a variety of services (including another very old cemetery) but finally hit upon one that worked- the Flowering Cross.  Everyone would bring cut flowers from home, and at the conclusion of the service we would turn an "old rugged cross" into something alive.  I usually sang the old Don Francisco classic He's Alive, made famous by Dolly Parton.  I did not do any Dolly impressions...
  3. Not a happy bunny...
  4. While not at a Sunrise Service, I did however, do an Easter Bunny impression one year.  Avis Rees, wife of our pastor, did a resurrection story about an empty egg, and asked me to dress as a bunny for the drama.  Against the advice of her own children, I accepted.  She even made the costume.  I wore it- and many people were never the same.  One of our dear old friends from High Point, Lori Cox, maintains to this day that her family joined SFM because any church with a youth pastor crazy enough to dress like that must be OK.
  5. During my days at FUMC-Kissimmee (1994-2000) we did a 6 AM service down by the Kissimmee lakefront.  It never failed to be an adventure.  The youth group did the entire service, and at 6 AM you just never sure who would actually show up.  It didn't help any that the time seemed to change that weekend every year so we would lose an hour of sleep.  One year we were doing a drama, and the student who was playing Jesus over slept.  Another year it was a young woman who was supposed to sing a solo.  Andrew Lewis and I would be down at Lake Toho around 4:30 on Easter morning setting it all up- and then we would do breakfast afterwards for the church.  It was always just a little insane.  And that's not even counting the year the city didn't turn of the sprinkler system.  We had a mass baptism...
  6. Easter Sunday was spectacular at the Union Church of Hinsdale (2000-2001) but the youth had nothing to do with it- and there was no Sunrise Service.  Yet another bummer for UC.
  7. At Wesley Memorial UMC one year our music director Jason Deese decided to use the Youth Praise Band at the Sunrise Service out in front of the church.  Electric guitars, live drums- the works.  The neighbors (not only of the church, but of my family- we lived right next door!) were not amused at this early serenade, and the police stopped by to ask us to be quiet.  There is no truth to the rumor that my wife made that call...
  8. Easter 2006 found me at Trinity UMC in Waycross, GA, where the "early" service followed a huge breakfast.  It was my first time preaching to that congregation.  You know, if you screw up an Easter sermon you really have no business preaching.  Fortunately it went well, and I got to preach several more time that year.
And I haven't been at a Sunrise Service since.  The church we attend now does three full Easter services beginning at 8 AM.  But my mind is still packed with great ideas for planning a Sunrise Service, and one of these days I am going to unleash them on an unsuspecting congregation.  Because if you can't get excited and have awesome, creative worship to celebrate the resurrection, you have issues. I mean come on people-  He's alive!  Have a blessed weekend!!!

Because of Jesus,

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