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200 gather for sunrise service in borough

April 23, 2000|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - In the pre-dawn chill Sunday outside the Southgate Mall, about 10 people joined hands as the Rev. Richard Vandervort asked God to "turn this parking lot into a sanctuary."

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About 15 minutes later, as the leaden skies lightened and the street lights over the parking lot began to blink off, some 200 people had gathered for the Chambersburg Community Easter Sunrise Service. The parking lot in the Third Ward was a change of venue for the sunrise service, which Vandervort said has traditionally been held in Chambersburg's Memorial Park band shell.

"It's the whole community because the entire ministerium decided to come together with the (Chambersburg) Community Prayer Walk Committee" for the Southgate service. "We're going to serve communion in that united setting," he said.

A few minutes before the service began, Terry Wible, of the Zion Covenant Church, was standing atop a flatbed trailer conferring with his mother, Betty Tarner, who played the organ for the service.

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"I got here at about 5:30 a.m., but Terry was already here," said Tom Stenger of the Second Lutheran Church.

Stenger said volunteers from the Prayer Walk Committee and the United Churches of the Chambersburg Area set up 100 chairs before the service, but more were unfolded as the crowd grew. Many others brought their own lawn chairs.

The service brought together congregations from predominantly white and predominantly black churches of many denominations united in celebration of the resurrection of Jesus.

"If we are not colorblind now, we will be colorblind soon," Wible said later in the service.

The rains that drenched the area Saturday ended overnight. The sky remained gray, but "some day those skies will open and we will see clear into heaven," said the Rev. Darrell Baer, pastor of the Cedar Street Mennonite Church.

"There is a darkness, folks, when their is no view of Jesus," Baer said.

"In the world we live in, it's time for Christians to stand up and be counted," said the Rev. Nathan Bell of the Mount Moriah Baptist Church. "Hold on to God's unchanging hand."

The words of the speakers were punctuated by "Amens" and "Hallelujahs" from the worshippers.

Area churches banded together for Good Friday services at the Central Presbyterian Church and a candlelight Easter vigil and Holy Communion service Saturday at the Park Avenue United Methodist Church.

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