Rays of sunshine punched a few holes in the clouds of an otherwise gray sky early Sunday as about 75 worshipers gathered along the Kennebec River and chanted “He has risen. He got up. Hallelujah, Christ is risen” during the annual Easter sunrise service in Gardiner.
Pastor Ken Smith of First Baptist Church in Gardiner greeted attendees from a flatbed trailer, with the traditional Easter greeting of “Christ is risen,” reflecting the resurrection of Jesus Christ, but in Ukrainian.
“Khrystos Voskres,” said Smith, who later explained that he Googled the term before the ceremony.
“It is a day to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and our Savior,” he said. “We’re just happy to have you all here to worship.”
Pastor Ramsey Tripp of Life Community Church in Gardiner spoke of what he described as the hope that all people, even during troubled times in their lives and across the world, should derive from the resurrection of Jesus from ‘between the dead, described in the Bible as having occurred on the third day of his burial, after his crucifixion by the Romans at Calvary.
“Sometimes there are problems, sometimes there are trials. But even in the midst of these difficulties that we sometimes face, we also know that we have a God who gives us unshakeable hope,” Tripp said. We’ve been through a lot over the past few years, as communities and even as churches, and the hope of Easter is not just that, yes, it’s spring, we finally see the grass turn a little greener.The hope of Easter is that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead and has had power over sin and death.
“So that’s our hope for us, our future too. He didn’t just stay dead. He didn’t stay in the grave. We celebrate Easter because he’s risen. How to have unshakeable hope in the midst of trials and troubles? Well, that comes from Jesus Christ.
The Gardiner Waterfront Easter Sunrise Service has been held annually by local churches united in the Gardiner Area Ministerial Association, with many of these churches also holding their own Sunday services Easter later in the morning.
The Reverend Scott Dow said he has been attending the sunrise service in Gardiner since the early 1980s and the gathering of members from many churches for Easter makes it special.
“That part is very important to me,” said Dow, who for many years served as chaplain at the state’s Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta. “There is a wide range of doctrines and practices, but despite the differences, we find ways to work together.”
In Waterville, about 35 worshipers gathered at the amphitheater along the RiverWalk in Head of Falls for a service led by members of the Waterville-Winslow Interfaith Council.
Reverend Ian Lynch of the Waterville United Church of Christ began the service by lighting a fire and saying a prayer, as he waited for sunrise over the Kennebec River.
“We are grateful for the light of the rising sun. Let there be light on the path we follow,” Lynch said. “Let us always remember to be grateful that you give the gift of a new day.”
Sister Judy Donovan then led the group through an activity while lighting the holy flame. The fire, she said, is an ancient Easter Vigil tradition “signifying the return of light in the darkness, the opening of the tomb and the resurrection of Jesus”.
“Our faith calls us to rekindle our fires of hope, and sometimes that means allowing certain things to be transformed by a fire of refining,” Donovan said.
During Lent, she said, the focus is on letting go of certain things, like perfectionism, or things or issues “that rob us of the joy of living and the reality of our lives. , those things that keep us apart”.
“In this waning darkness, as we await the full light of resurrection this Easter morning, I invite you to a ritual of letting go,” Donovan said.
She then asked the group to write words or phrases that represent what each devotee would like to “leave in the grave”. One by one, each person dropped their note into the fire, while Lynch strummed “In the Garden” on his guitar.
The service ended shortly after sunrise, with attendees joining in with two songs, a reading of “The Three Women” and a blessing, led by Lynch.
“Blessed are you who are buried, who feel stuck in the depths of grief and despair or who sit in the pit of ignorance, you who learn to trust the timing of a tender gardener,” said Lynch. “Blessed are you who grow, who burst forth with new light and new creativity. And blessed are you in your season of fruitfulness, you who learn to abide in the vine tasting the sweetness of loving-kindness of God.
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