There are a fair amount of churches that, as part of their Easter celebrations, are planning sunrise services sometime early Easter morning. My church will not be holding one, although there was a time in the not-so-distant past when they did, led by dedicated and faithful lay members. I am told that this consisted of the group gathering on folding chairs on the concrete slab by our cemetery to watch the sun rise from behind the trees, and give glory to God for the new day and for resurrection. This was followed by a breakfast in the fellowship hall. Apparently the practice faded out due to dwindling numbers and the eventual inability of those entrusted with leadership to continue on in their role.
My experience with sunrise services is limited to a small 5-year window of time when at my father's final settled pastorate. There may have been sunrise services at other churches he served, but these are the only ones I remember. I recall getting up before dawn, sleepily pulling on clothes and trying to avoid looking for eggs while passing through the living room on the way to the garage. We'd drive a few miles out to a member's farm, where we'd tromp through a field trying our best to avoid getting our shoes too muddy, and come to a small setup of chairs with a beautiful view overlooking the countryside. It was over the endless hills of harvested cornfields that we'd watch the sun rise, and then gather in a barn for donuts.
The donuts were the main thing for me at that age, but I did also sense the special nature of this time. I didn't often awake that early, let alone experience worship in jeans and a coat, the smell of manure wafting by as daylight began to shine on the faces of our small gathering. At that point, this was a part of my family's Easter observance.
For me, that was the beginning and end of my sunrise service experience. My eventual home church didn't begin to have one until after I'd established myself elsewhere, and churches I was a part of in college and seminary didn't have them either. And now I'm part of a faith community that used to, but no longer does.
There is something about greeting the first rays of Easter morning that I miss even after all these years. A few days from now, as I wake up and begin my preparation for our mid-morning service, I'll be keenly aware of all those in other places rising before dawn to come together in sanctuaries, chapels, next to ponds, in muddy fields, and wherever else to be among the first to sing "Alleluia" and proclaim that Christ is risen.
It may be about time for our little church on the hill to join them. I don't know if anyone would come, but what would it hurt to try?