Sunrise services on monument an Easter tradition in red rocks
Orange hues that spread across an indigo sky behind Grand Mesa gave hope to about 70 worshippers Easter morning that the sun would rise and take the chill off gusty breezes that whistled through Colorado National Monument.
For as long as he could remember, Floyd Keller had been attending the Easter morning sunrise services conducted on cliffs that overlook the twinkling lights of the sleeping Grand Valley.
On Sunday, the area’s three Methodist churches sponsored the services at the monument’s Bookcliff Overlook.
“It’s just been a tradition,” Keller said about the annual service. “My wife said, ‘Let’s go’, even though she can hardly walk.”
A number of churches have sponsored the event over the years, and the services also have been an ecumenical event, spanning several religions, Keller said.
In years past, services have included congregants carrying a cross, to signify the death of Jesus and his rebirth on Easter. Keller’s children, who had attended the sunrise events growing up, now look for similar Easter services where they live, Keller said.
“This is quite an event. It makes your eyes sore just looking at it all,” he said, scanning the red rock cliffs.
Some folks though, like Susan LaBarge, of Albuquerque, N.M., experienced the breathtaking service for the first time. LaBarge, who was bundled up against the cold and peeking out from underneath a blanket, was visiting her grandchildren in Grand Junction.
“We should have dressed them like we were skiing,” she said of her two granddaughters in tights, coats and Easter dresses.
Deanne Sharp, the pastor of Fruita United Methodist Church, offered the message and relayed a story about a father asking his daughter to describe the meaning of Easter.
The girl’s reply was that Easter was about surprise.
“Just when those followers of Jesus thought they saw everything, they had one more thing to see,” Sharp said.
Worshippers who huddled against the cliff edge sang hymns that drifted down valley.
As the service wound down, the sun popped over the mesa, the winds calmed a bit and the air warmed as people made their way back to their vehicles.