Cold pushes sunrise services indoors

Monday, April 9, 2007
The Rev. Dan Johnson presented a reflection of the Easter gospel during the Easter sunrise service at First Presbyterian Church on Sunday. (Fred Lynch)

Frigid temperatures interfered with several area outdoor Easter church services Sunday morning.

For the second year in a row, the Downtown Council of Churches moved its annual sunrise service indoors to First Presbyterian Church. Last year, a short line of thunderstorms washed out the Easter service at riverfront park in downtown Cape Girardeau.

"We prayed for a beautiful sunrise this morning after the rain ruined our outdoor plans last year," said the Rev. Paul Kabo Jr. of First Presbyterian Church. "We got the beautiful sunrise, but we forgot to pray for warm temperatures. We'll make sure to pray for both warm temperatures and a beautiful sunrise next year."

Worshippers at First Christian Church in Cape Girardeau had planned to release four dozen butterflies after the 10 a.m. Easter service as a symbol of the resurrection, but the temperature had to be at least 70 degrees for the butterflies to survive.

"The weather just didn't cooperate," said the Rev. Rodger Kiepe of First Christian Church. "We would have loved to have done it, but we'll just have to wait until the weather gets warmer."

The Centenary Methodist All Guys Band, from left, Matt Zlokavich, Zach Reeves, Tim Edwards and B.I. Howard, performed "I Sing" during the Easter sunrise service at First Presbyterian Church on Sunday. (Fred Lynch)

Kiepe said this was the first year the church had planned the butterfly release. They plan to try again at Pentecost, the birthday of the Christian church, which is 50 days after Easter.

The Scott City Ministerial Alliance of Churches also held its sunrise service indoors at the Father's Arms Fellowship Church in Scott City. The service is typically held at the city park.

Even though the weather forced worshippers indoors, about 60 people from various downtown church congregations came together for the seventh annual Downtown Council of Churches sunrise service. Pastors representing the churches shared the pulpit at Sunday's service.

The Rev. Cecil Thomas of Second Missionary Baptist Church said the council of churches was formed to share the message of Jesus Christ not only in downtown Cape Girardeau but with the entire community.

"We want to lift up the Lord's name and allow the world to see happiness and joy among brothers and sisters," Thomas said. "We ask the Lord to bless this community and bind us so close together and allow us to remove racial barriers."

The Rev. Dan Johnson of Evangelical United Church of Christ reflected on the meaning of Easter during the worship service. He said the resurrection of Jesus Christ can be viewed as anticlimactic.

"We've just gone through this very triumphant Palm Sunday, then we went through the terror of Good Friday, and then what happens on Easter Sunday is a very quiet and very subtle moment," he said.

Johnson said if the resurrection of Christ was turned into a Hollywood movie, the ending would be disappointing. "The resurrection is so built up, and of course it seems like there should be some big cataclysm," he said.

As humans, we would expect Jesus to burst out of the tomb with enormous wings, holding a sword and glowing with life, and the whole world should be turned upside down, Johnson said.

"But yet when it happened, the world pretty much went on the same was as it was -- it was still a world of sin, still a world of suffering and still a world of oppression," he said. "Through his resurrection he gave us everything we need -- we have to look for him, listen to him and when he gives us the spirit, we have to take that spirit up."

The traditional Easter sunrise service is celebrated at dawn by Christians across the world. The service is significant because it marks the time of day when the tomb of Jesus Christ was found empty, said the Rev. Barry Pfanstiel of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, where about 50 church members also gathered for the early morning service.

Typically, worshippers at Good Shepherd gather outdoors during the first part of the sunrise service and later move indoors to the sanctuary, but Sunday's Easter was too cold and the service began in the church's lobby.

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