Whether they stood on the chilly sands of Jones Beach or sat inside a warm church, Long Island Christians celebrated Easter on Sunday with prayers, appreciation and calls for hope and forgiveness.
"We need to be more willing to forgive one another," the Rev. Michael Tewes of the New Apostolic Church in Woodbury told several hundred worshippers at Jones Beach before dawn Sunday. "Christ paid the ultimate sacrifice of his life. Shouldn't we forgive the transgressions of our brothers and sisters and let it go?"
At the First Presbyterian Church in Northport, the Rev. Timothy Hoyt Duncan gave a sermon reflecting on Scripture from the Book of Mark, a version of the story of Christ's resurrection with an abrupt ending: After learning that Jesus is not in his tomb and being told he is risen and will meet his disciples in Galilee, several women flee and tell no one what they saw.
"Life doesn't always come wrapped in pretty bows," Duncan said. "Life doesn't always make sense . . . you may even be here this Easter Sunday with doubt about the resurrection. I think Mark wrote this ending just for you, telling you it's OK if we haven't figured everything out."
Hundreds of worshippers joined Tewes and other church leaders on the beach to celebrate the day Christians believe marks Jesus Christ's resurrection from the dead.
Tewes led the Long Island Council of Churches nondenominational service at Jones Beach as the sun rose over the ocean to the east.
Tewes told worshippers surrounding him to be "modern-day disciples and professors to the Lord."
He said that Easter brought hope. After Christ was crucified, his followers were given new faith when he rose from his tomb.
"Joy comes in the morning. In a moment, their weeping became not despair, but hope," Tewes said. "The Lord has the power to forgive us and promise he will return again. In these troubling times, let us not lose hope in the world."
The Council of Churches took an offering for its emergency food pantries.
Visitors from across Long Island, Manhattan and from out of state stood in the sand surrounding Tewes and other pastors at the service. A choir and a cellist played songs such as "Let There Be Peace on Earth."
The Meyers family, of Seaford, came to the service Sunday for the first time. They said they had read about it and wanted to be on the beach at sunrise.
"It gives it a different light and it's more intimate," Mackenzie Meyer, 19, said.
At the First Presbyterian Church, Duncan told the Northport congregation that it is all right to have doubts or ambiguity in their faith, but it "doesn't negate the existence and resurrection of Christ."
"The resurrection story tells us about Christ's living presence always in our lives," Duncan said. "Sometimes he's found in those cracks . . . in those difficult experiences in life. He is in us, we don't always know it."