Congregations from throughout Southwest Florida will gather at City of Palms Park in downtown Fort Myers on Easter Sunday, March 31, to worship and to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Doors open at 5:30 a.m. for the Easter Sunrise service, which begins at 6:30 a.m. There is no admission to attend or for parking at City of Palms Park (former Red Sox stadium). Free coffee and pastries will be served both before and after the service.
The inspirational message will be delivered by Rev. Arlene Jackson of Grace United Methodist Church, Fort Myers Central Campus.
Rev. Arlene Jackson
Ministers from a dozen area churches participated in the planning of this year's annual service, which which is a 20-year tradition in Fort Myers.
Supporting the program are Rev. Gary E. Cox of First Christian Church; Rev. Jeff DeYoe of Covenant Presbyterian Church; Rev. David Pleasant of Elevation Ministries; Rev. John Q. Daugherty of First Baptist Church of Fort Myers; Rev. Paul deJong of First Presbyterian Church of Fort Myers; Rev. Chris McNeill s of First United Methodist Church; Rev. Dr. William Glover of Mount Hermon Ministries; Rev. Philip D. Read, II, SSC, of St. Luke's Episcopal Church; Rev. Dr. Israel Suarez of Templo Cristiano El Buen Samaritano; and Rev. Douglas Kelchner of Thomas A. Edison Congregational Church.
Additional churches are encouraged to bring their congregations to the service as well.
The Community Easter Sunrise Service has been a tradition since the 1950s and has moved over the years from the Fort Myers High School Stadium to Centennial Park to City of Palms Park. This is the 20th year that the service has been conducted at City of Palms Park. Last year, more than 3,000 people attended the service.
"We welcome and encourage everyone to join us on Easter Sunday for this community-wide worship service," said Rev. Cox, chairman of this year's planning committee. "We have room for 7,000 people at City of Palms Park and we'd like to pack the place with people who wish to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ."
Music will be provided by Vocal Artistry with conductor Joseph Caulkins, an outreach of First Baptist Church of Fort Myers, along with music from a praise team. The service is inter-denominational.
Rev. Jackson is the pastor of the Fort Myers Central Campus of Grace United Methodist Church, where she has served for nearly four years. Prior to that, she served several pastoral positions at Grace United Methodist Church, Cape Coral Campus. Prior to ministry, Rev. Jackson worked in the legal field.
Born in New York, Rev. Jackson has lived in many places across the U.S., including Dallas and Los Angeles County. Her seminary education is ongoing at Duke Divinity School in Raleigh Durham, N.C.
"I love people in recovery from hurts, habits and hang-ups and those who are struggling with life issues because I have been sober and growing in 12-step recovery groups for 27 years," Rev. Jackson said. "My ministry is shaped by my personal experience in recovery."
Rev. Jackson and her husband Chris have five children and live in Fort Myers.
For more information about the service, call (239) 334-0316 or visit www.cityofpalmssunrise.org.