Easter sunrise service celebrates 60th anniversary
Photo by Timothy Ramsey
BY TIMOTHY RAMSEY
The first Easter Service Committee was organized with only three members – Velma Hopkins, Jerry C. Gilmore Jr. and Frances S. Gilmore – as a way to pay tribute to their loved ones who had passed away.
In 1957, the Easter Sunrise Committee held its first formal service at Evergreen Cemetery, the final resting place of each of the founders.
For the past 59 years, these services have been a fabric of the community, with guest speakers from various churches including Apostolic, Baptist, Holiness, Methodist, Presbyterian and others. Due to various reasons, the service had to be moved from the cemetery years ago.
In an effort to commemorate the 60th anniversary, the Original Easter Sunrise Committee co-sponsored with the Ministers’ Conference of Winston-Salem and Vicinity (MCWSV) to expand the efforts to be a citywide celebration. With that, the celebration has returned to Evergreen Cemetery.
Jerry C. Gilmore III, son of Jerry and Frances, says it feels great to have the service back at the cemetery. He thought it was important to return because it was so special to the founders.
“I can’t say in words how good it makes me feel and it’s an emotional situation,” Gilmore said. “I’m also ecstatic because of the warmth of the service and the inspiration of the message. I was really happy to see this many people come out.”
Rev. Dr. Lamonte Williams, president of the MCWSV and Senior Pastor of Diggs Memorial United Holy Church, was the worship leader for the service.
He says he and the conference were gracious to receive an invitation from the Sunrise Committee and was happy to have the conference partner with them.
“The conference was very excited about the collaboration because in the end, it’s about community work,” Williams said. “We at the conference would like to highlight that yes, we do social justice work, but in the end, we are a faith organization. This was a wonderful way for the Ministers’ Conference to say, ‘Yes, we are a part of the community.’”
“We thought it would be an ideal way for the community to know we are here on a spiritual level,” Williams said. “The Ministers’ Conference is a representation of a collaboration of faith leaders. So at the end of the day, the conference is recognizing the needs of the community. When we can gather around a common goal, we tend to forget about our individual differences.”
The service featured singing from Madam Mary Lee Hanie, a proclamation from the city of Winston-Salem and a message from the Rev. Dr. Paul A. Lowe Jr., senior pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church. His message about the Resurrection of Christ inspired all in attendance.
“To keep this tradition going is a powerful thing and it speaks volumes about the committee,” Lowe said. “I just wanted to let everyone know that with everything going on, Christ is risen. The fact that He is risen means there is hope. There is hope of a brighter and better future and that we don’t have to give up, even with a certain individual in the White House.”