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Separate flocks join together to celebrate Easter at sunrise

Early risers from two Forest Grove churches meet at Thatcher Park


You wouldn’t expect a few little claps to distract you from the miracle of someone coming back from the dead.

But some Forest Grove United Church of Christ members had to adjust a little when the church decided to hold a joint sunrise service on Easter Sunday — the day Christians celebrate Jesus rising from the dead — with the Forest Grove United Methodist Church four years ago.

FGUCC Pastor Jennifer Yocum said she and the FGUMC’s then-Pastor Dan Wilson-Fey both knew the other was planning a sunrise service for Easter morning and decided to merge the two.

The Protestant denominations have traditions that are “similar but not the same,” said Yocum. “I think the thing that was most difficult was actually the music.”

Many Christian denominations share songs and lyrics, but sing them different ways.

At the joint sunrise service, the biggest musical difference was over a song Methodists grew up singing quickly and with clapping: “I am the Resurrection (clap) and the Life (clap clap clap clap), He who believes in me will never die.”

The UCC crowd was used to singing that more slowly and contemplatively.

“It’s kind of jarring to hear it with clapping,” said Yocum.

Still, it’s been relatively easy for participants to adjust to the few changes in the liturgy or rituals.

“The heart of the matter is we share a common love for God and a desire to serve our community,” said Dan Thompson-Aue, current FGUMC pastor.

Nationally, the United Methodist denomination tends to move its pastors from church to church more frequently than other denominations, so Thompson-Aue is used to style differences. “Every congregation does something a little different,” he said.

And many in his Forest Grove congregation start off Easter weekend by attending Good Friday services at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church on Elm Street, so they’ve already tasted a different religious tradition by the time Sunday rolls around.

Then again, a sunrise service itself is a departure from the usual indoor, mid-day, dress-up Sunday morning services, so it self-selects for participants who are looking for something different.

Yocum and Thompson-Aue have another change up their sleeves this year — blindfolds and a guided meditation that will take participants from pre-dawn to dawn, when they will remove the blindfolds.

“One of the big things from Easter sunrise service is this whole transition from darkness to light,” Yocum said.

All are welcome to the service, regardless of denomination or belief. About 30 to 40 people usually attend each year, gathering in the pavilion at Thatcher Park, Yocum said. This year the service will begin at 6:15 a.m., with sunrise expected around 6:30 a.m.

Other Sunrise Services on Easter Sunday, April 5

- Cornelius United Methodist Church will hold a service at 6:30 a.m. in its cemetery on the east side of 10th St., just north of Dairy Creek.

- Banks Community United Methodist Church will hold a service at 6:30 a.m. at Banks High School’s Kelly Field, 13050 N.W. Main St. in Banks

- Dayspring Christian Fellowship will host a Community Sunrise Service at Banks High School’s Kelly Field at 7 a.m.

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