On Easter Sunday, Wrightsville Beach residents and visitors from around the world will come to the beach before dawn, set up their lawn chairs and towels, and worship together as the sun rises.
This island tradition is one that Wrightsville Beach has created to celebrate unity among local churches and add to the traditional ancient rituals tied to Holy Week, local church leaders said.
At 6:30 a.m. on Easter Sunday, five Wrightsville Beach churches of different denominations expect to host 1,200-1,500 people at public access No. 17 as Reverend John McIntyre from Wrightsville Beach Baptist Church gives an Easter message.
“We have all of the pastors on the beach participate,” said Rev. Pat Rabun of the Little Chapel on the Boardwalk.
Each year the leadership of Wrightsville United Methodist Church, Little Chapel on the Boardwalk, Wrightsville Beach Baptist Church, St. Andrew’s On-the-Sound Episcopal Church and Wrightsville Avenue’s Pilgrim Rest Missionary Baptist Church rotate speakers to create this unified service.
The start of the tradition is somewhat of a mystery, according to Rev. Rabun who said that he thinks the service began about 40 years ago.
“We don’t really know when it all began,” Rabun said. “We can’t find anyone who went to the first service, but I have spoken to people who have been going for over thirty years.”
This local Wrightsville Beach tradition is fairly new in the eyes of Holy Week traditions. Individual congregations across the area are honoring their faith through a variety of services and rituals that date back to biblical times.
St. Andrew’s On-the-Sound begins their worship this week with a Maundy Thursday service at 7p.m., followed by two daytime services and a blood drive on Good Friday. Parish secretary Barbara Burdett said the blood drive was in honor of the blood that Jesus Christ shed. Good Friday represents the day of his execution in the Christian faith.
On Saturday evening, St. Mark’s Catholic Church will await Easter with their vigil beginning at 8:15 p.m.
Finally, on Sunday morning, the churches will leave the confines of their individual sanctuaries and members will celebrate the rising of the sun as they remember the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
“It’s a wonderful thing on Wrightsville Beach,” Rabun said. “Our kids go to the same schools, we shop in the same stores, we play golf together and it’s cool to all come together on Easter to worship.”
A little further south, North Pointe Community Church is hosting another large service near Crystal Pier at 7 a.m.. Pastor Jeff Loman said the church started its service 17 years ago to serve the south end of the island.
“We wanted to create a service on the beach where anyone could come but that primarily targeted tourists,” Loman said. “The interesting thing is that we now have regulars who have made this an annual family event.”
It has become the church’s largest outreach event, but Loman said it is not intended solely for North Pointe Community Church. The church sponsors and hosts the morning by providing coffee, juice, donuts, biscuits and child-friendly entertainment for the community to gather around.
“Many of the people who come have their own churches but come anyway to worship together,” Loman said. “There are services all up and down the beach.”
After they leave the beaches in the morning, most of the churches return to their own spaces and host their regular Sunday services.
Holy Week Services on Wrightsville Beach
- St. Andrew’s On-the-Sound Episcopal Church: 7 p.m.
- St. Therese Catholic Church: 7:30 p.m.
- St. Mark Catholic Church: 7 p.m.
- St. Andrew’s On-the-Sound Episcopal Church 11:15 a.m.& 12 p.m.
- St. Therese Catholic Church 3 p.m.
- St Mark Catholic Church: 12 p.m., 3 p.m. & 6 p.m. (en espagnol)
- St. Mark Catholic Church: 9 a.m. (en espagnol) & 8:15 p.m.
- St. Therese Catholic Church: 8:30 p.m.
- St. Andrew’s On-the-Sound Episcopal Church: 8 p.m.
- 5:00 am Church of the Servant Easter Sunrise Service at Beach strand at access 4
- 5:30 am Grace Baptist Church Easter Sunrise Service at Beach strand at Holiday Inn
- 6:00 am Little Chapel/Community Easter Sunrise Service at Beach strand at access 19
- 6:00 am Pine Valley Church Easter Sunrise Service at Beach strand at access 43
- 6:30 am 1st Presbyterian Church Easter Sunrise Service at Beach strand at access 34
- 6:30 am North Pointe Church Easter Sunrise Service at beach strand at Crystal Pier
- 9 am Hope Church Easter Service at WB Park Event Stage