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Sportsman's Church celebrates the son rising (video)

By Jennifer Lee Preyss
March 31, 2013 at 10:03 p.m.
Updated March 31, 2013 at 11:01 p.m.

Stephen Dearmond re-enacts Jesus walking along the water's edge during Sportsman's Church's Easter Sunday sunrise  service at Coleto Creek. After the service, breakfast was provided and Easter egg hunts were held.

EASTER FACTS:

• Easter is the oldest festival and most important of the Christian Church.

• Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus in the first century, three days after his death on a cross.

• Easter also ends the 40-day period of fasting and prayer for Lent observed in Catholic and some Protestant denominations.

• Eastern Orthodox churches celebrate Easter on a different day so that it can better align with the Jewish celebration of Passover.

• Easter in the Western church is celebrated on the Sunday immediately following the paschal full moon, making the holiday movable each year from March 22 to April 25.

A ray of orange sunlight sparkled atop Coleto Creek at dawn Sunday as the Rev. Glen Dry and his Sportsman's Church congregation collected at the edge of the water.

A three-piece worship band played popular acoustic Christian songs as families strewed lawn chairs and blankets across the grass.

"This honors the fact that Jesus rose that very first morning of Easter. It was early in the morning when the women went to the tomb and found he wasn't there," Dry said.

For some Christian churches, sunrise sermons are as popular as dyed eggs and chocolate bunnies.

And Dry hopes the early Easter sermon will become a new tradition of his church.

"For some of us, sunrise services are part of the tradition of Easter. I hope this will create new memories for our families," Dry said.

Sportsman's is the one of the only congregations in the Crossroads that's intentional about meeting and serving God in nature's backdrop.

"Jesus spent most of his life outside. There was the temple, sure. But most of his life was outside a four-wall building," Dry said. "That's what this church is about - getting back to the basics. It's about going back to Genesis . and being outside where it all began."

During his Easter message, Dry taught from a passage in the book of Matthew about Peter seeing Jesus standing on the banks of the water early in the morning after he was raised from the dead.

Peter, Dry said, was so overcome with joy after seeing Jesus alive that he jumped out of the boat and began walking on water toward Jesus.

Stephen Dearmond, clad in first century attire, re-enacted the Matthew passage as Dry explained the significance of the encounter. Dearmond walked along the banks of the creek and stared out at a nearby fishing boat floating about 100 feet from the shore.

"It was a very calming and peaceful atmosphere," said first-time church attendee Don Cavender, mentioning he was comfortable in the nontraditional church setting. "You're here to worship one man, so it doesn't matter where you are to do it."

Others agreed.

"I heard about this outdoor sunrise service, and I wanted to come because this seemed like something new. The message was still there, and it seems special this way," said Brad Randall, of Victoria. "I just started going back to church about a month ago. Easter was always just a day to take my kids Easter egg hunting, but I know now this is a special day."

Dry said Sportsman's Church meets Sunday nights, but it's the first Easter morning service he's hosted.

The worship and sermon were followed by a community pancake and sausage breakfast and Easter egg hunt for the children.

As Dry looked around at the people gathering in the pavilion for breakfast, he noted the casual dress of the men and women enjoying fellowship together on Easter.

"You ever hear that song 'Come As You Are'? That's what we are. We truly are a come-as-you-are place. That's what it's about," he said.

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