Bernie Chey, left, pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, and Robert Wagner, pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, pose inside the church hall following the Easter Sunday sunrise service.

As the sun peeked over the horizon Sunday morning, more than 115 people gathered on a hillside near Copperas Cove for Immanuel Lutheran Church’s annual sunrise service.

The hill was topped with a large white cross, stone steps and a concrete tomb, a fitting setting to teach the lesson of Jesus’ resurrection.

“The message of Easter is seen when the women come to the tomb and they think Jesus is dead because they saw him die on the cross,” Pastor Robert Wagner said. “They were going to take care of him, but were surprised to find that the tomb was empty … it’s a wonderful sight.”

Joann Jones, a longtime member of Immanuel Lutheran, has attended the sunrise service for many years.

“When you get up to the cross, there is always someone there to greet you and welcome you to the church. Then you sit on the steps near the cross,” Jones said. “What goes through my mind is that I am blessed to be here another year.”

A separate pathway was built to drive the elderly and those with limited mobility to the top of the mountain to worship and enjoy the view.

“It’s nice and it’s probably a lot like it was in Jerusalem,” said Bernie Chey, pastor of Trinity Lutheran. “You hear the birds singing and I guess in a sense we try to re-create the experience and then the scriptures convey the reality of the empty tomb.”

Eudoris Weiser, who has attended services at Immanuel Lutheran since the 1950s, was impressed with how the services have evolved over the years.

“It’s just a very special part of our Christian life,” she said. “Without Jesus suffering and dying and rising from the dead, we would have no chance of going to heaven.”

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