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Sunrise Service in Rockland Maine.

Sunrise service is a worship service on Easter. It takes the place of the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, and Lutheran tradition of the Easter Vigil, and is practised mainly by Protestant churches. The service takes place outdoors, sometimes in a park, and the attenders are seated on outdoor chairs or benches.


The first Easter Sunrise Service recorded took place in 1732 in the Moravian congregation at Herrnhut in the Upper Lusatian hills of Saxony.[1] After an all-night prayer vigil, the Single Brethren, the unmarried men, of the community, went to the town graveyard, God's Acre, on the Hill above the town, to sing hymns of praise to the Risen Saviour.[1] The following year, the whole Congregation joined in the service. Thereafter the "Easter Morning" or "Sunrise Service" spread around the world with the Moravian missionaries.[1] The procession to the graveyard is accompanied by the antiphonal playing of chorales by brass choirs.[2]

In the United States

Many churches in the American South still hold traditional sunrise services in cemeteries as a sign of recognition that Jesus no longer lay in the tomb on Easter morning. The service starts early in the morning and is timed so that the attendants can see the sun rise when the service is going.[2] Services usually loosely follows the format of the church's normal service and can include music (hymns or praise band), dramatic scenes and the Easter message. After the service, the church may serve a breakfast that the attenders of the service can attend.[3]

The most famous Moravian Sunrise Service in the United States is probably that of the Salem Congregation in what is now Winston-Salem, NC, held annually since 1772.[2] Thousands of worshippers gather in front of the church and move to the graveyard in reverent procession.[2] The brass choir there numbers some 500 pieces.[2]


  1. ^ a b c The Easter Morning Sunrise Service, This Month in Moravian History, Number 18, 2007-04, Moravian Archives, Bethlehem NC.
  2. ^ a b c d e Easter Sunrise Service of the Moravian Church at God's Acre in Old Salem, Carolina Music Ways, 2003.
  3. ^ Services celebrate Easter, Wilkes Journal Patriot, 2009-08-10.


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