With a lawn chair strapped to her shoulder, Andrea Fuller, 42, quickly made her way to the Lincoln Memorial for the start of the 6:30 a.m. service. As the sun began to beam above the U.S. Capitol, ushers handed out programs and greeted the throngs by saying: “He is risen.”
“This is not an event we sponsor, but an assignment we have to our city, our nation and world,” Dodge said in a written statement. With many churches and officials at Arlington National Cemetery hosting sunrise services across the Potomac River, the event at the Lincoln Memorial has become one of the region’s largest and most diverse expressions of faith on Easter Sunday.
Ceena Idicola of New York came to the service with some of her colleagues from an international internship program and spoke of how it joins people: “I think that this event really captures the heart of D.C., for all of us to come together and unite as one faith.”
Others felt similarly, speaking of the event as a beautiful and unifying one on a clear and cool Easter morning. Andy Bevan, 24, an intern from Scotland, said too often differences in faith pull people apart.
“We as Christians should come together and not have any barriers up,” Bevan said. “Jesus died and rose again for us, and this was a very positive thing.”
After songs from his choir, Dodge left the stage, walked up the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and led the audience in singing “Amazing Grace.”
“There is something about Amazing Grace that says it better than any other song because God’s grace is amazing,” Dodge said. “When we were unlovely, he loved us; when we were unforgivable, he forgave us. . . . I love this service because we come from so many backgrounds.”
Though he had been working to set up the stage and chairs for the event since midnight on Sunday, Andre Powell, 35, was in great spirits when the program began. “It is just a joyous occasion to be able to spend time with my family and serve the Lord,” Powell said.
President Obama attended Easter services at St. John’s Church Sunday morning, the third time he has visited the church on Lafayette Square near the White House since December. Powell said he plans to invite the president to come to the sunrise service on the Mall next year.
“In the 34 year history of this event, we have never had a president come,” Powell said.
Following Dodge’s sermon, ushers and ministers from the church passed out bibles as Dodge offered prayers and encouragement to those who came forward. As worshippers folded and stacked chairs at the end of the event, Dodge said it was a joy “to celebrate the resurrection with so many happy people.”