Popular and beloved Easter Sunrise Service returns Sunday

Jill Yris
Special to the Eagle
The Marco Island Easter Sunrise Service is now the largest, one-hour event on the island with the 2019 attendance estimated to be 10,000.

We didn’t expect a pandemic, especially one that lasted two years. But being prepared for the unexpected is what Easter is about. Because what happened on Easter morning long ago restores us. And whatever your personal beliefs are, attending Marco’s Easter Sunrise Service on the Beach will uplift your spirits and leave you with renewed hope.

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Marco Island resident Scott Kerens said, “My hope for this Easter message is that we remember together the foundational real-life event situated at exactly the pinnacle of world history. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection are still the greatest collision of religious history no matter your faith. Whatever one actually believes about God, each must address the Easter question in her or his own heart; “What if Jesus rose from the dead?

“Television shows like ‘The Chosen’ and movies like ‘The Passion of the Christ’ help paint some of what the Bible reveals about Jesus in living color,” continued Kerens who is Lead Pastor at Marco Presbyterian Church and will be delivering the message from Romans 5:8 entitled Make Christ Your Hope! “It is this gracious and loving God whom we will worship with songs, prayers, and an inspirational message on Easter at the beach!”

The Paradise Strings.

We have many new visitors and residents to our area and when you hear that the service has large crowds attending, don’t panic. For it is truly a smooth and well-orchestrated event. If driving, park in Residents for members or along Collier Blvd. Marco Island police block off two lanes for street parking and they will direct you were to park. If walking, bring a flashlight and allow time to get to the staging area by 6:45. Walkers are quiet and respectful, carrying chairs, blankets, beach towels and wearing shorts, sweatshirts or pj’s.

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JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort and Spa have been the beach host since the beginning and since the beach addition of the Madeira Condominium, its board and members have also allowed the actual stage to be erected for the service on their beach property. EMS trucks on the beach are available to serve any emergency and behind-the-scenes volunteers are spread out on the beach and will direct and help as needed.

Many of the churches on the Island have representatives in special music and/or minister participation at the service with Marco Presbyterian Church initiating, organizing, and financing this largest single community service on Marco since 1988. Pastor Casey Nowlin, The Family Church, will lead the opening prayer, Alan Sandlin will MC and lead the audience in singing, Pastor Steve Schoof, Marco Presbyterian Church will lead the prayer before the message and Pastor Thomas McCulley, New Life Community Church, will lead the closing moments and prayer.

Matt Papa with his daughters.

Marco Church artist-in-residence, musician and world-renowned hymn writer Matt Papa will lead the special music, including performing 2 of his songs: Christ our Hope in Life and Death and Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery. “All of us live in the tension between where we are and where we ought to be,” said Papa. “We try our best to bully our desires into submission. And we all know, this is exhausting. You don’t need more willpower. You need a vision of greatness that sweeps you off your feet. You need to see glory. So, we have to change what we worship. And we change what we worship, by understanding, beholding, gazing into the Gospel.”

Thousands gather for what is reputed to be the largest Easter dawn service in Florida. Multiple Marco churches joined together, welcoming thousands for the 31st Annual Easter Sunrise Service on the beach behind the JW Marriott hotel.

Joining Matt Papa on stage will be Jean Rowles on harmony and from Paradise Strings of Naples, Joan Stewart, violin; Bradley Blaufuss, viola; Angela Villanueva, cello. Paradise Strings, LLC is a collective of seasoned professional string players playing violin, viola, cello, guitar, ukulele, and harp for a variety of events and celebrations. "I have recently enjoyed collaborating with Matt Papa on special services for Marco Presbyterian Church," said Angela Villanueva, Paradise Strings. "And have a passion for making beautiful music and spreading the gospel at every opportunity." The group will be performing various hymns including To God Be the Glory and Christ the Lord is Risen Today.

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Jill Yris is an established writer of magazine features, web and business work as well as ghostwriting and editing books. Her portfolio includes national subjects such as actress Shirley Jones, Wall Street Journalist Foster Winans, renowned artist Taylor Oughton and Coach Johnny Majors. JillYrisWriter.com.

If you go

Marco Island’s 32th Annual Easter Sunrise Service on the Beach

  • 7 a.m., Sunday, April 17, prelude begins at 6:45 a.m.
  •  JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort, 400 S. Collier Boulevard, Marco Island
  • Beach Access: North of the Marriott Spa and the public access north of the Madeira Condominium; Resident's Beach parking lot will open at 6 a.m. for member parking.
  • Parking: The Marco Police and volunteers will direct traffic and assist with parking, including double parking along Collier Boulevard.
  • Guest music: Matt Papa; Paradise Strings of Naples
  • What to bring: Blanket or chair
  • Special needs: For those who need assistance, handicap parking will be available near the Marriott Spa with golf carts to assist to the edge of the beach.
  • Information: 239-394-8186