WATERVILLE — Sarah Mills of the First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, stood near the Kennebec River before dawn Sunday and told of how Jesus rose from the dead on Easter.

Mary Magdalene went to the tomb in which Jesus’ body had been placed and saw a large stone in front of it had been moved, Mills said, reading aloud from the Gospel of St. John.

Mary called to Simon Peter and another disciple that the Lord had been taken from the tomb and she did not know where he was. Mary wept as she stood outside the tomb. She turned around and saw Jesus, but thought he was the gardener. Jesus said: “‘Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?'” Mills read.

It was then that Mary realized who he was and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord.”

Mills, the Congregational Church’s Christian education supervisor and Sunday school teacher, spoke to about 50 people who turned out Sunday at the RiverWalk at Head of Falls for the ecumenical Easter sunrise service organized by the Waterville Interfaith Council. Worshippers began arriving at about 5:30 a.m.

Seagulls and ducks flew over the Two-Cent Bridge as the sun slowly emerged from a smattering of clouds on the Winslow side of the river. The people, wearing masks because of the coronavirus pandemic, stood in a circle and sang, prayed and greeted friends under a half moon still visible in the sky over the gazebo.

The Rev. Thomas Blackstone, pastor of the Pleasant Street United Methodist Church, welcomed the group, saying the Easter sunrise service is one of the “delightful traditions of the Interfaith Council,” which represents a number of different faiths in Waterville.

Blackstone introduced Mills and John Balicki, rector of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church; Sister Judith Donovan of the Sisters of St. Joseph; Kate Smanik, dean of religion and spiritual life at Colby College in Waterville; and the Colby InterVarsity Christian Fellowship Singers.

Donovan offered a call to worship: “Alleluia, Christ is risen,” she said, to which the group responded, “Christ is risen, indeed.”

The Colby singers — junior Lensky Augustin and freshman Giftlin Rajarathinam — sang “Christ the Lord is Risen Today,” with Rajarathinam playing the guitar. Later, they sang, “Because He Lives.” Kayla Murphy, a Colby junior and worship team coordinator, was on hand to support them.

Mills read a prayer of confession and assurance, with the group responding, and Smanik read aloud from First Corinthians.

Blackstone offered a reading, “And the Glory,” by Ann Weems, from “Kneeling in Jerusalem.”

Balicki recalled the last time he was at Head of Falls — June 7, 2020 — when he and others gathered at noon to support Black Lives Matter and recite names of those who had died, including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery.

“Unfortunately, since June 7, we have added many names,” Balicki said. “We have still had many victims of racial violence in our country and senseless shootings.”

Worshippers take part in a responsive reading during the Ecumenical Easter Sunrise Service at Head of Falls in Waterville. The service drew about 50 people. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

Balicki also cited the many people who have died from COVID-19.

“We are much in need of resurrection this year,” he said.

He then asked the group: “Why are we here? What are we looking for? Even more importantly, who are we looking for?”

All come looking for something, Balicki said.

“Please know that just as Jesus called Mary by her name,” Balicki said, “he calls each of us by names as well.

“Here on this beautiful morning, as the sun will rise at some point, remember there is one person we are looking for, and he is looking for us.”


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