This Sunday is one of the busiest days of the year for Christian churches as people celebrate the resurrection of their savior Jesus Christ. Outside of Christmas, Easter Sunday tends to draw the largest crowds.
In fact, there are many people who only attend church on Christmas and Easter. Some church leaders report that attendance can nearly double when it comes to Easter. Like the Easter holiday, sermons celebrate change and renewal.
Fr. Dwight Ezop is looking forward to his first Easter service this Sunday at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Fenton. Ezop said Holy Week, capped off by Easter, is the most important time of the year for Christians and demands the best from religious leaders.
“Preparing for Holy Week and Easter is really, in some ways, similar to being a top level athlete,” Ezop said. “Top level athletes want to be at top level when they’re competing. For myself, that’s very much the same. This is the time of year when preaching and celebrating the mass needs to be at its best.”
Ezop is not sure how many people will show up for Mass on Sunday but he does anticipate the halls of St. John to be as full as possible. “It’s exciting for me to see what it will be like,” Ezop said. “I’m planning to celebrate these Masses in the best and most beautiful ways.”
“Easter is the most important day on our calendar,” said Seth Normington, pastor at Linden Presbyterian Church. “We talk about renewal and the message of hope. Death, depression and destruction even have the final word.”
Where normally 100 people or so attend Sunday services at Linden Presbyterian Church, Normington expects about 180 people to attend Easter Sunday. Extra services are scheduled for Sunday at most churches to accommodate the extra attendants. As the ending of Lent, Holy Week overall has slightly better church attendance, with extra Christians attending church on Good Friday and Holy Saturday as well.
Normington is aware that some Christians only attend church on Easter and Christmas. The pastor said he focuses on being welcoming and encouraging people to attend more frequently rather than chastising people for only attending church a few days a year.
At The Freedom Center, senior Pastor Jim Wiegand said regular Sunday attendance is approximately 1,100 people. For the Easter weekend, Wiegand anticipates 3,000 people will attend his church. In addition to focusing on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, Wiegand said The Freedom Center will be discussing how God affects people’s daily lives. Technology will play a significant part in Easter service too, with three full high-definition screens. He compared today’s technology to that of stained glass meaning that the two can “make our most sacred stories beautiful.”
“This year’s service focuses more on questions people have,” Wiegand said. “We’re trying to combine theology with reality. There’s a lot of ‘you should’ sermons and this one is a more of a ‘how to’ sermon.”
According to a December Gallup poll, about 40 percent or 118 million people said they attend a church, synagogue or mosque at least once a week. Attendance at religious organizations peaked between 1954 and 1964 when nearly half of Americans said they attended a church, mosque or synagogue once a week. The daily importance of religion on lives has lessened since the 1950s, where more than 70 percent of people said religion was very important to them. Today, about 56 percent of people identify religion as a very important aspect of their life.
• The Easter bunny is a symbol of fertility. Myths of the Easter bunny are associated to German folklore and pagan rituals.
• Easter eggs became popular in medieval times when the Catholic Church forbade anyone from eating eggs during Lent. Instead, eggs were stored for 40 days, decorated, and eaten on Easter, which happens after Lent.
• Behind Halloween, Easter is one of the most popular holidays for candy with jellybeans and chocolate rabbits being the go-to candy.
• Dying eggs is an ancient tradition, dating back to ancient Egyptian, Greek and Zoroastrian civilizations.
• The average American spends about $130 for Easter, which amounts to more than $14 billion a year.