Easter sunrise service setCommunity invited to 7 am. Sunday ceremony in Ratliff Stadium

The Odessa Ministerial Alliance got off to a good start with its first annual Easter sunrise service last year in Ratliff Stadium and organizers say attendance is sure to increase when this year’s event begins at 7 a.m. Sunday.
That’s because OMA participation has grown from seven to 14 churches that will be bringing their members and welcoming people who don’t have a membership.
First United Methodist Church pastor Todd Salzwedel said the 50-minute service drew 400 people last year. “It’s a great snapshot of what the body of Christ looks like,” Salzwedwel said.
“If we’re going to spend all that time together in Heaven, we’d better start learning to like one another down here. We would love one day to fill Ratliff’s whole western stands. How cool would it be for 8,000 to 10,000 people to pray to God together and watch the sun rise?”
Salzwedel said the Southside OMA will join the service this year in the stadium just north of town on the west side of North Grandview Avenue.
The Rev. Tim O’Neal, pastor of Refuge Ministries, said it “is a way of honoring and celebrating Christ’s conquering of the grave.
“The scriptures say Mary Magdalene, Peter and John went to the tomb at sunrise and found it empty,” O’Neal said. “The disciples were scratching their heads, but we know that yes, Jesus did what he had said he was going to do. He is who he said he was, the Son of God.
“Being out in the crisp morning air as the sun is coming up represents a new day and a new hope dawning.”
O’Neal noted that the sun rises in front of the worshippers in the western grandstands. “It shines through the gate and onto the field,” he said.
“It’s a beautiful setting with some of the feeling the disciples had when they ran to the tomb and found it empty.”
Mackey Chapel UMC Pastor Karen Carlson said the service is an experience that cannot be duplicated indoors. “Being outside when the Easter sun is rising is hard to describe,” Carlson said.
“All the people who don’t belong to a church have a place to celebrate the resurrection. The community is invited.”
The speakers will be the Revs. Vaughny Taylor, Sean Smith and Quincy Randall, Gene Collins, Bishop G.T. Garnett II, O’Neal and Carlson.
Coffee and hot chocolate will be served by the Chuck Wagon Gang.