The Dalles The 89th annual Easter sunrise service at Pulpit Rock, this Sunday, March 31, at 6:30 a.m., rain or shine, has a new booster promoting it: the Mid-Columbia Fellowship of Churches.
The event has always been put on by The Dalles Masonic organizations, and it has had a variety of joint sponsors over the years.
Bob McNary, with the Fellowship of Churches, has worked to increase publicity for the service this year.
“We’re pushing everywhere we can,” he said. “Each church that I can get is going to have a little splinter of the service.”
McNary said he hoped people were aware it was an early-morning service. In the early days of the sunrise service, local Masons made sure everyone knew simply by riding around town, honking their car horns and blowing trumpets, “anything at all to make people aware that there is a sunrise service. That goes back to when you joined an organization to have fun and do your thing.”
That tradition has gone by the wayside, and the Masons themselves are becoming fewer and fewer. Hew Hillis, master of the local Masonic Lodge, said, “I think the average age of a Mason is over 80.”
The Masons are not a religious organization, “but you have to believe in God,” Hillis said. “You have to believe in God to be a Mason, but it doesn’t say which God.”
The Masons do good deeds, and don’t seek recognition, he said.
With the shrinking population of the Masonic lodge, some assistance from another organizations was sought, and the Fellowship of Churches agreed to help.
As is tradition, the sunrise service, which usually lasts about a half hour, has participants from a variety of local churches, and other individuals. The audience for the service is anywhere from 25 to 75 people, depending on the weather, Hillis said.
“A lot of people show up to this and a lot of people look forward to this,” he said.
The street is closed off for the service, and about 50 chairs are set up for attendees. Pulpit Rock is behind the high school, on 11th Street.
The Masons provide a wooden ladder and welded steel platform — about eight feet off the ground — for the minister to stand on so he can reach the “pulpit,” or flat part of the rock, to deliver the sermon.
The Masons also attach a three-foot-high cross to the rock, using bolt holes drilled into the rock years ago.
In the early years of white settlement, missionaries who preached to local Native Americans “did actually assault the rock, climbed up there, and preached,” said McNary.
It would be more authentic to not have the ladder and platform, but it has been used for the sunrise service ever since the Masons began sponsoring it, Hillis said.
Early missionaries chose Pulpit Rock – which used to be much higher before streets were built up around it – as a preaching point because it was near a Native American settlement at Amaton Springs.
McNary, who attends the Methodist Church, said, “We’ve always referred to it as the Methodist Rock because that’s where the Methodists started their mission.”
The Methodists also hold another service each year at the Pulpit Rock, aside from the Easter service.
The prelude music will be performed by Caroline Homer of United Church of Christ Congregational, and the call of the bugle is by Joe Chrisman.
The welcome is by the Rev. Donnamae Grannemann, former interim pastor at United Church of Christ Congregational in The Dalles, and a prayer will be offered by Rebecca Evans of Zion Lutheran Church.
The Rev. Jerry Tanquist, of First United Methodist Church, will speak about the significance of Pulpit Rock.
The Easter message will be given by Tyler Beane, pastoral intern at First United Methodist Church.
Scripture, John 20:1-18, will be read by Grannemann, with Klea Espy in the role of Mary Magdalene and Jeff Krier in the role of Jesus.
McNary said the Easter service at Pulpit Rock is held at sunrise “because that is when Christ rose from the dead and escaped from the tomb. They got to the tomb and it was already opened. He fulfilled his prophesy: destroy my kingdom and it will restore in three days.”
This year, attendees of the sunrise service are invited to also attend the final part of the local passion play, where Christ is arisen from the tomb. That will take place at 8 a.m. at First Christian Church, 909 Court St.