When Marco Island residents first celebrated Easter on Marco Island, early traditions were centered on church activities. For those who were early risers, Easter morning began with two services, instead of one. Children would fidget through services anxiously waiting to return to their Easter baskets after an early morning sermon on the beach. Then, families would attend mass or services again at their respective churches, following the sunrise service.
It was a cool morning when more than 100 people attended that first sunrise service, presented by Marco Island Presbyterian Church, more than 25 years ago, and worshippers in beach chairs lined the beach. Today, thousands flock to the beach, just beyond Marriott’s Marco Beach Resort, to hear the Easter story. This year’s message will be presented for the first time by Pastor Bill Lyle, as Pastor Fiol gave his final sermon last year, prior to retirement.
“I actually have two different sermons. One I have for the sunrise service and one for the Presbyterian service,” said Lyle, as this year’s sunrise sermon is appropriately titled, from First Corinthians 15, “Toothaches, Toys and Timeless Truths.”
As to how he prepares for his sermon, Lyle replied, “Mentally, the way I prepare is by thinking about how Jesus rose from the dead and in my mind, I ask, ‘Was it a morning like today?’ and ‘What does this message of hope mean to our modern day society?’ ”
With more than 7,000 people in attendance last year, Lyle will have plenty of listeners at 7 a.m., April 12, Easter morning.
“As far as you could see, it was a sea of people,” Lyle recalled about last year’s service.
Kirk Nance agreed. One of the first members of the church, Nance assists in organizing this yearly Easter service, with the exception of when he was out of the country for a few years in-between.
“This is a big community event on Marco,” said Nance. “We try to share the ceremony with pastors around the island. Thomas McCullough will be opening this year’s event, and he’s from New Life Church of Marco.”
Nance gave a few pointers for worshippers. “Bring a chair and bring a friend. Parking is always a challenge. Members of Residents Beach can park there, or there’s parking at Marco Walk, or there’s Sarazen’s Park.”
Load up Easter Baskets at Mackle’s Spring Jubilee
Prior to Easter services, Islanders can load up with fun for little ones at Mackle Park, from 10 a.m. to noon, Saturday.
Mindy Matusiak, program supervisor for Mackle Park, is already preparing for one of the biggest events of the season, as hunters search for hidden Easter eggs throughout the playgrounds and under shady oak trees at picturesque Mackle Park.
“We had 12,000 Easter eggs last year, and this year we’ll have 17,000 eggs. We’re also setting up a bounce house, an inflatable slide, and there will be a tae kwon do demonstration at 11 a.m.,” says Matusiak, about some of the exciting activities offered at the Spring Jubilee.
Be on the lookout for the Easter Bunny and more surprises, such as a great, golden egg. Matusiak says.
“We’re doing a Golden Egg contest this year. Out of four hunts, there will be two to three golden eggs in each hunt. Easter egg hunters then turn those golden eggs in to the DJ for an exciting prize.”
She has decorated the Mackle Park community building ceiling with pastel Easter eggs. Don’t forget to bring your Easter basket to celebrate a ritual with origins that date back to the arrival of German settlers, when the baskets became a symbol of the holiday.
“I would come early, due to parking restraints,” recommends Matusia. “We’re looking for volunteers to hide Easter eggs, too.” Volunteers can join park staff in hatching up some fun activities for children on the island by signing up at Mackle Park, from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Friday and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday, or by calling 642-0575.