Callaway Gardens held their annual Easter Sunrise Service at 7:30 a.m. under cloudy skies and with a slight breeze. Nearly 500 guests attended the service that was conducted under the protective covering of one of the gardens’ lakeside pavilions.
As guests entered the Hwy. 27 gate, they were greeted by Callaway Gardens’ employees guiding their way with flashlights. Due to the threatening weather, the service which was originally scheduled to be conducted on the open lawns, was moved to one of the lakeside pavilions. Seating was available on either side of the tall central stage area and coffee and tea were setup on either side.
Callaway Gardens’ Chairman and CEO Edward Callaway started the service and welcome to everyone. Music throughout the program was performed by Mandy Brown and Beth Cantrell who were both from First Baptist Church of LaGrange. Scripture readings were read by Savannah Weiss, a member of Cornerstone United Methodist Church of Auburn, Ala., and J.B. Morgan of Hamilton Baptist Church of Hamilton. Leighton Ford of Leighton Ford Ministries delivered the Easter message and benediction for the service.
Ford, who had previously given Easter messages at Callaway Gardens, expressed how pleased he was to be able to return to the Gardens on this Easter Sunday. The message that he delivered was one of hope, understanding and the need for people to spread the news of Jesus.
“Some pastors (seeing the crowds at Easter service), would ask, ‘Where have you been all year?’ but Ben (one of Ford’s friends), would say, “If you had to pick one day to come to church all year, I am glad it was today,’” Ford said.
Ford spoke of the importance of emotions in one’s life.
“Jesus knew of tears. Don’t be afraid of tears, don’t be afraid of crying, some people cry easier than others, God is often speaking (to us) through those tears,” Ford said. “When was the last time that you cried or saw someone else cry? … God knows that and he also knows your name.”
Ford told of the importance of being recognized by name and how Jesus called Mary Magdalene’s name when she first discovered him away from his tomb where he was laid. Magdalene first thought that he was the gardener and wanted to know what he had done with Jesus’ body. When she did finally recognize Jesus, he told her to go and tell the others what she had discovered, the Son of God had risen. Ford called on the morning worshipers to also bear witness for Jesus.
Ford used a poem by Mary Oliver to help him get his message across.
“She wrote, ‘Pay attention, be astonished, and tell about it.’ Pay attention to the beauty of creation, pay attention to the people around you and tell about the great news that Jesus is alive,” said Ford. “The Lord has risen isn’t he?” The audience answered with a resounding, “Yes.”
A live broadcast of the service was provided by 93.3 FM, WOAK Christian Radio.