For many Marco Islanders it just wouldn’t be Easter without the annual Easter Sunrise Service. The sky, the sand, the music and most importantly the story of the Resurrection.
Thousands of worshippers stream to the beach in the still before dawn. Many walk from their homes and condominiums carrying their beach chairs and blankets. Others drive and double park on Collier Boulevard with the help of the Marco Police and volunteers. Upward to 50 boats may be seen sailing off shore. Others watch from their balconies at the Madeira Condominium or the Marriott Marco Beach Resort with coffee cup in hand.
All is still. Volunteers will be stationed at points on the beach to greet worshippers and to hand out programs. A musical prelude will begin at 6:45 AM with Marv Hollenbeck, Marco Presbyterian Church’s director of music, at the keyboard. Families and friends new and old will greet each other with a smile. Some wear casual beachwear others choose their Sunday finest, complete with elegant hats.
A few arrive early to have a prime spot close to the stage. They are there before the stage crew arrives at 4:30 AM As the people arrive they fan out across the beach. Some prefer front and center; others prefer to linger in the background. Speaker towers are strategically placed so that everyone, including the boats, can hear the service.
Sunrise on Marco will be at 7:10 AM ,Perfect for a Sunrise Service. As the sun peaks over the horizon, the first prayer will be offered. As the sun rises further in the sky, the white cloth, the symbol of the hope of the Resurrection, purity and newness that comes from victory over sin and death, will begin to dance in the breeze. Soon it will be time for local singer, Dawn of Billy Dean and Dawn, known for her virtuoso voice, to sing.
As the sun rises further Marco Presbyterian Church’s Lead Pastor, the Rev. William “Bill” Lyle, will give the message. New Life Community Church’s Pastor, the Rev. Thomas McCulley, and Wesley United Methodist Church’s Pastor, the Rev. Kirk Dreiser, will also participate in the multi-denominational service. “It’s not about the sun,” said Lyle. “Its about the Son.”
If you go: The Twenty-fourth Annual Marco Island Easter Sunrise Service on the Beach will be held on Sunday, April 8, at 7:00 AM, at the Marriott Marco Beach Resort, 400 South Collier Boulevard, Marco Island. Beach access will be north of the Marriott Spa and the public access north of the Madeira Condominium. Information call 239-394-8186.