Easter Sunrise in Borrego Springs
Last updated 4/19/2018 at 11:53am
By Michael Plekon
There are many events that draw people from the community here – Borrego Days, the film festival, all sorts of concerts and plays produced at the Borrego Springs Performing Arts Center, the numerous shows at the Borrego Art Institute, Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association lectures and others at the Research Center.
But one that starts earlier – before daybreak – than all the others is the annual Easter Sunrise Service held on the hill behind the Borrego Springs Community United Methodist Church on Church Lane.
It gathers hundreds from the community, people from all the churches and those with no church memberships at all, not to mention those visiting family and friends on the Easter weekend.
Clergy from many of the town congregations participated-- the Community United Methodist Church, St. Barnabas Episcopal, St. Richard's Catholic Church, Borrego Lutheran , the Latter Day Saints Church and others, including Jewish chaplain Susan Katz and American Legion chaplain Dale Jones.
Members of the congregations' choirs participated, this year singing a piece rehearsed the last few weeks, "Joyful, Jubilant Song" and led by Sherry Harapat, with Richard Helvig accompanying. The service contained Easter hymns, a readings from the scriptures, including one of the Easter gospel accounts, Mark 16: 1-8, and the Apostles' Creed affirmation of faith. Fr. Georege Decasa preached on the mystical experience of the Risen Lord.
Offerings made went to community service projects of the Borrego Ministers' Association, which also supports the Thanksgiving Eve service, the Christmas Concert, Ash Wednesday ashes to go," the monthly food bank at St. Barnabas, among numerous other community activities. The association and the sunrise service go back decades now, to when earlier Borrego clergy organized community-wide services for Thanksgiving and Easter.
The Methodist parish has a prominent role, since the hill on which the service is held lies right behind their church building.
Why so early a service though, just as dawn is breaking?
Christians have celebrated the resurrection of Jesus both in the night before and at the break of day, sunrise, from ancient times. The four gospels differ in details of what happened and what was seen "on the first day of the week...after the Sabbath."
The number of angels in white garments, sitting by the empty tomb varies, as does the number of women disciples who came there and their names. But the gospel narratives do agree that Jesus' women disciples came ", on the first day after the Sabbath...very early in the morning...while it was dark" to the tomb, to do the ritual of washing and anointing with spices of Jesus' body that could not be done late on Friday, when the start of the Sabbath was approaching. Like the other services of Holy Week and Easter, it was the practices of the church in Jerusalem that shaped how Christians throughout Europe celebrated these sacred days.
A nun from Spain, Egeria, described in great detail the church services in Jerusalem around 380 CE. Our sunrise service, just as those of Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and the other morning services of Easter Day all have their origins in the Jerusalem celebrations, which became the models for service throughout the Middle East, Europe and eventually the New World.
The rising of the sun means a new day and has for centuries been the time to celebrate the new life brought by Jesus' resurrection.
Happy Easter! Christ is risen!
Time lapse video by Michael Sadler: