One Northwest Washington Baptist pastor moved from his pulpit to a lily beside it, asking the overflowing congregation to marvel at God's work. A Methodist minister preached his message in a church full of balloons.

In Arlington, an 81-year-old Catholic priest delivered his Easter sermon from a tattered homily he had written a half century ago.

An Episcopal priest held a baby up to his Chevy Chase congregation and called his church's third service of the day the best of all, for it included a baptism.

Throughout the metropolitan area, men, women and children, dressed in everything from casual clothes to new spring outfits, flocked to their churches for Easter services yesterday on the most significant and joyous day of the Christian year.

Although rain had been forecast, none appeared; instead, sun played through clouds and the temperature reached a high of 64 degrees.

"I think Jesus had something better in mind," said Mike Glenn, an electronics engineer for the Navy, as he swept water from the night's rains off the steps of the Lincoln Memorial before an interdenominational sunrise service sponsored there by his church, the Capital Church of Falls Church.

By 6:30 a.m., more than 300 people had gathered on the memorial steps. They faced the sun rising over the Washington Monument as they settled down on blankets, towels and even deck chairs. A woman raised her arms out wide in an embrace. The fading moon was still behind them.

As the church choir began singing "How Great Thou Art" to the accompaniment of a brass ensemble, the congregation on the steps began singing.

A 6-year-old boy looked down at his younger sister sleeping beside him on a blanket and covered her with her coat, then stood up to sing, too.

Three joggers in bright lavender and turquoise jogging suits ran up the steps, panting. They had run three miles to get there. "Why should we drive a car on such a beautiful morning? You can worship while you're running," said Henley Roughton of Alexandria.

"This is a birthday today," called out the Rev. Amos Dodge, pastor of the church. "It celebrates not only this Easter, but new life in Christ."

As the service ended, the first of four services was beginning at Our Lady of Lourdes Roman Catholic Church, 830 S. 23rd St. in Arlington.

As elsewhere, not all those attending were regular churchgoers. "It's Easter--it's just a feeling I should be here," said Dan Allen, a 34-year-old Army sergeant who said he goes to church sporadically.

"Our resurrection is to be after the manner of Christ's resurrection, glorious in body and soul," said the Rev. Charles Comaskey, the 81-year-old pastor emeritus of the church, following the yellowed pages of a sermon he had written more than 50 years ago. "Let this Easter morning be for all of us a preparation for that Easter day when all flesh shall see the salvation of God."

At Mount Sinai Baptist Church, Third and Q streets NW, where the Rev. David Durham was preaching at his 8 a.m. service, some congregation members were wearing spring clothes, and several women wore straw Easter bonnets. They filled the pews and folding chairs set up in the aisles and doorways.

"Just because you know Jesus died on the cross to atone for your sins, that doesn't save you," the white-robed pastor challenged. "Amen," murmured members of the congregation.

He moved from the pulpit to a lily beside it. "Look at this flower--white, green and yellow here. This flower, it's going to die," he said. But its seeds can live on if planted in the ground, he said: "If you want to live, you've got to deposit your life in something." A woman in the choir began humming a gospel hymn to his words.

At mid-morning, there were balloons, banners and clowns at Foundry United Methodist Church, 1500 16th St. NW. Balloons lettered with "Christ Lives--Celebrate" from an earlier service were gathered at the altar. At the end of the service, clowns came down the aisles handing out more to the congregation, adults and children alike.

First one balloon, then a second, and then still others broke loose and drifted up to the ceiling dome. Robert Dolibois of Arlington was smiling at his 6-year-old son Ryan. "Christ has risen--yeah!" the child burst out as he yanked a balloon in his hands to watch it dance.

At noon at St. John's Episcopal Church, 6701 Wisconsin Ave. in Chevy Chase, the Rev. Duane S. Alvord's last Easter service of the day included the baptism of a baby.

"That's the message of Easter--love bottled up and poured out in the life and death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, God's love made available to each and every one," he said as he prepared for the baptism.

"Didn't I tell you the best was yet to come?" he asked the congregation softly after the baptism, the baby in his arms.