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111th Easter Dawn Service held on Mount Penn

Bundled up in blankets and comforters, Manny and Janessa Mercado with their four children braved temperatures in the low 40s to attend the Easter Dawn service Sunday atop Mount Penn at the William Penn Memorial Fire Tower.

“We are so grateful for Christ’s resurrection,” Janessa said, “and it’s just a fun family tradition for us to wake the children up and celebrate up here on Mount Penn that Christ arose!”

The Mercados, members of Shiloh Mennonite Church at 421 Bingaman St., Reading, were among more than 250 worshippers who took part in the second-oldest mountaintop service in the U.S.

“I love how we have all the congregations come together in one,” Manny said.  “To worship Jesus together, there’s power in that.”

Manny and Janessa Mercado, members of Shiloh Mennonite Church, are bundled up with their children from left Paxin, 3; Yadiel, 4; Zion, 6; and Yashira, 1, during the 111th Easter Dawn Service Sunday at the William Penn Memorial Fire Tower atop Mount Penn. (BILL UHRICH - READING EAGLE)
Manny and Janessa Mercado, members of Shiloh Mennonite Church, are bundled up with their children from left Paxin, 3; Yadiel, 4; Zion, 6; and Yashira, 1, during the 111th Easter Dawn Service Sunday at the William Penn Memorial Fire Tower atop Mount Penn. (BILL UHRICH – READING EAGLE)

The event since its beginning in 1914 has been sponsored by First Baptist Church in Reading.

First Baptist has been joined by Iglesia Jesucristo Es El Rey, which has shared the worship space at the church since 2015.  First Baptist recently gifted the church buildings at Fifth and Chestnut streets to the growing Latino congregation.

First Baptist member Ray Miller of Exeter Township first attended the service in 1962.

The 85-year-old recalls helping to organize and prepare for the event back in those days.

“I used to bring the organ up here with Bob Nye,” he recalled.

That was a more significant undertaking than the lightweight electronic keyboard used today.  Nye was an organ retailer known as “Bob Nye the Organ Guy.”

First Baptist Church member Brenda Dalehousen of Sinking Spring has been attending the services for 33 years.

“Intergenerational and ecumenical are always good,” she said as the sun began to warm the mountaintop following the service. “And I just love that we’ve incorporated other cultures and their languages. It’s great that the message was translated. We want everyone to feel welcome.”

Pastora Carol Rivera of Iglesia Jesucristo Es El Rey delivered the message “Victory Day!” in English, translated into Spanish by Pastor Jose Pagan.

Illuminated by the rising sun, Pastora Carol Rivera of Iglesia Jesucristo Es El Rey delivers the message "Victory Day!" while Pastor Jose Pagan translates her words into Spanish during the 111th Easter Dawn Service Sunday at the William Penn Memorial Fire Tower atop Mount Penn. (BILL UHRICH - READING EAGLE)
Illuminated by the rising sun, Pastora Carol Rivera of Iglesia Jesucristo Es El Rey delivers the message “Victory Day!” while Pastor Jose Pagan translates her words into Spanish during the 111th Easter Dawn Service Sunday at the William Penn Memorial Fire Tower atop Mount Penn. (BILL UHRICH – READING EAGLE)

“It is a day of victory that we celebrate the savior that we serve,” Pastora Rivera proclaimed. “From the valley to the top of the mountain, we let the whole world know that Jesus Christ is risen — Victory Day!”

The ecumenical nature of the service was on full display.

Andrew Angstadt, director of music at St. Catherine of Siena Roman Catholic Church in Exeter Township, played the keyboard and sang the prelude and postlude.

Benjamin Reber of A’hava Church in Reading sounded the shofar.

The Rev. Calvin Kurtz, formerly the head of the Reading-Berks Council of Churches, was the song leader and gave the invocation. The Rev. David Turley of First Baptist led the Easter prayer and the Lord’s Prayer. Gretchen Manmiller, also of St. Catherine’s, read the scripture, and Craig Caltagirone of Calvary Mohnton United Methodist Church, offered the benediction.

The Unstoppable Youth of Iglesia Jesucristo Es El Rey performed a liturgical dance.

The Unstoppable Youth of Iglesia Jesucristo Es El Rey perform during the 111th Easter Dawn Service Sunday at the William Penn Memorial Fire Tower atop Mount Penn. (BILL UHRICH - READING EAGLE)
The Unstoppable Youth of Iglesia Jesucristo Es El Rey perform during the 111th Easter Dawn Service Sunday at the William Penn Memorial Fire Tower atop Mount Penn. (BILL UHRICH – READING EAGLE)

Mike Reinert, emcee and pastor of Grace United Methodist Church at 1112 Union St., announced that the 112th Easter Dawn Service will take place next year on April 20.

“I’m feeling warmer already,” he said with a smile.

The youth group from Iglesia Jesucristo Es El Rey are wrapped up against the morning chill during the 111th Easter Dawn Service Sunday at the William Penn Memorial Fire Tower atop Mount Penn. (BILL UHRICH - READING EAGLE)
The youth group from Iglesia Jesucristo Es El Rey are wrapped up against the morning chill during the 111th Easter Dawn Service Sunday at the William Penn Memorial Fire Tower atop Mount Penn. (BILL UHRICH – READING EAGLE)


Source: Berkshire mont

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