E.V. churches plan for packed pews on Easter - East Valley Tribune: News

E.V. churches plan for packed pews on Easter

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Posted: Thursday, April 1, 2010 2:51 pm | Updated: 3:22 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

The holiest day of the Christian calendar is also one of the busiest for church leaders who have been preparing for months to welcome members and visitors on Easter morning.

Fun Easter events - MORE  |  Mesa pageant  |  Spiritual Life

The holiest day of the Christian calendar is also one of the busiest for church leaders who have been preparing for months to welcome members and visitors on Easter morning.

Easter, which falls on Sunday, marks the day Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. Services may include messages about God’s love and redemption, hymns, trumpets and trombones, drama, and, for some, drums and bands.

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The audiences can often be double in size from a normal Sunday, church leaders say.

“We probably started planning Easter back in January,” said Jason Hamrock, communications director of Central Christian Church, which has one campus in Mesa and two sites in Gilbert, including one meeting at Campo Verde High School. “A lot of people who don’t typically go to church, go to church on Christmas and Easter.”

For Hamrock and the other 100 staff members of Central Christian Church, the planning includes looking at everything from parking and bulletins to child care, music selections, children’s offerings and more.

“We have a ton of guests that we want to make sure ... feel very welcome, that they belong here, that when they come their experience and expectations are blown away and we want to make sure we deliver the message of Easter,” he said.

During a typical weekend, the church offers nine services. That will jump to 14 this weekend, including services Friday, Saturday and Sunday evening.

Mission Church in Gilbert will mark Easter in a new worship center, which opened March 28. The church has been around since 1995 and on its site at Elliot Road between Power and Recker roads since 2005.

The church welcomed 5,000 people during its three services last weekend at the grand opening of the new building.

It will add a fourth service — at 7 a.m. — for Easter Sunday, said lead pastor Mark Connelly. Close to 6,000 people may attend over Easter weekend, he said. In addition to the music and sermon, the church is planning to perform baptisms throughout each service, he said.

“Guest services alone will have 100 people (greeting members and visitors) in addition to all the children’s ministry workers. We’ve been gearing up for it for a while. We’ve got a volunteer base here that is phenomenal. When people really believe in what we’re doing and are excited about being a part of it, it changes how they serve. They’re excited about serving.”

In Chandler, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church is planning to host twice as many people at its services.

Pastor Lee Rehrer, who has spent 32 years at the congregation, said he will deliver a message on life’s journey and “how God enters into our journey wherever we are.”

On a typical Sunday, 500 people will attend services. Sunday, the church will add a sunrise service and move worship to the multipurpose room from the sanctuary to accommodate the growth.

“A lot of our culture is driven by special events. Easter is part of that Christian faith. Families are in town. People want their kids to get dressed up and experience something really cool,” Rehrer said.

St. Bridget Catholic Church in Mesa puts its focus on the events leading up to Easter, said Rock Fremont, liturgy and community life associate. Services will be Thursday and Friday evening. A two-and-a-half hour to three-hour Easter vigil will be 8 p.m. Saturday.

The three days are referred to as the Triduum, Fremont said.

“That’s what we as Catholics focus on. It’s the source and summit of the whole liturgical year,” he said.

Three services on Sunday morning will be outside to accommodate a doubling of attendance, he said.

Fremont believes the economy is driving more people to church. Christmas attendance was the highest he’s seen in his five years there. And he expects Easter will mimic that.

“It’s ingrained in folks. It’s a time like Christmas … for families. That’s when you have all those memories and how things were growing up and wanting to re-create those memories,” Fremont said. “For a lot of folks, not just Catholics, it’s a time to go to church and do those things people think they should be doing.”

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