A group of Odessa churches are planning an Easter sunrise service from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. Sunday at Ratliff Stadium that they hope will unite area Christian churches and prompt oilfield workers who do not usually attend a church to participate.

The stadium is north of town on the west side of North Grandview Avenue.

First United Methodist Church Pastor Todd Salzwedel said Easter “is a defining moment for all of us.

“I hope the service will be a representation of the entire body of Christ, not one denomination or group over another,” Salzwedel said. “I’d love for it to serve as a symbol to the community and people all around of what the body of Christ really looks like.”

He said the city’s six United Methodist churches along with Westminster Presbyterian Church and the First Christian Church, which has been renamed Connection Christian Church, will send members to the event.

“Some people are nervous to darken the door of a church, but they might be willing to go to a service like this,” Salzwedel said. “It could be our best opportunity to develop a relationship with some of the oil companies and the men in man camps who cannot be home for Easter.

“If they can’t be with their families, they can be with a church family.”

The Rev. Russ Nebhut, pastor of Asbury UMC, said the service will be heavily symbolic because it was at the break of day that Mary Magdalene and the Apostles Peter and John found the empty tomb where the body of Jesus Christ had been laid.

“The light of a new day dawning is the symbol for the resurrection,” Nebhut said. “I got the ball rolling, and the guys at First Methodist took the lead. The community needs an opportunity to celebrate something positive, and nothing could be better than the victory Jesus won. We’re hoping the whole community will come, not just the churches.”