“He has risen!” This is what a mother might sarcastically say to her son if he has slept in too long… However, this was also the overall theme of the 30th Annual Easter Sunrise Service located on the white sandy beach of Marco Island. The air was cool, but there were waves of subtle warmth peeking through the buildings as the sun began its ascent. The beautiful thing about holidays is that they bring so many people together, no matter when or where. This holiday, in particular, is an equal opportunity alarm clock that followers are actually excited to get up for. Many hundreds of individuals regardless of their domination showed up to this glorious event to worship.
Marco Presbyterian Church help bring about the early morning festivity. Rev. Steve Schoof gave the Easter Message; along with Rev. Scott Kerens, Rev. Thomas McCulley, Alan Sandlin, Greg Poland, John and Sandy Stein. Musical guests offset the initial chill in the air with their inspirational songs. After enjoying the soothing gospel music played, the guests made clear why this day was so special. Beyond the obvious commemoration of Christ’s ascension, it was an amazing sight to take in; people from all walks of life coming together to create a virtual sea of people aligned in their beliefs. It is hard to fathom that this event on the beach has been going on for thirty years. In fact, the audience was asked to raise their hand if they were in attendance during that very first service; only 2 pairs of hands were seen. This is out of over a thousand attendees! It goes to show how faith and the power of Easter Service continues to expand to new generations.
The opening “act,” if you will, was a saxophonist by the name of Eirinn Abu. He performed soft yet majestic melodies that consisted of “Because He Lives” and “Old Rugged Cross.” He has a very impressive history in the music business and has recorded with icons like Dolly Parton. They teamed up to create not two, but three renditions of “I Will Always Love You.” Abu was a perfect choice to entertain the crowd sitting in the sand, as well as the numerous boats anchored just offshore. He has a close relationship with his Lord and Savior; having been delivered from his own personal storm. Local resident, Amanda Lynn, said of the musician, “Feeling the Holy Spirit blast through the rising sunshine in the form of beautiful music can’t get any better.” The presence of God and a beautiful day… you can’t go wrong with either.
The service had a strong message of the overall climate of our world, and where to steer this ship we call life. The pastors spoke of the opioid crisis and the alarming rate at which people are choosing to end their lives. The latter issue, it was explained, increases in the spring. The question was raised, “Could it be because even after the snow melts and it warms up that many still feel lost and alone?” This is not a time of despair, but of rebirth. The audience was more than receptive to the words of wisdom. It was stressed how important this time was, in not only individual lives, but the world as a whole; the importance of not just filling our own hearts with love, but to share that love with our struggling neighbors. Everyone prayed for the hundreds of victims of the massacre in Sri Lanka, and anywhere else Christians continue to be persecuted.
Sometimes even the faithful will “sneak out” early after a service to beat the crowd, but not on this day. Everyone stayed until the end. People had to park far away to get to the event, although nobody seemed to mind. It was a wonderful service and you could really sense a collective love and appreciation in the air. Thirty years in the making…
The message has been given and the speakers opened up their hearts to the crowd. As the sun continued to rise and the worshipping wrapped up, you can see why this particular celebration has been growing year after year.