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Lehigh Valley, Berks County celebrate Easter in unique ways

By John Craven, Reporter, JCraven@wfmz.com
Published On: Mar 31 2013 05:11:58 PM CDT
Updated On: Apr 01 2013 04:39:25 AM CDT

Lehigh Valley celebrates Easter

Perhaps it was "divine intervention."  Sunday's rain held off just long enough for thousands throughout our area to celebrate Easter Sunday, including one celebration that's marking a century-old milestone.

In Lehigh Co., worshippers rose before dawn, making their way to Big Rock on South Mountain.

"As the early disciples went to the tomb early in the morning," said Pastor Donald Schwartz of St. Andrew's Lutheran Church in Salisbury Twp., "and when they got there, it was empty.  And that showed that Jesus was, indeed, the son of God, because he rose from the dead."

For those who braved the 30-degree chill, there is a certain symbolism in Easter Sunday.

"Easter is the promise of life for everyone," said worshipper Anita Rice.

In Reading, they celebrated an Easter milestone.

"Here in Berks County, it's been an Easter dawn tradition for 100 years now on the mountain," said Michael Kaucher, executive director of the Reading-Berks Conference of Churches.

Since 1914, crowds have gathered at the top of Mount Penn for sunrise services.

"[My] first time was 75 years ago," said Ray Renninger of Reading.  "Look at that … cross up there.  My older brother built it."

For many in Berks Co., it's an Easter tradition since they were children.

"We come every year for this service," said Linda from Exeter.  "Some of my ancestors helped build the wall around around here, the walls that are down here."

"The fact that this is the 100th year that they're celebrating up here is just phenomenal," said Heather Endy of Douglassville.

Her mom, Janice, added: "Each year, the crowd seems to grow."

Kaucher estimated about 600 people came out this Easter Sunday morning, for one simple reason.

"We do this because of what God did for us," he said.

Reading's Mt. Penn service is the second-oldest mountaintop Easter service in America. 

And here's some more Easter trivia: the group that started the sunrise service tradition almost 300 years ago were the Moravians, who remain in large numbers in Bethlehem.