— Luke 24: 1-3
When the Rev. Barrie Henke's congregation assembles just before sunrise Easter Sunday on the grounds of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church
, they are connecting with the rituals and dramatic themes that surround the Passion story.
Easter sunrise services, Henke said, reflect the joyous Easter message of Christ's Resurrection but also pay homage to the faithful women who, according to Scripture, went to Jesus' tomb to prepare His body for burial only to find it empty.
"It gives a little added dimension to what took place on Easter morning,” Henke, Holy Trinity's senior pastor, said of the sunrise service at his Edmond church, 308 NW 164.
"It kind of gives us a little connection to those women who went out there that Easter. It's a connection through 2,000 years of history.”
The Rev. Amy Rogers at Village Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
said sunrise services bring to the forefront the Easter theme of a new dawn that offers new beginnings.
"I remember going to sunrise services as a child in Crescent, Oklahoma,” she said.
"The breaking of the new day, the sunrise bringing new light, it symbolizes that Easter brings a new beginning, new hope, second and third chances, and a chance to start over.”
Like Holy Trinity, Village Christian Church offers an outdoor sunrise service. It is at Casady School, 9500 N Pennsylvania Ave. Rogers said the church has had the outdoor service for many years.
"For people who choose to get up that early, there's just something really special about it being outdoors,” Rogers said. "It's so serene, and it's a very simple service.”
She said she thinks the casual dress and simplicity of the 30- to 40-minute service often draw people who might not attend a traditional Easter service.
"It's a nonthreatening way to worship. We forget that there are people who may be intimidated to go into a church and maybe even more so on Easter when everyone is dressed to the nines.”
Rogers said some sunrise service participants have come in jeans, which is OK.
"Of course, this year, they may be in parkas,” she said alluding to chilly weather forecast for Sunday.
At Will Rogers Amphitheater, a group of churches and faith organizations who have organized as Streets of Shalom
will gather for an Easter sunrise service. The Rev. Dwight Cunkle, pastor of Covenant Life Church, said the service serves several purposes.
"Our hope is that some people will come who may not come to church on Sunday,” Cunkle said. "The other reason is that this is an expression of our unity and relationship.