The very first country church I served was an hour and 20-minute drive from my home which, on Easter Sunday meant I left home at 5:30 a.m. so to be on time for the 7:00 a.m. Sunrise Service. The drive was one of my favorites all year with the morning mist rising out of the quiet fields and the soft choral music of CBC Radio playing in the background.
We would gather in the church basement with the coffee percolating, tea brewing and a long table laden with Easter treats awaiting our return. As the piper warmed up his bagpipes we would tighten the scarves around our necks, pull up our hoods and quietly follow “Amazing Grace” across the road, through the cemetery and up the hill to where the statue of a soldier had been erected.
The cool air would warm enough to rise from our singing lips and the view of rolling country hills dotted by trees was the perfect view for this most sacred sun rise.
Years earlier, just after WWII, the congregation had started this Easter tradition. It was started with the belief that Jesus’ resurrection meant all who had died would also rise some day, especially those young men lost to war. So, each Easter began with a sunrise service in the cemetery; a traditional celebration of the promise of resurrection bridging many generations.
We would bring ourselves into worship with a prayer followed by fiddle and banjo accompanied hymns. One of the youth would read the resurrection scriptures, the minister would offer a short reflection and finally one last “Jesus Christ is Risen Today” chorus before following the piper back down to the church basement for warmed hot cross buns, homemade jam on a freshly baked tea bisque and a cup of strong coffee.
This year, as we celebrate our second COVID Easter, may we all be warmed by fond memories while rejoicing that the resurrection cannot be stopped even by a pandemic!
May the power of Christ’s resurrection and the promise and hope of Easter go with us into the days ahead. May we sing, pray, live, love, act and serve all for the glory of God.
May everyone have a joyous Easter,
Rev. Heather McCarrel
Port Elgin United Church