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Holiday brings hope

Churchgoers get message of rebirth

Churchgoers get message of rebirth

March 28, 2005|by KAREN HANNA

karenh@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - Vehicles filled the lot at Bethel Assembly of God Church, parking outside of the designated spaces, including the lawn, where green grass soon will grow.

Some of the cars belonged to church regulars, and some did not.

At Bethel Assembly of God on East Wilson Boulevard, as at many churches, attendance at Easter and Christmas services is always high. It is encouraging newcomers to return that is the challenge.

All are welcome, Pastor Terry Broadwater said, inviting Easter Sunday visitors to pick up information about the church as they left after the service.

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Broadwater said he believes most people are looking for a connection to others and purpose for their own lives, and "if they leave feeling a hope, if they leave feeling encouraged, I believe those people will come back."

The Rev. Mark Sandell of St. Andrew Presbyterian Church in Williamsport said his church's typical attendance is about 230 or 240 people. On Christmas and Easter, that swells to more than 300, he said.

Women in pastel dresses and men in suits lingered with children in ties and tights after St. Andrew's services, taking pictures and quietly talking.

Newcomer Alexander Pierce Finn was attending church for the first time. He couldn't be missed.

The 10-week-old slept in his mother's arms as she reflected about the meaning of Easter.

"It's just a rebirth of the faith again and the new year. It's just a reminder of what was given up for us. It's just another celebration of new life," Jenny Finn of Hagerstown said.

Becky Hoover, associate minister of Christ's Reformed Church on Franklin Street, said the church strives to provide an atmosphere of love.

"We want everyone to feel welcome and know that they have a place as part of God's family," Hoover said.

Broadwater said he hopes people will find an authentic, relevant experience at Bethel Assembly of God, where the pews Sunday were filled with swaying, praying, hand-clapping worshippers.

As an usher, Henry Ryder, a four-year member of Bethel Assembly of God, welcomes visitors and regulars alike.

"We try to make them feel like they can come back next week," Ryder said as the church's opening multimedia, musical montage played. "We don't try to discourage them. It's that Easter message. He's alive, and we should try to show that we're alive, and He is here."

The chilly, misty Easter morning could not wash away the jubilation of believers Sunday.

For people like Kittylee Harbaugh of Hagerstown, hope springs eternal.

She attends St. Andrew Presbyterian Church regularly - two services every Sunday, and three on Easter, she said.

"It's hope," Harbaugh said. "It's hope. I mean, there is no death, and we don't walk this path alone."

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