Army Chaplain Corps takes lead on Easter service
May 6, 2011
Before dawn Easter Sunday thousands of servicemembers, family and friends, Washington-area residents and tourists attended the annual Easter Sunrise Service at Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery.
One of three services open to the public each year, the traditional event is commemorated by millions worldwide to recognize Jesus\' rising three days after his crucifixion.
The Navy Band and their official chorus, the Sea Chanters, led by Capt. Brian O. Walden, commanding officer, performed the prelude and church call while more than 3,500 in attendance made their way into the amphitheater. The guests varied in their Easter clothing - from military dress uniforms to dressy and casual civilian attire, including a happy group of women from the Red Hat Society, wearing their aptly named Easter bonnets.
Mother Nature painted a canvas across the dark blue morning sky, that presaged a clear Easter day with warm temperatures.
During sunrise, the sky again changed hues to peaceful shades of pink and blue as the Navy Band tuned their instruments, warming up in preparation for the service's musical selections.
Chap. (Lt. Col.) Daniel J. Minjares, Pentagon chaplain, welcomed everyone in attendance, then led the call to worship with The Apostles' Creed as everyone stood reciting the responsive reading while the sun rose gallantly above ANC.
Everyone joined together singing the traditional Easter processional hymn ''Christ the Lord is Risen Today," with most of the lyrics written by Charles Wesley.
''We fill the spirit of our national heroes who stand in watch and wait for that holy day..." Capt. James R. Fisher, Chaplain's Corps, U.S. Naval District of Washington, said during the invocation.
Following the blessing of the worship service, Fisher led the crowd in the Lord's Prayer.
Welcoming remarks were delivered by Chap. (Col.) Steven L. Berry, command chaplain, Joint Force Headquarters-National Capital Region and Military District of Washington.
The chaplain welcomed 9-year-old Kevin Dunne, a Make-A-Wish Foundation participant from St. Louis, Mo., who was granted his wish to visit the nation's capital and attend the Easter Sunrise Service at ANC with his Family.
Berry also extended thanks to the Navy Band and Sea Chanters, who performed the musical selection ''If You Love Me, Keep My Commandants" following Berry's remarks.
The Navy Band performed ''Sabbath Morning at Sea" between the first and second lessons, read respectively by Navy Petty Officer Second Class Thomas J. Harrald, religious program specialist and Air Force Staff Sgt. Misty Edwards, ANC.
Following Edwards' reading, The Navy Band accompanied the Sea Chanters singing ''Great Day."
''Earth Shaking News: He Lives!" was the theme of the Easter sermon delivered by Army Chief of Chaplains, Chap. (Maj. Gen.) Douglas L. Carver, who was flanked by participating chaplains assigned to the NCR.
''It is an honor to be here at Arlington National Cemetery and to honor those who have fallen," Carver said.
He paid tribute to those who have fallen serving our country in ANC's Section 60, paraphrasing parents' remarks - ''We didn't give our son up to die. We thought he'd come home, get married, have kids and grandkids, but we feel certain we will see him in eternity."
Carver's sermon was compelling. ''We can spend the day complaining about all that's wrong in the world - weather, traffic, the economy - or we can leave this place with inspiration and hope ... refusing to quit when times get hard," he said.
''Christ is alive and has awakened us to a fresh day, a new day, and a fresh start. In challenging moments, we can look forward to today because he lives," Carver concluded.
The congregation stood and sang ''Hallelujah! What a Savior," followed by the benediction delivered by ANC Senior Air Force Chap. (Col.) Charles Cornelisse.
The Navy Band performed a spirited Postlude as some members of the congregation departed the amphitheater to spend a beautiful Easter Sunday with Family and friends, while others lingered to enjoy fellowship with congregants as the 45 American flags hanging between the amphitheater's white marble columns waved in unison to the slight breeze stirring the warm morning air.