Easter Sunrise Service On The Beach Set For Bay Head

BAY HEAD, NJ — For nearly 80 years, a group of pastors from the Point Pleasant area has gathered on the beach at sunrise on Easter to mark the most holy day in Christianity with a prayer service.

“All of the pastors take a piece of the service,” said Rev. Don Stevens, pastor of Central United Methodist Church in Point Pleasant Beach, the current chair of the Point Pleasant/Bay Head Area Churches organization.

The service combines the solemnity of Easter with the beauty of the beach at daybreak, and is open to anyone to attend.

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“I’ve been here 11 years and it’s one of my favorite things,” Stevens said of the Easter service. “It brings together churches that all have Christianity in common.”

For years the service was held in Point Pleasant Beach, Stevens said, and in the years before the pandemic drew more than 200 attendees. The service was not held in 2020 or 2021 because of pandemic gathering restrictions.

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The churches group resumed the Easter service last year, but it moved to Bay Head because Jenkinson’s, which had hosted the service for many years, did not have the staffing needed to accommodate the sunrise gathering, Stevens said.

It will be in Bay Head again this year for the same reason, at the Karge Street beach.

That beach is not handicapped accessible. People who come should bring blankets or beach chairs to sit on. The service begins about 7 a.m., because of the beach access rules of the Bay Head Improvement Association, which manages the borough’s beaches.

“It’s not right at sunrise, but our sense of it is we’re still gathering,” Stevens said. Sunrise is at 6:28 a.m. on Easter in the Ocean County area.

The service will include a free-will monetary offering to benefit St. Gregory’s church food pantry in Point Pleasant Beach.

“We are only accepting monetary donations,” Stevens said; food donations can be made directly to the pantry.

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If it rains, the service will move inside to St. Paul’s United Methodist Church on the corner of Bridge Avenue and West Lake Avenue in Bay Head.

Last year’s service drew about 100 people, and Stevens noted that it matches a trend all of the pastors have seen with church attendance since the pandemic.

“Some simply stopped coming, others got used to watching the service online,” Stevens said, an option many houses of worship across all faiths offered during the pandemic, to provide that spiritual connection for their members.

Connection and cooperation is the goal of the Point Pleasant/Bay Head Area Churches organization, which used to be known as the ministerium. There are seven churches that participate regularly in the organization, which is free and open to all of the area’s churches to participate, Stevens said.

The churches participating in Sunday’s service will include Central United Methodist Church, Point Pleasant Presbyterian Church, Harvey United Methodist Church, St. Mary’s By the Sea Episcopal Church, and St. Paul United Methodist Church, Stevens said. Other churches that participate in the organization include All Saints Episcopal Church and the Bay Head Chapel.

“We keep this service going because it’s got such a rich history,” Stevens said. “It’s a special community tradition.”

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