On Faith: Easter Sunrise Services

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“We’re excited to be part of Easter Sunrise Service on the Beach, and we invite the community to come celebrate with us,” said Karl Stuckenberg, pastor of Newport Center United Methodist Church. “This is the first year we have joined with Christ Church by the Sea United Methodist Church, who has done this for twenty-three years, and Rev. Julie Elkins with Costa Mesa First United Methodist Church, who joined them several years ago.”

The three churches are sharing Sunrise Service on the Beach at 14th Street on the Peninsula on Easter morning at 6:30 a.m.

“As United Methodist Christians, we are a connectional church, which means that even though we are have separate local churches, we really consider ourselves to be one big church together,” Pastor Karl continued. “I’d heard about the service, and the new pastor at Christ Church is a friend of mine and was a classmate at Claremont School of Theology.”

Easter sunrise service on the beach. — Photo by Mark Jenkins
Easter sunrise service on the beach. — Photo by Mark Jenkins

Pastor Melissa Rusler has been at Christ Church since August and echoes the importance of churches working together.

“One of the things I feel really strongly about is collaborative work with other churches,” she said. “We have several United Methodist churches nearby and I’m really excited about the possibilities of things we can do together. We have different giftedness within our congregations, so instead of each one of us recreating the wheel and recreating a new outreach program, let’s strengthen the programs we already have and broaden the leadership pool by sharing the responsibility and encouraging each other.”

Pastor Karl said that the sunrise service is one of many new events his church is doing this year.

“This year we are doing a whole week of activities for Holy Week because we really want people to experience the entire story,” he explained. “We’re having a Jerusalem Walk after church on Palm Sunday. Many people come and celebrate the day Jesus was welcomed into Jerusalem, but if they don’t come during the following week and don’t come again till Easter Sunday, they just go from celebration to celebration; they forget the middle of the week and what Jesus gave for us.”

“We’re having an all-night prayer vigil on Thursday night,” Karl continued. “It’s a symbolic response to Jesus’ request in the Garden for His disciples to stay awake with Him. We’ve set up one-hour sessions for people to pray in the sanctuary and remarkably, people have signed up, even for the middle of the night! We’ll have a Good Friday service, then the Sunrise Service and our regular Easter services.”

Pastor Melissa said that she, along with Rev. Julie Elkins, will be leading a Good Friday Tenebrae service at Christ Church by the Sea at 7 p.m.

“The beachside community is a huge change from serving at a multi-sight, multi-cultural church in Santa Ana, which I did for nine years,” she said. “But the call is the same, to build the body of Christ, and I’m looking forward to our churches sharing the Sunrise Service. It seems to be a safe place to worship and meet God, especially for those who may not have not been inside a church for a long time. People come walking their dog, dressed however they want, and join in the singing and participate in worship, bright and early on Easter Sunday.”

“The excitement that comes with Easter is the excitement I hope to bring to church every Sunday morning,” Pastor Melissa continued. “I also hope people would be willing to step inside one of the three churches involved. We hope to point them in the direction of a place they can call home.”

Cindy can be reached at [email protected].

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