The calendar here may say spring, but the weather here is very winter like. In spite of that, it is Easter is this weekend. Growing up I can remember, or at least the pictures help me remember, a new dress, hat, shoes and gloves for the Easter church service. (yes I am old enough to remember when you wore gloves to church).
If I was in Chicago I would go to my Grandfather’s church,where he was a minister. My Grandfather’s voice had a great timbre and I loved to listen to him deliver the sermons. Easter and Christmas were two seasons when the complete congregation would show up. It was also the time when the order of service would include many traditional hymns that everyone seemed to know, so the church would be filled with more than the usual voices of praise. I would sit in the back of the church with my Granny, who as a minister’s wife had a great musical voice, and sing with passion in my little out of key voice. After the service we would go home and have an Easter dinner, all the while Handel’s Messiah playing on the stereo. My grandmother would remind me that the Messiah was a musical tribute to Christ’s life and the Hallelujah chorus that people associate with Christmas was actually about the resurrection.
If I was at home we went to sunrise service, it was a much of a tradition as candlelight service is a Christmas. My childhood church faced East and it was moving to watch the stain glass window go from dark to be illuminated by the sun. The window not pictorial, but full of symbols of the Christian faith; the empty cross – Christ rising, the fish – St. Peter and fisher of men, the eye – God being all-seeing and all-knowing, and many more I can’t now remember. If the pastor timed it right the sun would illuminate the window just as he was closing out his sermon. As I got older and a state park was developed just outside of town the local churches decided to have a singular service at the park. It is an amazing parallel the rising of Christ and to watch the sun rising in across the lake, and peak out above the rolling hills covered with a hardwood forest with the first leaves of spring. If you did not believe in God, listening to a sermon, seeing churches of various denominations come together, and watching the sunrise would have make you rethink that position.
When I moved to Minneapolis, there would be no place like Rockwood State park, but my tiny little downtown church in one of the roughest parts of the city at the time would have sunrise service every year at the Como Park Conservatory. I am not sure how they managed such a thing, as our little church had no money to rent such a space as it was already heavily depended on the synod to sponsor us like a mission in a 3rd world country to save the souls of the inner city. Nor was the Conservatory close by, it was geographically unfit considering many of the parishioners relied solely on public transportation. Getting those there who wished to attend was a logistical miracle. Now in retrospect, maybe it was as it was suppose to be. A chance for folks who lived in a neighborhood with a lack of safe green space to go to some place that would feel almost ethereal, warm, green, and safe. The minister would stand at the far end of the room known as the sunken garden in front of the fountain. There he would deliver the service . The sunken garden room had a long pond that ran the length of the room, filled with koi and lilies. The room was full of many different flowers of the season blooming and their fragrant blossoms filled the air. On Easter for a girl who lived in the city, from the country, it was refreshment for my soul.
In Montana I haven’t found a place that does a sunrise service in the nearest town. Though I attend church I must admit I do miss that watching the sun rise on Easter morning and reflecting on Christ rising at the same time. It was a moment for me to reflect on the many miracles of life. May you be blessed by the Holy Spirit in the holiday season.