By Rick Pfeiffer
Niagara Gazette — YOUNGSTOWN — The sea gulls on Lake Ontario were just waking up and filling the wind-chilled air with their cries.
As the Christian faithful filed on to the parade ground of Old Fort Niagara, the moon still hung high in the sky.
With close to 150 congregants milled in front of one of the fort’s waterfront platforms, the Rev. Dr. Charles Lamb, assistant to the pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Youngstown, urged them to come forward.
“Gather in here,” he said. “There’s no sound system.”
“It will also keep you warm,” someone yelled back.
Then quoting from the New Testament Gospel of John, Lamb began the annual sunrise Easter Service at the fort by reminding the crowd about the most important moment of the Christian faith.
“Well, the women came to the tomb (of Jesus Christ) while it was still dark,” Lamb said. “And it’s still dark now. But daybreak is coming.”
And with that, the crowd broke into the traditional Easter hymn, “Christ the Lord is Risen Today.” As the song filled the air, the first hint of light began to break through the overcast skies.
Lamb, who has been part of the sunrise services at the fort for 14 years, smiled.
“There are dark times, but better days are ahead,” he said. “It is, to me, the true meaning of Easter. Out of darkness comes light.”
The Rev. Dr. Rex Stewart, pastor at First Presbyterian Church, told the crowd Easter was a perfect time to give thanks.
“Thank you God, what more is there to say,” Stewart said in his Easter message. “Thank you for removing the fear of death, Thank you God for new life.”
It is the most important tenant of the Christian faith that Jesus Christ, after being crucified, rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven. That belief leads Christians celebrate Jesus’ resurrection.
“Thank you for life eternal,” Stewart said. “Thank you for life, wonderful life.”
When the pastor then asked the crowd, “What are you thankful for?”, they yelled back, “Jesus Christ.”
Stewart, and the other pastors who officiated the service, kept it simple and quick and then sent the faithful on their way with the blessing, “Continue to sing the glad songs of victory. Dare to live the welcoming message of God’s grace.”
Even after more than a decade, Lamb said the sunrise service never gets old.
“Oh no, not for me,” he said. “It’s always exciting, it’’s always new and it’s always good news.”
And, Lamb added, “It’s almost always freezing.”