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Apr24ThuChurches in Orillia gather on Easter morning to share the message that love is the strongest force in the world. April 24, 2014 by Colonel Gwenyth Redhead
The small, picturesque city of Orillia, Ont., is built on the shores of Lake Couchiching, a First Nations name meaning “Lake of Sudden Winds.” The lake has been compared to the Sea of Galilee, which is also known for its sudden winds. However, the parallels became even clearer in the early hours of Easter Sunday morning as Christians from several denominations gathered on its shores to give witness to the fact that “Jesus Christ is risen today!”
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The venture of faith was inspired by Reverend Karen Horst, the senior minister at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church. In the past, the congregation of St. Andrew's had gathered for a Sonrise service in one location on the shores of the lake while The Salvation Army had met at another.
Horst approached a member of our corps with whom she has regular contact to see if we could join together, and the proposal was brought to our corps worship committee. We agreed it would be a good idea for the two congregations to join together, acknowledging that a united service would strengthen the witness of the Easter message to the people who would be at the lakeshore, even at an early hour, for various recreational activities.
Soon, through Horst's enthusiasm and initiative, the congregations of another Presbyterian Church, the United Church, the Anglican Church and the Roman Catholic Church all expressed interest in joining.
We chose songs that would be familiar to all congregations, with just one song, Easter Glory, that would be new to many, since it was written by my husband, Robert, and myself.
With the planning done, we waited with bated breath to see what the weather would be like on Easter Sunday morning and who would come to participate in the service.
Sunday dawned with brilliant sunshine sparkling on the lake and very little wind—a perfect day for a Sonrise service. We thanked God for this additional blessing, especially as we had no Plan B for inclement weather. In fact, the morning was so glorious that even when the earliest of us arrived to start setting up, well before 7 a.m., many people were already enjoying the beauty of the setting, jogging, walking their dogs or simply “shooting the breeze.” They watched with friendly interest as we set up chairs and began to hand out the tasteful order of service that had been prepared by the secretary of the corps.
We were greatly encouraged that the first people to arrive were members of an Alliance Church, who expressed the hope that they might be included in a more formal way in the service next year. Eventually, a crowd of more than 100 people gathered, from young children to octogenarians. The air of excitement and anticipation was palpable. The service was truly one that honoured the risen Lord, with all joining in the singing with great enthusiasm, even taking off their gloves and clapping to the chorus of Easter Glory as they sang, “And that same Lord still calls me by my name/Still sets my heart aflame/And that same Lord still loves me and forgives, for that same Lord still lives,” to the boisterous accompaniment of our corps band.
The congregation also responded with warm appreciation to the creative dialogue message, presented with appropriate touches of humour, by the two Presbyterian ministers. One took the role of Mary Magdalene, the other a friend to whom Mary tried to convey the message that the incredible had happened—that Jesus had risen from the dead—and of the need for all of us to share the message that love is the strongest force in the world.
At the conclusion of the service we all moved off to prepare for further worship in our different churches, thanking God for honouring the desire that the people of Orillia would, indeed, “know we are Christians by our love.”