Saturday, April 19, 2014
Mother sewed new dresses for my sister and me, which inevitably wound up being hidden under coats as we made our way to the Sunrise Service held. in our hometown. This service was early, and happened at a place called Love's Lookout where there was a large ampitheatre formed from red rock, a WPA project. President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Depression-era Works Progress Administration came to the hill in the 1930s and, using red rock mined from Cherokee County, built a park, picnic grounds and an amphitheater used for these sunrise services, plays and other events.
The scenic bluff which was the location of the ampitheatre was named to honor Wesley Love who in 1904 bought much of the surrounding area and planted a 600-acre peach farm. After Love's death in 1925, his wife donated 22 acres to the state for a state park. The state, however, failed to create the park and in 1934 the City of Jacksonville purchased an additional 20 acres and developed the two tracts as a city park. That's when the Works Progress Administration began its project.
In the Spring, dogwoods and other spring flowers are in bloom, making the setting even more beautiful. I remember shivering on the cold hard semicircle of rock on which we sat, but I loved this sunrise service, with its gathering of Christians from many area churches, the joy of singing "Christ Arose" and Alleluia, the feelings of newness and festivity in our Easter clothes, and our family traditions that would follow: church services at First Baptist Church, Easter Sunday dinner which would included having grandparents at our house or going to theirs. There was baked ham, potato salad, new potatoes with green beans put up in Mason jars, Jello salads and sometimes Coconut cake or pie - all homemade and delicious. I can almost smell the vinegar we used for die to color boiled eggs the day before so that we could hide them over and over again on Sunday afternoon.
Today our family includes some version of many of the same traditions as those I loved 70 years ago, but
we have added to these a deeper awareness of the season of Lent, and more intentional observance of Holy Week. Our church for 22 years now, First Baptist Church in Richmond, Texas is where we gather for services such as one we attended last night, Tenebrae. The church has a prayer garden with a small labyrinth where chairs will be set up for a Sonrise service tomorrow morning followed by breakfast with our church family served from dishes made with eggs and sausage made at home and brought as families arrive. There will be an egg hunt for children. I will sing in the choir and ring with the handbell choir as we express joy and praise with some of the same hymns I sang with my family all those years ago. Then we come back here to our house with all of our sons and their wives and children who can be here. That will include our newest granddaughter, sweet Nora Opal, who is exactly one month old and celebrating her very first Easter.