Regardless of what the retail-store displays would have us believe, Easter really isn’t about chocolate, baskets, or long-eared hopping mammals. Nevertheless, our church chooses to host an “Easter Eggstravaganza” for the neighborhood, staged in the park right behind the church.
It’s part of our mission to reach out to the neighborhood, and be a presence. It’s not intended as a recruiting tool per se (although plenty of new folks also showed up for the church service beforehand)—our focus is on being a part of the neighborhood around us, doing some good where we can, and letting people experience Christianity-in-action.
It’s the same reason we partner with the grade school a couple blocks away, which has one of the highest “free-lunch” populations in the city, and a heavy demographic of refugees. We bring teams of volunteers to help at their events, provide backpacks full of school supplies at the beginning of the year, and adopt needy families with clothing and gifts at Christmas. There’s never any “propaganda” accompanying our volunteer work or giving at the school; it’s purely a program of Christian living, embracing the neighborhood where we’re planted.
Last year we “egged” several hundred nearby homes, leaving plastic Easter eggs on their doorsteps with invitations to the Easter event. The three thousand eggs we stuffed with candy for last year’s egg-hunt proved insufficient, so this year we gathered our forces to stuff candy into ten thousand eggs. We had a bounce-house and face painting and a photo booth and a raffle, and the Easter Bunny arrived on a Harley Davidson (we’re that kind of church) to meet-and-greet and take pictures with kids.
My favorite part of the day, though, was our Sunrise Service in the park. Almost eighty volunteers gathered on the grass for a devotional before beginning the day with a pancake breakfast and a flurry of set-up. Bright orange T-shirts with our church logo got passed out at breakfast, and I played “name tag fairy,” tagging everyone in sight. Having all of us occupied elsewhere during the main service meant there was more room in the sanctuary for Easter-attendees, but it was still standing-room-only by the time the worship team kicked off the music.
I love it that even in a church as casual as ours (Pastor preaches in jeans and Converse tennies) women showed up in flowered Easter hats. I love it that the kids were so excited about hugging the Easter Bunny, and lining up with their baskets for egg-gathering. We broke down the egg-hunt by age groups with staggered starts, and evidently even the teenagers didn’t think it was “uncool” to line up in their lane. My daughter, who lives in the neighborhood, gave me the best surprise of the day by showing up at my elbow and spending half an hour with me.
Rabbits and eggs and hoop-la aside (heck, those things included) it was a beautiful Easter. It’s my favorite of the church holidays because it’s purely Celebration… And even in an informal church where we don’t use a lot of set liturgies, we all got to give God the traditional shoutout. “He is risen! … He is risen indeed!” As my sister and I used to say at the end of table-prayers: YAY GOD!