As grey, overcast clouds roll along in the predawn hours of Easter Day, a crowd gathers at the Arlington National Cemetery Memorial Amphitheater to take part in the Easter Sunrise service.
The event, despite the low morning temperatures and forecasts of rain, drew many locals and tourists alike to receive the service and reflect on the meaning of Easter. Still, numbers were reduced due to the inclement weather.
The hour-long ceremony opened with “The President's Own” U.S. Marine Band and the Call to Worship, led by Military District of Washington Chaplain (Col.) James E. May, who gave way to more musical selections from the Marine Band and the hymns, “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” and “Crown Him With Many Crowns,” sung by the morning's congregation.
Maj. Gen. Galen B. Jackman, the commanding general of the Military District of Washington, welcomed those present to the service then stepped aside for an individual performance by Marine Staff Sgt. Kevin Bennear, a vocalist with the U.S. Marine Band.
Current Air Force Chief of Chaplains, Maj. Gen. Lorraine K. Potter, then gave the chilled morning crowd an impassioned sermon.
“On this Easter morning, I greet you in the name of our risen savior, Jesus Christ,” said Potter, who was both the first female chaplain commissioned by the Air Force and the first female chaplain in the Department of Defense to reach the rank of a general officer.
“It is a unique experience to share with you the Gospel message as first experienced that Sunday morning following the horrific crucifixion of our master,” said Potter to the crowd. “I have written these words in poetry and prose as the scriptures spoke to me.”
Potter launched into her sermon titled, “He Lives” in reference to when Jesus was resurrected three days after his crucifixion on what is now known as Easter Sunday.
Potter's fervor seemed to warm the cold amphitheater through her sermon and captivate the congregation with her energetic oratory.
“We know not what this day may bring,” said Potter. “We know not what the future may hold. But we do know He is… He is in grace, He is in hope and he is in Love.”
“He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today” continued Potter.
Potter, who is set to officially retire in June, concluded her last Easter Sunrise service sermon as a military chaplain with words from the hymn “I Serve a Risen Savior,” written by Alfred H. Ackley.
“He walks with me and talks with me along life's narrow way,” said Potter. “He lives, He lives, salvation to impart. You ask me how I know he lives? He lives within my heart.”
After the final hymn, the U.S. Marine Band played the final musical selection to close out the service.
As the drops of rain began to fall on the ground of Arlington National Cemetery, the congregation filed out of Memorial Amphitheater. A Changing of the Guard took place at the Tomb of the Unknowns and amid the chilled drizzle of the morning, many stayed to watch, reminded of the Soldiers fighting overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan.
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Michael Robert Patterson was born in Arlington and is the son of a former officer of the US Army. So it was no wonder that sooner or later his interests drew him to American history and especially to American military history. Many of his articles can be found on renowned portals like the New York Times, Washingtonpost or Wikipedia.
Reviewed by: Michael Howard