Memories of some early Easter starts

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Sports Talk

By Robert Howey


When Easter rolls around each year, a  central thought comes to mind. That’s early morning, often just before dawn.

Of course, if you read the Bible and the glorious Easter story of the risen Christ, you know it was early morning, still dark, when Mary Magdalene visited the tomb and found He wasn’t there and had risen.

In that same sequence, according to scripture in John 20, verse 4, the Bible had one of its athletic feats.

“So, they both ran together, and the other disciple outran Peter and came to the tomb first.”

Hey, it was an exciting time, world changing. Plus, I’m always looking for a sports story.

Easter has often been an early start, going back to my childhood. My father, the late Jim Howey, would take me and my older brothers, Jim and Bill, to the annual sunrise service at Memorial Park.

Back then, the service was held beside the lake at the park. We’d usually stand at the top of the hill. Some years The Lancaster News would include a wide shot of the event. My mother, the late Bettie Howey, would say she could identify us as the four specks in the photo– Daddy, my brothers and myself, at the top of the hill. It was an early start because I recall we wore our Easter clothes,  including Sunday shoes, piled in Daddy’s car and headed to Memorial Park. Often, when Easter fell earlier than it is this year, it was a cold, frosty morning.

Something I fondly remember is when we returned home, the Easter bunny, in one of his last stops, had filled our baskets in the den. It happened every time. I recall getting a baseball bat one year.

Over the years, I’ve kept the sunrise service tradition with my family, Anne along with our children, Caroline and Jackson. Memorial Park doesn’t host a community service any more. We usually find one, most of the time at Good Shepherd United Methodist Church near our home. The service is meaningful and they have breakfast and fellowship afterward. It’s a good start to a grand day.

Some years, we’ve been at the beach and attended a community service by the ocean. It’s quite a sight to see, the sun rise over the water. One such beach service featured a spirited retired minister.

He quickly gained the attention of the early risers, saying in stunning fashion, “I believe in rock and roll. Yes, I believed He rolled back the rock.”

His words had an impact because it’s been a number of years and I vividly remember it. Later, the same minister split the crowd in half, and in the fashion that cheerleaders do at a football game, he said one side say “Jesus Christ” and the other, “He has risen.”

With the rousing response, he made his point. 

Sunrise services, no matter where, are special. No matter where you’ve been, you feel the power and what it must have been like on that first Easter morning. The beauty of spring, new life and the dogwoods promise.

At Easter, I’m grateful for a family tradition my father began and ever thankful of the Father and his risen Son.

Happy Easter.