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Church egg hunt bridges religious divides

From left, Bellmore residents Carleen Plate, 12, and

From left, Bellmore residents Carleen Plate, 12, and her sister, Lainie, 8, participate in the Easter egg hunt outside St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bethpage on Sunday, April 20, 2014. Credit: Tara Conry

The Plate family didn’t plan on spending Easter inside an Evangelical Lutheran church. But when Michael Plate, 48, of Bellmore, his wife and two daughters arrived at St. Paul in Bethpage Sunday for the church’s annual outdoor Easter egg hunt, they learned that they were about two hours too early.

They weren’t alone. Announcements for the hunt indicated a 10:30 a.m. start, but the event didn’t start until after the church’s scheduled service — for 10:30 a.m. — concluded.

So with time to kill, the Plates and other non-parishioners took a seat inside the church.

“It was good. It was basically like going to our church,” said Plate, whose family belongs to the Parish of St. Barnabas, a Catholic church in Bellmore.

“The prayers are very similar,” added Plate’s older daughter, Carleen, 12.

After the service, Carleen, her sister, Lainie, 8, and about 15 other children had fun seeking out the eggs scattered on the lawn and hidden in bushes outside the church. They were filled with candy and stickers, some that read, “He Has Risen.”

Harry Rathsam, who runs the church’s Sunday school, said St. Paul’s has been holding the egg hunt on Easter for more than a decade. He said it’s just one of the ways the church tries to engage young people.

“The kids are our life blood,” he said. “It’s very important to have them involved.”

Twins Emma and Elizabeth Bordt, 11, of Bethpage, have participated in the church hunt since they were toddlers. Elizabeth said she almost didn’t participate because she thought she was too old, but at the last minute she kept the tradition alive.

Their father, Eric Bordt, added, “It makes them a little more attracted to the church, having these little things.”

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