COLLEGE STATION, TEXAS — For the second time since the pandemic began, Easter services looked a little different for many.
"Easter in the Park," a sunrise service, has not only been a tradition for Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church, but also the College Station community since 2005.
"If we would have known 15-16 years ago that we were designing the most pandemic-friendly church service, we would take credit for it. But what an opportunity this year in particular that Easter is outside and we were able to have a wonderful crowd in a very safe way to celebrate Jesus' resurrection," Caleb Schoeneck, Pastor of Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church said.
Pastor Schoeneck says the significance of the sunrise during a sunrise service is more than just beauty beneath the clouds.
"Not only is it the same time of day when the actual moment happened that we have written in the bible, but it really is bringing light into darkness into the night. It really is a setting that provides a sense of hope," Pastor Schoeneck added.
Pastor Schoeneck says many are looking for signals that normalcy is returning and to be able to attend a church service offers hope things are headed in that direction.
"Some people said that today was the first time that they have been at a church service since the pandemic began a year ago. So the hope that comes not just from things getting back to normal, but hope that there is a God in control of all things and he is graciously bringing the pandemic to an end," Pastor Schoeneck said.
Carrie Hunt started coming to the memorable event as soon as she heard of it four years ago and says now she looks forward to it every year.
"It felt safe and comfortable able to be separate and spread out, but also feel that sense of community. We've all had separate struggles this past year, but also being able to get back together...I think that's important as a church and congregation and community to be able to celebrate and worship all together," Hunt, a College Station resident, said.
Long time event-goer Judy Reynolds says last year is the only one she's missed, because it was canceled, since the event has been at Central Park.
The annual sunrise service kick-starts her family's Easter traditions.
"It's extraordinary to sit by the lake and see the birds the ducks...to watch the sunrise coming up over the lake. Sometimes it's golden looking. What better reminder do you need of Easter than the sun coming up?" Reynolds, a Bryan resident, said.
Pastor Schoeneck says attendance at their church in person has been around 50%.
Their attendance picked up pretty much right where they left off the previous year having Easter in the park.
The service Sunday began at 7am with music, singing, bible passages, a children's message and an Easter sermon.
The service was also followed by an Easter egg hunt.
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