Easter services draw faithful together for celebration

Hank Martin was just an infant in his mother’s arms the first time he attended the Easter sunrise service on Coleman Hill.

Almost 50 years later and he’s still coming, now with his wife and two sons in tow.

“It’s been our tradition,” he said.

As the sun started to rise Sunday, Mulberry Street United Methodist Church parishioners and plenty of others from across the city were immersed in live music and prayer. People of faith have been gathering for this Easter morning service in Macon for 99 years, the Rev. Tommy Mason said.

“Faith is about believing that which we’ve not seen in such a way that we order our lives in a different way and move in that direction,” Mason told those gathered.

The sunrise service brought out hundreds of people and welcomed “all Christian faiths, without regard to church membership or religious denominational affiliation,” according to a statement about the service.

“For so many people, this is a centerpiece of their year,” Mason said. “It’s a wonderful tradition for families like the Martins. It’s a family tradition for many people. It brings together the community.”

When Martin was growing up, he said “mom’s kitchen” was the post-Easter service breakfast spot of choice after the service had concluded. But this Sunday he would be heading to the Waffle House with his family -- a new tradition that started once he had children.

Last year, the Easter service was held inside the church because of rain, Mason noted. He said he was grateful for perfect sunrise service conditions this year.

Later in the morning, worshippers gathered at churches large and small across Middle Georgia for Easter services, celebrating the Resurrection of Christ. Easter, which marks the end of Lent, a 40-day period of fasting and repentance, is typically the most well-attended Sunday service of the year for Christian churches.

At Macon’s First Baptist Church of Christ, the minister of music, Stanley Roberts, opened the service with an a cappella adaptation from “Were You There” to a hushed congregation. He sang, “Were you there when he rose up from the grave? ... Oh sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble. ... Were you there when he rose up from the grave?”

During his sermon, titled “From Empty Tomb to Resurrection Faith,” the Rev. Scott Dickison told worshippers that Easter morning is not about worshipping an empty tomb.

“Easter morning is about leaving the tomb behind,” he said. “It’s about what lies beyond the tomb.”

Christianity “is a Resurrection faith,” he said.

After Christ had risen, he didn’t return to the cross, the temple or to the mob “to set matters straight.” He moved ahead to Galilee, the pastor reminded listeners.

Through a Resurrection faith, “we learn that we can’t expect to find Christ where we left him. Resurrection faith isn’t that convenient. ... Christ has gone out ahead of us, calling us forward.”

Dickison asked worshippers: “Where is your Galilee? ... Where do you need Christ to make a way for you, to pull you forward? ... Where are the places in our lives (we need to see) with new eyes? Maybe it’s a person, a relationship that needs healing, a conversation that needs to be had, a phone call.”

Our Galilee, he said, can be a place of familiarity and also “the unknown, ... the uncharted.”

And often, “It probably involves people we’d rather not see and places we’d rather not go,” he said.

Whatever it is and wherever it is, he said, “Christ has a way of coming and finding you. Resurrection is about God taking us back with him. ... We need to keep moving, and Christ will find us and show us the way.”

Staff writer Oby Brown contributed to this report.