Everywhere you look there are large displays of chocolate bunnies, miniature candied eggs and bright-colored baskets as well as Peeps in numerous colors. Restaurants offer special menus for Sunday brunch and of course there are the always-constant seasonal clothing sales — all of this, in preparation of Easter.
These secular trappings of Easter abound on Marco and in the media. Seeing this gave the Church Lady a pause, and spurred a question: how did locals celebrate Easter as a child, how do they plan to celebrate it this year, and how has the celebration changed for them over the years?
Many shared stories of Easter egg hunts, colored eggs, the Easter bunny, hidden baskets of candy, delicious family feasts, dressing up and going to church.
Our discussions brought to mind the following verse: “When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.” 1 Corinthians 13:11 (New Living Translation)
For Donald Pecora, Family Church—Marco member and small group leader, Easter as a child meant putting on dress clothes he couldn’t dirty and going to church. Church was endured until he could go back to his basket of sugary loot. His penchants for sweets lead him to a lasting relationship with the Mendez family.
Four years ago, Donald Pecora and his wife Liz traded the northeast cold for the balmy weather of Southwest Florida. Francisco Mendez was painting their home. He was prompt, his work was meticulous and Pecora noted that Mendez also worked at two restaurants.
Liz came up with the idea to make Easter baskets filled with small gifts and toothsome treats for the painter and his family. On the following Monday they were greeted with a basket of fresh warm tortilla, enchiladas and chile rellenos.
The families have since shared many meals, birthdays and trips to the zoo and beach and most importantly church.
“Thanks to Christ’s sacrifice, and a few Easter baskets, our families have become one and our lives have been blessed beyond measure,” wrote Pecora in an email.
Easter for San Marco Catholic Church member Kristen Babst will be a triple blessing. Her family will celebrate the joy of the Resurrection and Babst’s birthday on Sunday and on Saturday at the Easter Vigil Mass her fiancé Jeremiah Hester will be baptized and confirmed as a Catholic.
Babst’s parents treated Easter like Christmas. She would wake up to find the Easter basket laden with gifts from the Easter bunny.
“Once we got that out of the way we treated it as a holy day and went to church,” she said. “It was a very important day for us to get together and celebrate what Jesus had done for us. I was aware as a child that He suffered for us. I continue to learn more and more about Jesus every day, to love him more and my relationship with Jesus grows every year.”
“My name is Kristen, I have Christ in my name and this year my birthday is on Easter. I feel even more connected to what I can’t see.”
As a child growing up in Alabama, Easter was the most important holiday for New Life Community Church member Bobbie LeCroy-Lansdown and her large extended family. Whenever possible members would gather and attend church together. Everyone would dress up; she remembers dresses with crinolines. Everyone looked forward to the southern-style dinner right after church: ham, turkey and dressing, lots of collard greens, black-eyed peas and biscuits. For dessert there would be a whole table of cakes. The women delighted in and took great pride in making them.
Her extended family whenever possible still gather for an Easter meal but now it’s on Easter Eve.
“As a child it was all about the food and the dress, the Easter Bunny and family,” she said. “Now it’s all about the power of the Resurrection.”
She is also a member of her church’s Praise Band and looks forward to singing the contemporary song, “It Took a Lamb.”
“Just thinking about the words right now brings tears to my eyes,” said LeCroy-Lansdown, her voice breaking. “He didn’t come as a king because He knew it took a lamb.”
Although he attended church and Sunday School on Easter was more of a play date for United Church of Marco member Russell Rainey.
“I do remember some nice meals,” he smiled.
Easter has evolved into something much more spiritual. He and his wife still go out for a nice meal after services but the most important thing for him now is participating in the worship service.
“It has always been a joy to play the bells at Easter, to be part of the celebration to God ... Our playing is our gift to God and those in the congregation. Those who hear the music are lifted spiritually. Our hope is that it will bring them closer to God.”
He is sad, however, that due to a brief medical leave of absence by the church’s Director of Music Bill Elliot, there will be no bell ringing this year.
St. Mark’s Episcopal Church’s Youth Minister Peggy Totten recalls learning the importance and solemnness of Lent and the ritual of doing the Stations of the Cross every week. She also remembered being frightened by the large cross that took 10 men to carry at one Good Friday service.
Easter involved very little of the secular aspect, although the Easter bunny did hide baskets and her family watched “The Ten Commandments” with Charlton Heston every year.
Now that she has children of her own she wants them to learn about the events that led up to Jesus’ Crucifixion and his triumphal Resurrection.
“I didn’t realize how important attending the Stations of the Cross and the Good Friday services were to me as a child but they remain with me as an important part of my faith development,” wrote Totten in an email.
Her family looks forward each year to St. Mark’s Church’s outdoor Island Style Service, Easter egg hunt and fellowship.
“I have a feeling my children will have grand memories of their Easter services when they are my age.”
Marco Lutheran Church members Frank and Jane Capozzi fondly remember their family Easters as children.
“We went to church but didn’t really understand,” said Jane. “Our whole Easter now focuses on the spiritual side of it as opposed to the secular side.”
For them, Easter means Christ has risen. He overcame death and the power of the devil and believers now have the promise of eternal life.
They look forward to the worship services at Marco Lutheran where they will serve as ushers or lay ministers. They also plan to have a special meal.
“Easter has always been about Christ and family, our family and our church family,” wrote Wesley United Methodist Church member Peter Clapp in an email. His musical family would sing or play during Holy Week.
He also decorated, made drawings, and participated in Easter egg hunts; the fun was in the doing, with friends and family.
The music has not changed much over the years, except there is more. Clapp is a member of both his church’s choir and the Naples Orchestra and Chorus. He used to sing the Easter portion of Handel’s Messiah and has sung Dubois’ Seven Last Words of Christ for the past 16 years.
“It is so good to see that familiar piece capture congregations and move them to tears, as they get involved in His words.”
This year is a little sad because he will not see his grandchildren on Easter; instead he saw them the week before.
“We will still decorate our home and enjoy Easter with our church family and have diner with good friends, but alas, no Easter egg hunt.”
For Capri Christian Church Elder Ron Wooten, Easter as a child was a once-a-year celebration. “In contrast to everything you do now, every week ties into the celebration of the Risen Savior,” he said. His calling is singing and he wants to be a good steward. He sings in his church choir and has recently joined Marco Presbyterian Church’s nursing home ministry.
“We sing to bless people who can no longer get out to church.”
He also sings with the Praise Team Wednesday nights at Marco Lutheran Church.
“Both the Presbyterians and Lutherans have been very gracious; they have welcomed and blessed me.”
He relishes every opportunity to share the gospel and sing and is looking for more opportunities. “Singing is just like breathing.”
Wooten also oversaw everything from permitting to mowing the lot for Easter Under the Big Tent at Capri. “Easter is an opportunity for us to reach out to the community.”
Marco Presbyterian Church Elder and adult Sunday school teacher Jerry Francis recalls Easter services with family as a 5-year-old. Afterwards his grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins would go to dinner at a cafeteria. His family was not rich and eating out was special.
This year, as they have done every year since 1995, Francis and his wife Nancy plan to attend the Easter Sunrise Service on the Beach. He looks forward to hearing the meaningful message of the Resurrection and hearing Dawn of Billy Dean and Dawn sing. He will also attend the worship service at his church followed by a neighborhood Easter dinner.
“As a child I believed in God, however, I was not aware of the price Jesus paid for my sin and ultimate salvation,” he said. “Easter celebrations highlight the Resurrection and the essence of the Gospel. Easter reminds Nancy and I of our relationship with Jesus and what he did for us.”
Kathleen Tuttle, a Marco Island resident since 1987, has written articles for various non-profits for more than 25 years. She is a community volunteer, former science teacher and microbiologist. Kathleen can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Marco Lutheran Church
Prayer Shawl Ministry, 1 to 2:30 p.m. every Wednesday.
National Health Care Decision Day “Five Wishes” presentation, 9:30 to 11 a.m. April 16 by parish nurse Gail Cacciola. It is every individual’s right to make their preferences for end-of-life wishes and other important medical decisions known. It becomes a difficult situation when loved ones are unable to speak and make those choices for themselves. “Five Wishes” provides a structure for conversations about the five critical choices we can make in advance that help direct the type of medical care. It also helps guide loved ones during times of grief, distress and sadness. Five Wishes forms will be available for $2 each, and may be filled out during the presentation. The forms are valid under the laws of most states. Information call the church.
Marco Presbyterian Church
FamilyLife Marriage Seminar, “The Art of Marriage,” 7 to 9:30 p.m., April 20 and 9 a.m. to noon, April 21. For more than three decades, FamilyLife has helped couples understand God’s plan for relationships. The six-session video event portrays both the challenges and beauty of God’s plan for marriage through expert teaching, engaging stories, man-on-the street interviews and humorous vignettes
The $55 registration fee per couple includes study materials; refreshments on April 20; and a continental breakfast and lunch on April 21.
Contact Paul Flores at (239) 253-4755 or the church office at (239) 394-8186 to register. For additional information visit theartofmarriage.com.
The last Music for Soul Concert will feature an evening of gospel music with Grammy-Award-winning tenor Larry Ford 6 p.m., April 15. Free; a love offering will be received.
Passover and Easter
Passover: Today-April 14
Easter: April 8
Friday Family Church—Naples Easter prayer service, 7 to 9 p.m. with refreshments. Both the Spanish and English congregations will join together to pray for the needs of the church and community. There will be a time for worship, song and prayer walking throughout the night. Weather permitting they will meet underneath the outside canopy, please bring your own lawn chair.
Easter Family Church—Marco, 9 and 10:30 a.m.
Easter Family Church—Naples, 11 a.m.
San Marco Catholic Church
Good Friday, 8:30 a.m., Morning Prayer; 3 p.m., Adoration of the Cross; 7:30 p.m. Seven Last Words
Saturday 8:30 a.m., Morning Prayer; Noon, Blessing of Food; 8:15 p.m. Easter Vigil with Candlelight Service
Sunday Masses 7:30, 9, 10:45 a.m. and 12:15 p.m. at the Church; 9:30 and 11:15 a.m. at the Charter Middle School
St. Finbarr Parrish
Good Friday, 3 p.m.
Holy Saturday, 8 p.m.
Easter Saturday Vigil Mass, 4:30 p.m.
Easter Masses, 8 and 10 a.m. in English and 11:45 a.m. in Spanish.
United Church of Marco Island
Easter Sunrise Service, 8 a.m., Easter Service, 10 a.m.
Church of God
New Life Community Church
Saturday, 6 p.m.
Easter, 10 a.m.
St. Mark’s Episcopal Church
Good Friday, noon, Solemn Service
Easter, 6:30 a.m., Vigil of Light Holy Eucharist; 9:15 a.m., Island Style Holy Eucharist with Children’s Flowering of the Cross on the Labyrinth on the Bluebird side of campus, with J. Robert on the steel drums (bring a beach chair). Children’s Easter Egg Hunt to follow; 10:30 a.m., Festival Holy Eucharist with orchestra and choir.
Marco Lutheran Church
Good Friday, 7 p.m. Service
Easter Services ,8 and 11 a.m.
Wesley United Methodist Church
Easter Services, 9 a.m. Contemporary Service and 10:30 a.m. Traditional Service
Easter Sunday Service, 10:30 a.m. under the Big Tent
Marco Presbyterian Church
Easter Service, 10:30 a.m. will include praise music, bell and adult choirs. The message is entitled “The Power of the Resurrection.” The Christian education classes and evening worship service will not meet on Easter.
Easter Sunrise Service
The Twenty-fourth Annual Marco Island Easter Sunrise Service on the Beach begins at 7 a.m., at the Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort, 400 South Collier Blvd., Marco Island. Beach access will be north of the Marriott Spa and the public access north of the Madeira condominium.
Participating clergy will be Marco Presbyterian Church’s Lead Pastor the Rev. William “Bill” Lyle, New Life Community Church’s Pastor the Rev. Thomas McCulley and Wesley United Methodist Church’s Pastor the Rev. Kirk Dreiser. This years message is entitled “Yesterday, All My Troubles Seemed So Far Away.”
Dawn Birch of Billy Dean and Dawn will provide special music. The prelude will begin at 6:45 a.m. with Marco Presbyterian Church’s Music Director, Marv Hollenbeck at the keyboard.
The Marco Police and volunteers will direct traffic and assist with parking. Double parking will be allowed on Collier Boulevard for the event. Residents’ Beach will open at 6 a.m. for members’ parking. Dress is casual; please bring your own blanket or chair.
Information call (239) 394-8186.