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Jones Beach Easter sunrise service draws 400 celebrants

People gather for the annual Easter dawn worship

People gather for the annual Easter dawn worship service at Jones Beach in Wantagh, April 16, 2017. Credit: Ed Betz

The celebration of Christ’s resurrection brought renewed inspiration and strength to worshippers Sunday at Jones Beach.

“I wanted something different,” said Gary Davis, 57, of Massapequa. “I wanted to give God thanks and celebrate the dawn of a new day.”

Davis was one of nearly 400 people there who celebrated Easter, which memorializes the resurrection of Jesus Christ three days after his crucifixion.

Bystanders and listeners, some in their own thoughts and reflective spaces, stood motionless in the sand. The bright orange sun rose and calming waves provided a soundtrack.

The Long Island Council of Churches sponsors the annual sunrise service.

The Rev. Dyanne Pina, executive director of the LICC, gave a seven-minute sermon titled: “He Knows Your Name.”

It focused on Mary Magdalene, an unwavering supporter of Jesus who was once cured of evil spirits and diseases.

Van Saint, 60, of Garden City said he had never celebrated Easter at the beach before, but came to pay respect to his “Lord and savior.”

“It’s very inspiring and a beautiful day,” said Saint, who was on hand as a member of the Freeport Roosevelt NAACP chapter.

The 6:30 a.m. service included songs and prayer.

At his first Easter Mass, Bishop John Barres entreated more than 1,000 parishioners at Rockville Centre’s St. Agnes Cathedral to rediscover the power of Christ’s resurrection amid local and national troubles.

He prayed for comfort for the “wounds of families,” from immigrant and refugee families, to those struggling with drug abuse, to those living in times of war. Barres also expressed solidarity with the families of the four young men found slain in Central Islip last week.

The bishop urged the parish to be a bright flame for missionary growth.

“Together let’s each one of us be instruments of the risen Lord who start that ‘vast sea of living flame’ right here in Rockville Centre,” Barres said. “Faith is alive and powerful on Long Island. . . . Now is the time where we all need to step up and be courageous in our faith.”

Marie Lamarre, 69, of Rockville Centre said that as a Catholic, it was a must to attend Easter Mass, but that these days, her faith was more important to her than ever.

“So many bad things are happening,” Lamarre said. “This is the only place where if you want peace, to go.”

Amelia Caban, 9, also of Rockville Centre, said that the service made her feel like she was among family. “It’s just an hour for God. One hour,” Amelia said. “It makes me feel like I’m in the church and this is my family.”

At St. Boniface Episcopal Church in Lindenhurst, almost 75 worshippers sang hymns and prayed in the small 1950s church amid the gentle squeals coming from toddlers in pastel Easter dresses.

The Rev. Diane L. Neuls DeBlasio told congregants of Jesus’ “victory over death.”

“What does this mean for us today? Suppose your sins were written on the sand at the South Shore of the ocean. Jesus’ victory over death means the tide came in and all your sins were wiped away,” DeBlasio said in her sermon. “It is a promise of new life for each and every one of us.”

Janelle Dunbar, 32, of Bay Shore held her 18-month-old daughter, Gianna Danzy, herself clutching a basket full of eggs. Her goddaughter Lena Wilkerson, 7, held up her candy-filled basket.

“It’s a family, that’s the best thing about the church,” said Dunbar, who has been a part of the church all her life. “It’s a melting pot.”

Laura Long, 37, of Massapequa, has been coming to the church for a few years. “It brings in new members, young and old,” she said.


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