MARCO ISLAND — As if on cue, Mother Nature held off on the sprinkles until after the sunrise service.
And that was to the delight of an estimated 4,500 people who flocked to the beach this morning on Marco Island to participate in the 20th annual Easter Sunrise Service.
Tracey Bowman and her family were among the early arrivals, to make sure they had good vantage points.
“It’s such a lovely setting,” Bowman said. “I photographed it last year and shared the pictures with my church in Hagerstown, Maryland.”
Armed with a flashlight in the pre-sunrise darkness, volunteer Pat White handed out programs.
“This will give us an idea of how many people attend,” he said. “I like to come out and do my part ... volunteer, whatever.”
He said the highlight for him is always the sermon, this year given by the Rev. Bruce Fiol, who is retiring this year after serving Marco Presbyterian Church.
Fiol’s main message was that despite national and global economic gloom and the ongoing threat of terrorism, faith will win through.
Technical coordinator Kirk Nantz and his team had their hands full with Saturday’s downpours and the threat of Sunday showers, but was happy when the rain held off for the service.
“It was a challenge,” he said before the start. “We couldn’t do sound rehearsals until early on Sunday morning, but everything is fine now.”
Complementing Fiol’s inspirational message were the Rev. Thomas McCulley of New Life Community Church and vocalist Linda Sandlin, who drew applause for her rendition of “Were You There.”
Sandlin’s husband, Alan, joining her in a duet along with trumpeter John Stein, and the Rev. William Lyle of Marco Presbyterian Church offered closing moments and prayer.