Local Christians plan Easter sunrise services

By Clay Wilson

Easter is the date when Christians around the world celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the Christian community in Clayton and Henry counties is no different.

Numerous area churches have scheduled sunrise services to mark the observance. According to Mark's Gospel, it was "very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise" when women going to anoint Jesus' body with spices discovered the empty tomb where he had been laid.

But, as the Rev. Douglas Stephenson of the Clayton Minister's Conference noted, depending on the time of year when Easter occurs, today's "sunrise services" don't always coincide with the break of dawn.

"We call it a sunrise service to say that it's in the morning," Stephenson said with a chuckle.

Still, he said, such observances are important.

The Clayton Ministers Conference, along with the Baptist Student Union, Campus Crusade for Christ and the Wesley Foundation, are sponsoring a community sunrise service at Clayton State College and University at 7 a.m.

Attendees to this service may get to see the sunrise. It's scheduled for 7:01 a.m.

Major Dalton Cunningham, divisional commander of the Salvation Army in Georgia, will bring the message, and the Salvation Army Brass Ensemble will provide special music.

According to Stephenson, the community sunrise service has been going on for at least 20 years. He said that such services can be a powerful celebration of community.

Representatives of numerous denominations will be participating in the program, and Stephenson said an even more varied denominational spectrum can be found among the attendees.

"It gives us a chance to celebrate as a community of faith ? to rejoice in the resurrection of our Savior," he said. "Our faith cuts across denominational lines, because we share faith in a common Lord," he said.

A similar feeling seems to run through the community sunrise service planned for the McDonough Square at 7a.m. Easter.

According to Debbie Carlton, assistant minister at McDonough United Methodist Church, five area churches are sponsoring this event.

Apostle Johnathan Alvarado of McDonough's Total Grace Christian Center will bring the message. Other participating churches include McDonough UMC, McDonough Presbyterian Church, Mt. Bethel UMC and Southside Christian Fellowship.

Syble Wallace said that, like its Clayton counterpart, the McDonough sunrise service has a tradition stretching back at least 20 years. She said that she has been to several of the services, and plans to go Sunday, if it's not raining.

"It's usually well attended ? I've always enjoyed it," she said.

Other area sunrise services include, in Clayton:

A service at St. Timothy Evangelical Lutheran Church at 6:45 a.m., with a breakfast following at 8 a.m. For more information call (404) 366-3560.

Other Easter events scheduled this weekend include:

Morrow First United Methodist Church is having an Easter egg hunt at 10 a.m. in the fellowship hall and on the church grounds. People should bring an Easter basket and 12 filled plastic eggs.

Pinecrest Baptist Church and the Rainbow House present the Clayton County Passion Play at the Clayton County Performing Arts Center at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday. Admission is $7 for evening performances and $5 for the matinee. For more information, call (404)363-4901.

Timberlake Church of the Nazarene is having the dramatic presentation "Living Pictures of Easter" Saturday and Sunday at 6 p.m. An Easter egg hunt is also set for noon Saturday.

In Henry, services include:

A Locust Grove Community Sunrise Service sponsored by Locust Grove First Baptist Church and Locust Grove United Methodist Church, at 6:45 a.m. in front of the Baptist church. For more information call (770) 957-9605.

A Stockbridge Community Easter Sunrise Service sponsored by North Henry Baptist Church, a 7 a.m. in the Patrick Henry High School Stadium. For more information call (770) 474-5932.