How the Sunrise Service started

Published 8:03 am Sunday, March 25, 2018

By Van Wade

The Orange Leader


Sunrise services will be abundant throughout Southeast Texas on Easter Sunday.

Of course, its an Easter religious service observed at sunrise, often in an outdoors setting.

Many people do not know how the Easter sunrise service originated.

The first Easter Sunrise Service actually took place in 1732 in the Moravian congregation at herrnhut in the Upper Lusatian hills of Saxony.

After an all-night prayer vigil, the Single Brethren – the unmarried men of the community – went to the town graveyard, God’s Acre, on the hill above the town to sing hymns of praise to the Risen Saviour.

The following year, the whole congregation joined the service. The procession to the graveyard was accompanied by the antiphonal playing of chorales by brass choirs. Thereafter, the “Easter Morning” or “Sunrise Service’ spread around the world with the Moravian missionaries.

In the United States, many churches in the South still hold traditional sunrise services in cemeteries as a sign of recognition that Jesus no longer lay in the tomb on Easter morning.

The service starts early in the morning and is timed so that the attendants can see the sun rise when the service is going.

Services usually loosely follow the format of the church’s normal service and can include music (hymns or praise band), dramatic scenes and the Easter message. After the service, the church may serve a breakfast for the attendees.

The most famous Moravian Sunrise Service in the United States is arguably that of the Salem Congregation, in what is now Winston-Salem North Carolina, held annually since 1772. More than 6,000 worshippers gather before dawn in front of the church to proclaim the Resurrection. The worshippers then move in procession to the historic graveyard, or “God’s Acre”. Brass chorus from 12 congregations, totaling over 500 members, play hymns during the procession. The service concludes with a proclamation of faith and hymns of hope.

In Washington D.C. thousands of individuals gather at the Lincoln Memorial for the “Sunrise Celebration” Easter Service, a Washington tradition for Christians of all denominations.