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From church to church: Local congregations get together to have joint Ecumenical Easter Vigil service

A cup of coffee between friends and colleagues quickly turned into an idea, which then turned into a plan, which then became a reality for a group of Dickinson churches this past Easter weekend.

On Saturday evening a group of more than 70 people gathered for an evening of s’mores and worship as a part of the first Ecumenical Easter Vigil. The service included members from St. John Lutheran Church, Dickinson United Methodist Church, First Congregational Church, Peace Lutheran Church and St. John’s Episcopal Church. (Submitted photo)
On Saturday evening a group of more than 70 people gathered for an evening of s’mores and worship as a part of the first Ecumenical Easter Vigil. The service included members from St. John Lutheran Church, Dickinson United Methodist Church, First Congregational Church, Peace Lutheran Church and St. John’s Episcopal Church. (Submitted photo)

A cup of coffee between friends and colleagues quickly turned into an idea, which then turned into a plan, which then became a reality for a group of Dickinson churches this past Easter weekend.

A group of more than 70 people gathered Saturday evening for s'mores and worship as a part of the first Ecumenical Easter Vigil. The service included members from St. John Lutheran Church, Dickinson United Methodist Church, First Congregational Church, Peace Lutheran Church and St. John's Episcopal Church.

The night began with a bonfire and s'mores at St. John Lutheran in downtown Dickinson where people had a chance to get to know members of the other churches. Ellery Dykeman, who is a pastor for multiple Dickinson churches, said the group then walked, or in some cases drove, from church to church, guided by a lantern and someone carrying a large cross.

The Easter vigil service had 10 Bible readings that were broken up among the four stops.

"Each church kind of did those readings in whatever creative way they wanted to," Dykeman said. "We had everything from a dramatic reading to a reading with a hand-bell choir that was providing background noise. There were some musical skits, a video and some just standard readings. ... We had a little bit of everything mixed in."

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He said it was fun to be involved with the other churches and for people to just be able to see what the inside of another church looks like.

"The fun part was that none of us really could have done this alone very well," Dykeman said. "The fact that we kind of shared it made it not so hard and stressful for any one pastor. We just had to do a little bit of work. But, the neat thing was people got to worship in different churches that maybe they had never been in before."

The service ended with communion at St. John's Episcopal, complete with incense.

Organizers were originally hoping for a turnout of 20 to 30 people. Instead, Dykeman estimated 60 to 80 people were involved with the two-and-half hour service. The idea for the vigil came up over a cup of coffee among the pastors of the churches involved.

"This is the first year, so we thought we'd see how it went, but it went better than we expected and had more people than we expected," Dykeman said. "... It was just a fun community event. It was neat."

Joe Natwick, an associate pastor at St. John Lutheran, said it was an "awesome" experience that allowed people to connect with one another.

"We always say the church is not confined to our buildings, but that the church is the people that live in the community," Natwick said. "So, this was one really cool way to live out that idea that we actually got to be church walking through the streets of Dickinson as we journeyed from each congregation to the next."

Derald Payne, who attended the service, said he was glad to be a part of the event. He said it was definitely a learning experience.

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"It was a good experience," Payne said. "I really enjoyed it because you got to see the inside of the other churches, which you never see. They sort of spoke how their religion would speak at a sermon, so it was very enlightening."

Some members of the group also carried a long, wooden cross from church to church. Dykeman said the idea to carry the cross came from Pastor Dick Rinearson at the United Methodist Church, who actually had a 7- to 8-foot long cross at his congregation.

Natwick, who carried the cross with the help of some friends, said he was expecting a much smaller cross, but thought it added a special element to the vigil.

"Carrying the cross through Dickinson, like across Third Street, was a fun way to really proclaim the Gospel in our community," he said.

Dykeman said they wanted the service to be joyous.

"We've gone through Lent and especially Holy Week and Good Friday where it's very somber. This is a very joyful service as we welcome the light of Christ," he said.

While the coffee group has yet to discuss plans for next year, Dykeman heard from many members who want the vigil to continue into the future.

"We haven't had a chance to sit down and meet about it, but I'm sure we'll be doing it again next year," he said. "People were already asking at the end of the service, making sure we were going to do it again next year because they wanted to come and bring some friends. ... I believe it will continue."

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Related Topics: DICKINSON
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