Easter service: Tradition with a different feel

Apr. 20, 2014 @ 02:06 PM

The Easter sunrise service at Duke Chapel brought out a sizeable crowd before daybreak.

The 6:30 a.m. service was moved into Duke Chapel from Duke Garden because of mud, but that did not deter the more than 100 people who came together to worship Sunday morning.

The Rev. Carol Gregg, pastor of the congregation at Duke Chapel, delivered the holiday sermon and stood at the door to wish people a ‘Happy Easter’ as they departed at 7 a.m.

“It was beautiful,” Gregg said of the service. “The fact that it’s at daybreak reminds you of when Mary and the disciples arrived at Jesus’ tomb and saw he wasn’t there.”

Gregg said that this was her first sunrise Easter service at Duke Chapel. In the ministry for more about 30 years, Gregg said that for many a sunrise service is tradition.

“I also know a family for whom it’s a long tradition,” she said. “They go to sunrise service on Easter then go out to IHOP to eat.”

In her sermon Gregg touched on Biblical figures who see and misunderstand before they are able to see and comprehend.

She talked about the confusion of perception with the presence of angels and Jesus on the day of the resurrection and how this relates to people now and the relaxed attitude that some have.

“It’s as if being chill seems to hinder us from seeing what is truly remarkable,” Gregg said. “Perhaps when we see emptiness, we need to not see emptiness, but that forgiveness has erased sin and strife.

“Perhaps we, like Mary, we need to attend to the messengers in our lives who would point us to the risen Christ,” she said. “And could it be that we need to pay attention and look to the risen Christ in the face of the gardeners and neighbors and others we meet?”

Donna Adams of Durham said that she and her family of about 20 have been attending Duke Chapel’s sunrise Easter service for about seven years.

“It’s just convenient and it was wonderful,” she said.

Jan Sloan of Richmond, Va., spent part of the weekend helping her daughter and son-in-law move into a new home but was determined to be in a church Easter morning.

“I do enjoy the sunrise service,” she said. “It’s a beautiful time of day. It makes Easter morning that much more special.”

An usher during the service, Cindy Gass saw the early service as representative of the holiday.

“It’s almost symbolic,” Gass said. “The dark and isolated journey here and the light in the chapel. At an 11 o’clock service, the world is already awake. It’s a different feeling.”

Judy Arneson agreed.

“It’s a very different church service,” she said. “It’s something that sticks in your mind each year, along with it being the pinnacle of our religious life and liturgical year.”