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Easter sunrise service draws record crowd

By Staff | Apr 12, 2009

The sun ascended over the beach Sunday morning at Cape Coral Yacht Club to hundreds of people sitting in fold-up, lounge and deck chairs listening to the Easter Sunrise Service presented by the Life in Christ Community.
An early-morning fog lifted and the serene beach maintained a peaceful silence as Pastor Leah J. Hileman delivered her oratory. The ocean was motionless and only changed form as water rose inches over the sand.
The Cape Coral-based Life In Christ Community, formerly known as Christ the Servant Community, has hosted a service on the beach every Easter for the last 30 years.
For the last three years Hileman has led the service. She also explained that its biggest draw is the music and the view. It started early at 7 a.m. and on Sunday the sun to rose nine minutes after the hour.
“We start when the sun is starting to come up,” said Hileman. “We try to time it depending on the sun rise each year.”
Since she started leading the service three-years-ago, Hileman said this year has the largest attendance she can remember because of the conditions in both 2008 and 2007. Last year was the coldest Easter on record, she said, and the year before that it rained on Sunday morning.
Furthermore, she attributed this year’s larger crowd to enhanced publicity.
“We had more publicity this year and the weather was better,” she said. “It has gone through waves of attendance.”
Times are tough, but Hileman said the feedback she received from the service didn’t indicate that more people were attending because of anxiety or stress. Generally the attendance has fluctuated to as high as 1,000 and as low as 100.
Church member John Schoendorf said that over 300 programs were printed and given out, but he believes over 500 attended. He said the church chooses to hold an Easter service on the beach because the sunrise signifies the rise of Jesus.
“He liked to preach on the beach in Galilee,” said Schoendorf.
Following the service the church provided a breakfast with a choice of cinnamon buns, bagels and other pastries, as well as coffee and juice. Also, a large table under the Yacht Club’s pavilion held loaves of bread that church members could take home and a box near the breakfast tables filled with toys for both girls and boys.
“Publix donates loaves of bread, they are closed today so they have nothing to do with it,” said Schoendorf.
The church’s new building is at the Power Squadron at 917 SE 47 Terrace starting May 10, he said.
The church will also host Monday night bible studies starting at 7 p.m.