New Castle News

April 1, 2013

Photo Gallery, Story: Pastor challenges listeners at Easter sunrise service

Dan Irwin
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Just minutes into yesterday’s community sunrise service at Lawrence Village Plaza, a lone Canada goose appeared.

The bird soared over the elbow of the shopping center, emitted a few distinctive “honks,” then circled back in the direction from which it had come.

A sign from God? Maybe not; still, for a fowl more commonly spotted in pairs or flocks, its solo flight through an overcast sky became a foreshadowing of sorts for the Easter morning words of the Rev. Bill Schafer.

Schafer, pastor of Dewey Avenue Holiness Church, lamented the way in which some Christians attempt to blend in with the world. He urged them instead to leave behind the masses and stand out against a background of clouded testimony.

“Our country was founded on godly principles; on God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,” Schafer said. “But we are living in an hour when we are watering down our testimony.

“We are watering down our faith until we are afraid anymore to tell people that we are born again and that we have the hope of eternal life with Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Citing John 3:15 — “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish but have everlasting life” — Schafer reminded his listeners that the resurrection of Jesus that Christians celebrated yesterday also awaits those who proclaim him as Lord and Savior.

“The resurrection which Jesus talks about is a total transformation,” he said. “You’re going to have a new body. It’s going to be a new world. It’s going to be exciting.”

Although “amens” from worshippers periodically answered Schafer’s encouragements, temperatures in the upper 30s meant gloves that muffled the sounds of clapping and worshippers whose energies were divided between praising God and staying warm. Some sat in their cars to listen to the service over their radios, their responses halted by steel and glass.

Schafer reminded one and all, though, that it would not always be that way.

“We might be quiet here this morning, but the morning is coming when not a one of you is going to be quiet,” he thundered from a lecturn set up on a semi trailer, just above the re-creation of an empty tomb. “You’re going to be singing the hallelujahs of glory forever and ever. We’ve got something wonderful to look forward to.

“Don’t be ashamed to be a Christian. Don’t be ashamed of your faith. You possess the greatest thing on the earth.”

Overall, eight churches took part in yesterday’s nondemominational service, which opened at 7 a.m. An offering was taken to benefit the Alpha Omega pregnancy resource centers in Slippery Rock and New Castle.

Meanwhile, Cornerstone Community Church once again sent its praise band to provide worship music, and Steve Pridon, music director at First Presbyterian Church, sang “Was It a Morning Like This?” and “Because He Lives.” In addition, a group of local pastors exchanged sermons for song, performing “Worship Christ the Risen King.”

Both speakers and singers dealt early on with a P.A. system that seemed intent on funneling feedback as well as faith to the assemblage. The Rev. Joseph Lahr of Cornerstone, though, kept it all in perspective.

“We apologize for the difficulties we’re having this morning,” he offered, “but Jesus didn’t have any difficulties getting out of the grave.”