A fourth local church will be involved for the first time in this Sunday’s Easter Sunrise Service at Pownal’s Bradbury Mountain State Park, an event that has the pastors inspired because of its ecumenical nature.

Members of the North Pownal United Methodist Church will join First Parish Congregational Church of Pownal, the First Baptist Church of Freeport and St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church of Brunswick for the 6:15 a.m. service. While the other three churches are relatively new at this, it will mark the 37th Bradbury Mountain Easter morning for Sandy Williams, the recently retired pastor of First Baptist Church of Freeport. Williams will again lead the mountaintop devotion. A simultaneous service will be held at the mountain base for people who can’t make it to the top.

The Murhammer family of Freeport enjoy an Easter sunrise service at Bradbury Mountain in Pownal. From left are Michelle Capen-Murhammer, her grandmother Linda Capen, and her sister Melanie Capen-Murhammer.

The Murhammer family of Freeport enjoy an Easter sunrise service at Bradbury Mountain in Pownal. From left are Michelle Capen-Murhammer, her grandmother Linda Capen, and her sister Melanie Capen-Murhammer.

“I’ve been doing it for 36 years,” Williams said. “We’ve only had one service where it rained so hard we had to hold it inside the Congregational Church in Pownal. We’ve done it on ice and all sorts of conditions.”

Donald Thomas, the new pastor at First Baptist Church of Freeport, will be alongside Williams. The Rev. John Wentworth of First Parish Congregational, the Rev. Ray St. Pierre of North Pownal Methodist and Deacon John Murphy of St. Charles will be there, as well.

Everyone – church members or not – are invited.

St. Pierre and Wentworth will be down below, where a small pavillion is located. St. Pierre is excited that the most important day on the Christian calendar is being celebrated in such an inclusive fashion.

“I’m pleased with the way things have worked out,” St. Pierre said. “Typically there are three churches taking part, but there seems to be an ecumenical movement. Getting the Catholic church from Brunswick is a biggie. Denominations are man-made, but in the end that doesn’t matter. We’ve just been at odds with each other for too long. It’s time to come together and become one body.”

The sunrise service will be relatively short – approximately 20 minutes, St. Pierre said.

“For us, it just came about with a conversation among us pastors,” he said. “I just mentioned it to my congregation and they were very receptive to it. For people of very different theologies, it’s a coming together as one body.”

Wentworth said his church has been doing the sunrise service with Freeport Baptist for several years. There are usually about 100 people at the top of the mountain, and perhaps 50 at the bottom, he said.

“The top of the mountain is very scenic and inspirational,” Wentworth said, “especially if the weather cooperates. There’s no specific liturgy. There’s no denominational feeling of the themes and the verses.”

Thomas, who came to Freeport from South Carolina to succeed Williams at the First Baptist Church of Freeport, said he has been to a couple of Easter sunrise services.

“It’s a good opportunity for people to come together at sunrise and celebrate the resurrection of Christ, much like the day they found the empty tomb,” Thomas said. “We are seeing God’s beautiful creation and are reminded of how God raised his Son from the dead, and how this offers hope for us. We’re separate churches but Bible-believing churches come together under one faith of the resurrection of Christ, and celebrate together.”


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