Washington, March 18, 2013 - Easter vigils and sunrise services have been practiced around the world for centuries. In Jerusalem, the Garden Tomb is one Holy Land setting where pilgrims gather for these services.
Easter sunrise events in the U.S. occur in other dramatic settings – such as Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado; Stone Mountain Park in Georgia; and the Lincoln Memorial in DC. Many churches sponsor Easter morning events in local cemeteries – recognition that Jesus Christ was no longer in the tomb on Easter morning.
One of the most popular and well-attended Easter sunrise services in the nation is held at Mather Point, on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. This March 31st will mark the 78th Easter the event has been held.
“Many people plan their vacations around Easter so they can experience this,” said Patrick Dotson, pastor of Grand Canyon Community Church, the event organizer. “From 1935 to the late ‘60’s, it was broadcast nationally on NBC Radio and we would get up to 5,000 people attending,” he continues. “But the radio casts stopped and there was a decline in attendance. But we still see up to 1,000 – a combination of locals and tourists.”
The canyon, Dotson said, becomes a vast, empty chasm of darkness each night, save for the few lights at Phantom Ranch down below. As Easter dawn arrives, however, the sun pierces the darkness, the beauty of the Grand Canyon comes to life and provides a reminder of the hope and beauty that emerges from immense darkness.
Since its inception, the Grand Canyon service has been interdenominational, and American Christians of many faith expressions celebrate Easter with believers from around the world. Easter Sunrise Service on the South Rim begins at 5:50 a. m. at the Mather Point Overlook, which has an accessible viewing area.
Read other faith travel columns by Ruth Hill in Contemporary Christian Travel of the Washington Times Communities.
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