Churches unite for Easter service

The Early Morning String Dusters performs “Were You There?” during a Concord Easter Community Sunrise Service off Northshore Drive Sunday, April 1.
About 50 worshippers gathered before daybreak Sunday, April 1, to celebrate Easter with a Concord Community Sunrise Service, organized by three churches, on the Prater farm property off Northshore Drive.

The Rev. Sam Fulton Jr., pastor of Concord AME Zion, and the Rev. Chuck Farmer, pastor of Concord Presbyterian, conducted the service.

While Early Morning String Dusters performed, the birds sang in the background, a flock of geese passed by and the sun peeked out through the trees onto the lake.

“It is an honor to be here this morning to be in the presence of other believers,” Fulton said. “The Bible tells us, ‘Where two or three gather surely I will be in the presence,’ and I do believe the presence of the Lord is in this place.

“We have to be reminded that it is not the church walls that make up the church, but it is the fellowship and the congregation of believers that make up the church, and we are the church of God,” he added.

“It’s rejoicing,” Ralph Henry said about attending the service. “It means Christ loves me and I love Him, and I’ve accepted Him.

“I’m with Him all the time, but it’s a special moment when you come out and see a sunrise and rejoice the resurrected Lord today.

“Everybody says, ‘Have a happy Easter.’ I say, “Well, I’ll have a happy ‘Resurrection Day’ because that’s what it is for me,” Henry said.

Joni Maples said she attended because the service “is just special — the setting and the people.”

“I drove 40 miles to get here this morning,” said Keith Fox, a south Roane County resident. He initially came to hear the Early Morning String Dusters perform because its members, the Carey family, were childhood mentors.

“I enjoy their music so much,” Fox said, but added he discovered an “encouragement of fellow believers coming together at such an early time in the morning.”

This marks the third year for the community Easter sunrise service, in which Concord Presbyterian, Concord AME Zion and Concord Original Church of God have participated.

“Concord Presbyterian Church had not been doing a sunrise service, and Elsie Prater’s a member and this is her farm,” Farmer said. “I was visiting her one day and saw this (location on Prater’s property) and said, ‘This would be a great place for an Easter sunrise service on the lake.’ She said, ‘You’d be welcome to do that.’

“We reached out to Concord AME Zion and Concord Original Church of God to participate, so we just started it, making it a community service.”

The purpose of holding it as a community service was because “Jesus Christ belongs to no one denomination, especially on this high, Holy Day,” Farmer said. “We want all Christians to gather together, regardless of their particular denomination or expression of faith to welcome Easter at sunrise.”

As he asked attendees to respond to the call to worship, he announced, “I want to make sure they hear us across the (lake) now.”

Farmer started the call with “Let us worship God,” and the Lord is risen indeed,” which worshippers followed with Hallelujah!”

Fulton read the scripture from Luke Chapter 24, which relates how an angel told the women who had come to the tomb that Jesus was no longer in the grave.

“(Jesus is) alive, and he’s alive in us,” Fulton said during the Easter meditation.

“We’ve got to tell the world, ‘He is alive.’”