Sunday, April 04, 2010

Easter Sunrise Service

I went to the Easter Sunrise Service at the Botanic Garden this morning. I had never been to one of the Easter sunrise services that are held at secular locations around town and didn't know what to expect, but it turned out to be a fairly typical Protestant sunrise service. It was hosted solely by Second Presbyterian Church, which surprised me, since their name was nowhere mentioned on the sign advertising the event. After all, if I'd wanted to go to 2nd Pres I would have.

It was quite crowded. I got there in what should have been plenty of time, only to find the line of cars waiting to get in stretched out of the gardens and onto the city street. There were way more people than chairs. I wonder how many of the people present were members of the host church. The members were encouraged to leave seats for guests and to allow guests to get to the food first (Family Hold Back, they were told), so, although I went to this because I didn't think I would feel like a visitor at someone else's church, I ended up feeling like a visitor anyway. We were invited several times to come to 2nd Presbyterian Church. It did feel to me like they were having their sunrise service at the Botanic Garden and welcoming the community members who joined them there. This is from their web site:
Easter Sunday at Second

He is risen, indeed! The Memphis Sunrise Service at Memphis Botanic Gardens begins at 6:30am. Services at Second Presbyterian will be held in the Sanctuary at 8am, 9:30am and 11:00am.

The hymns were "Lord, I Lift Your Name on High," "Up From the Grave He Arose" and "Jesus Christ Is Risen Today". Words were printed in the bulletin, but it was assumed we knew the melodies. There were 2 responsive readings, a Gospel reading, one prayer led by the man at the front (I couldn't see the speaker and couldn't tell if he was the same one who later preached), a greeting, a sermon and a benediction. There was a prelude and a postlude. All the worship leaders were male. No attempt was made to be gender neutral in the language.

All in all, this was no different and no more open than just visiting some random church's worship service, which really surprised me. And, to be honest, I didn't expect an event for the community held at a secular facility owned by the City of Memphis to be run by such a conservative group; or for such an event held in a facility that is a member of the American Public Gardens Association (which supports "education, research and plant conservation") to be run by anti-evolution creationists. But, like I say, I'd never been to any similar services so didn't know what to expect. The only other one I know of is at Memorial Park Cemetery, and, because they are a private company, I had thought they would tend to host a more conservative gathering. That would hardly have been possible.

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