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Cason United Methodist Church will coordinate the sunrise service again this year by the Delray Beach Pavilion. Photo provided

By Janis Fontaine

On Easter Sunday, falling this year on March 31, hundreds of Christians will get up extra-early to go to a sunrise service held by one of our local churches.

Some will go to the beach in shorts and flip-flops while others will gather in a sanctuary, dressed in their Easter best. Still others will show up at a place of worship they see only a couple of times a year.

CNN, Christianity Today, Gallup, Pew Research Center and many church pastors agree: More people attend church on Easter, Christianity’s most important holiday, than any other day. Christmas and Mother’s Day are the second- and third-highest days of attendance.

Gathered for 45 to 90 minutes, congregations will pray and sing and listen to the resurrection story, greet friends and neighbors with smiles and hugs, then go home to Easter Sunday breakfast or maybe brunch at a local restaurant.

But for most churches and the pastors who run them, Holy Week begins way before Sunday. Even though Christmas has a lot more bells and whistles, pastors spend more time on their Easter messages than any other.

At St. Lucy Catholic Church, on Holy Thursday — also called Maundy Thursday — Father Brian Horgan plans to celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, which marks the final meal Jesus shared with his disciples before his crucifixion. The seder marks the beginning of the Easter Triduum, the three-day period from Thursday night to Sunday that memorializes the Last Supper and Jesus’s arrest, crucifixion, death and resurrection.

The Mass of the Lord’s Supper generally focuses on three changes Jesus taught his disciples: the Eucharist or Holy Communion, the establishment of a ministry, and the new commandment of love that Jesus gave his apostles as he washed their feet.

This commandment of loving each other appears 13 times in the New Testament, most often quoted from John 13:34-35: “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you … ” and “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”

It was Jesus’s most central message, a cornerstone of Christian faith, and yet it’s one we ignore every day.

As you make your way to services and Masses, remember those words. And thank the people who do the heavy lifting to make Easter celebrations possible. Here’s a summary of what’s coming up this year:

Beach service in Delray
Pastor David Schmidt of Cason United Methodist Church and his staff are coordinating an interfaith celebration at sunrise on Easter Sunday on the beach near the Delray Beach Pavilion — pending final approval from the city of Delray Beach. Cason has been a presence at Easter sunrise services for decades; still, check with the church or the city before you set your alarm clock.

The event itinerary features Easter messages from Bishop Michael Brennen, senior pastor at Ebenezer Wesleyan Methodist Church, and Rabbi Marc Labowitz, the spiritual leader of TAO in Weston.

TAO, also called Temple Adath Or, shares teachings rooted in the Bible, the Torah, Kabbalah and other traditional Jewish sources.
The service takes place from 6:30 to 7:30 a.m., with live music from the praise band.

Cason United  Methodist Church
Following the sunrise service, the church will offer an Easter service at 11 a.m. in the sanctuary, with music and a butterfly release.
342 N. Swinton Ave., Delray Beach. 561-276-5302 or www.casonumc.org

St. Gregory’s Episcopal Church
Easter Sunday begins with a Beachside Eucharist at 6:30 a.m. at the South Beach Park pavilion, at the end of Palmetto Park Road in Boca Raton. Services at the church are at 7:30, 9 and 11:15 a.m. (with incense). A 6 p.m. Easter Eucharist is also planned.

Maundy Thursday services with optional foot-washing are planned at noon and 6:30 p.m.

On Good Friday, a service is planned from noon to 3 p.m. with guest speakers. Parishioners are invited to come for all or part of the service. A second Good Friday service takes place at 6:30 p.m.100 NE Mizner Blvd., Boca Raton. 561-395-8285 or www.stgregorysepiscopal.org

St. Joseph’s Episcopal Church
The church is hosting a special sunrise service in the sanctuary. The service begins in the dark and gradually lightens as the resurrection story is told. The service is followed by breakfast and, at 9:30 a.m., a second service with several baptisms. Following that is an Easter Egg Hunt outside, and the day wraps up with the Unplugged Service at 11:45 a.m.
3300A S. Seacrest Blvd., Boynton Beach. 561-732-3060

First Presbyterian Church
Services are planned at 9 and 11 a.m. Easter Sunday. But much of the excitement is about the annual Easter Egg Extravaganza, which takes place at noon on Palm Sunday, March 24. With dozens of eggs to find and pizza for lunch, this is a must-do for kids. 33 Gleason St., Delray Beach. 561-276-6338 or firstdelray.com

Church of the Palms
Holy Week services are Maundy Thursday at 7 p.m., Good Friday at 7 p.m. and the Easter service at 10 a.m. The Rev. Todd Petty says a butterfly release is planned after the Sunday service. The monarch butterflies, which come from a farm in Orlando, are spiritually significant, representing rebirth and transformation. 1960 N. Swinton Ave., Delray Beach. 561-276-6347 or churchofthepalms.net

Ascension Lutheran Church
The church’s celebrations begin at 10:30 a.m. March 24 (Palm Sunday), and continue at noon on Maundy Thursday, with the stripping of the altar. The Good Friday service at 7 p.m. features a Tenebrae service of lights; and the Easter Sunday service begins at 10:30 a.m. 2925 S. Seacrest Blvd., Boynton Beach. 561-732-2929

Advent Lutheran Church
A sunrise service begins at 7 a.m. on Easter followed by a traditional service at 9. At 10:30 is a contemporary service. 300 E. Yamato Road, Boca Raton. 561-395-3632

St. Vincent Ferrer Catholic Church
Easter Sunday services take place at 7 a.m., 9 a.m. (with the “overflow” service in the family life center at 9:10 a.m.), and 11 a.m. (overflow at 11:10 a.m.). 840 George Bush Blvd., Delray Beach. 561-243-3863

First United Methodist Church
The church is hosting an Easter Egg Hunt & Festival at 10 a.m. on Easter Sunday. 625 NE Mizner Blvd., Boca Raton. 561-395-1244; fumcbocaraton.org

Boca Raton Community Church
A Good Friday service is planned at 7 p.m. On Easter, services are at 9 and 11 a.m. 470 NW Fourth Ave., Boca Raton. 561-395-2400 or www.bocacommunity.org

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
The Maundy Thursday service is at 7 p.m. followed by Nightwatch, 8:30 to midnight. This vigil serves as a reminder that the apostles fell asleep after eating and drinking lots of wine instead of keeping watch.

The Liturgy of Good Friday is at noon. The Liturgy of the Seven Last Words is at 1:30 p.m., and the Stations of the Cross are presented at 2:30.

On Easter Eve, a 4 p.m. family service is planned.

Easter Sunday services are at 9 and 11 a.m., with an egg hunt sandwiched in between at 10:30. 188 S. Swinton Ave., Delray Beach. 561-276-4541 or stpaulsdelray.org

Holy Spirit Catholic Church
Holy Saturday, a traditional Polish Blessing of the Food, takes place at 9 a.m. At 7 p.m., a vigil Mass begins.

Easter Masses are at 7:30, 9 and 10:30 a.m. and noon. At 2 p.m. a Latin Mass Extraordinary Form takes place. 1000 W. Lantana Road, Lantana. 561-585-5970 or holyspiritlantana.com

Contact religion columnist Janis Fontaine at fontaine423@outlook.com.

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