Approximately 150 brave worshippers made the pilgrimage to the South Lawn of Arlington Lake before dawn on Easter morning to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ at Arlington’s Annual Sunrise Service. The Reverend Sandy Malloy of the Unity of Garden Park Church led the 40 minute service which began at 7 AM in the dark and in a breezy 40 degree temperature.
While rain had fallen overnight, the grey clouds gave way to a partly blue sky as the sun rose above Arlington’s tree line about half way through the ceremony, a service that featured Reverend Malloy’s Easter message of “Rise Up,” family hymns and soloist Joy Gazaway of the Allen Temple AME Church.
According to Arlington CEO Dan Applegate, the Sunrise Service was Arlington’s 60th Easter service, a tradition that stretches back to a time when it was held at the Garden of the Old Rugged Cross. While the weather was certainly cooler than many years, Applegate said that the goal is to hold the service outside if at all possible.
“There have been times when we’ve felt compelled to have the service in our chapel,” said Applegate. “But on Easter morning there’s something very special about being able to actually witness the sun rise – even if we’re all bundled in overcoats and stadium blankets. It was especially meaningful to see so many people come out even when the weather was less than conducive. This is an Arlington tradition that will live on and we hope even more people will join us in the future.”
2017 Easter Sunrise Service Retrospective
Early morning showers almost affected Arlington's 59th annual Sunrise Service on Easter Sunday, April 16, 2017, but, fortunately, by around 6 AM the rain had passed and the skies were clearing.
By 7 AM, as Reverend Dan Weyand-Geise of the First United Church of College Hill began the service, around 175 people had decided to brave the conditions and attend. The 45 minute service was replete with inspiring music selections, compliments of Joy Gazaway and Calvin Singleton of the Allen Temple AME Church and a stirring Easter message delivered by Rev. Weyand-Geise that reminded those attending of the promise of Easter.
The bonus: the clouds parted during the service just long enough to produce a beautiful sunrise, peeking timidly through the trees to the east and just over the mausoleum complex as the service ended at 7:45 (see photos).
Thanks to all participants and to all of those who attended. Next year will mark Arlington’s 60th year of hosting a Sunrise Service on its grounds rain or shine!
Sunrise Services have a long history in the U.S. dating all the way back to 1773 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and have since that time become popular replacements for the ancient tradition of the Roman Catholic Easter Vigil. The service is held as a symbolic acknowledgement of the empty tomb that greeted Mary on that first Holy Easter Morning.
Please see the gallery of photos from past Easter Sunrise Services below.