The earthquake on Easter Sunday 2010 didn't stop the faithful from gathering to commemorate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ -- who after a quake moved the rock that sealed His tomb, walked out from the Edge of Darkness, victorious over death!
During eight services over three days, over 24,000 of Rock Church members and visitors worshipped the God who went to the "Edge of Darkness" for us, and triumphed.
A Good Friday
On Good Friday, singer Sarah MacIntosh opened the packed service with powerful worship music. Guest artist Fernando Ortega sang at the grand piano on stage. A drama troupe portrayed Judas' betrayal and guilty torment. Pastor Miles McPherson spoke about the darkness that Jesus was subjected to for us.
This is an opportunity to acknowledge the Lords sacrifice, fellowship with other believers and thank and praise Him for all that He has done, said Ellen, a young lady with a warm smile. Ellen was not a member of The Rock Church, and this was the first Good Friday service she had ever attended.
Worshippers came from all over. A couple flew down for the weekend from Calgary, Canada. Many people went forward at the end of the service. One man, a professional basketball player raised in a Baptist family, described his deep need to know Christ on a more personal level.
When the devil spoke to Judas in the acting scene and he was tormented, I could feel his anguish because throughout my career as a basketball player, Ive had those same internal struggles with temptation.
The hoops pro had recently been released from a team that had earned him a championship and MVP award. Calling to God for guidance, the man said God told him to stop chasing money and start chasing God. He found peace in moving to San Diego and attending the church that he had been following from halfway across the world: The Rock.
I walked into the sanctuary with a burden on my heart and walked out much lighter because I felt Gods presence giving me hope, and encouraging me to have faith, he said.
At the end of the service, both Susan, a member of the Rock, and her son Tom were visibly affected. The thought of the crucifixion makes me both sad and grateful for His sacrifice, said Susan. Tom, like the basketball player, expressed how moved he was while watching the actors, particularly the scene with Judas. He could feel the emotion of betrayal, and it was powerful.
Easter Saturday, Easter Sunday
The two Saturday services and the five Sunday services involved the same worship components. Worship minister Stefanie Kelly led the Rock House Band, and Resonate, the Rock's choir, rocked alongside them. Pastor Miles spoke on how darkness could not stop Jesus from accomplishing His mission, and how darkness cannot hold us down if we live by faith.
As early as 7:15 AM Sunday, scores of people were lined up outside the church entrance, eagerly awaiting the doors to open.
Like many families who attend Easter services, Orlando and Carolyn Santos said they were returning to church after a long absence. The two came down to the altar for prayer at the 8 AM service.
Its neat to be re-introduced to the Lord, said Carolyn. We hope this will help us worship the Lord more and understand more about Him.
Orlando was hopeful that returning to the Lord would help them get through trials that they--like so many Americans today--are facing.
Weve been through a lot of hard times, said Orlando. We lost our house two years ago. Our son is going through hard times. Hopefully we can get him to come to church, too.
Whether people came alone, with their families or just with their children, those who came to the altar were looking for a life-changing experience with God.
We just started coming back to church a few months ago, said Ashley Emmerich, who brought her 9-year-old daughter Bailey down to the altar with her for prayer. I hope to create a more clear path and bring our family together, she said.
What did Bailey enjoy most about the Easter service? I liked the music, she said with a grin.
Mary Abramson, 20, came down to the altar for prayer after the 8 AM service. She has been involved in the Rock Recovery ministry for just a week, and was brought by the ministrys leader, David Powers.
Hes inspired me to get in touch with my higher power, Jesus, she said. (The Rock) is a wonderful, awesome, inspiring, interactive place of worship. Ive never seen anything like it.
Abramson said that she hopes this Easter will be the start of accepting Gods plan for her life: Theres a bigger plan, more than I can see, she admitted.
Nicole Bravo was a volunteer helping people who responded to the for altar call Sunday. She talked with a couple who were dating. The young woman, who had been raised a Catholic and said she didn't know God, was crying.
"She spoke of her mother ... attending a Christian non-denominational church in New Jersey and that she had been praying for her daughter to get involved and know Christ the way she does. [The woman] recently started attending the Rock with her boyfriend, also raised Catholic, whom she dragged to church on Easter," said Nicole.
When Nicole asked the man why he stepped forward, he replied, I was sitting in my seat realizing that instead of wishing for what I dont have, I should start being grateful for what I do have, and then I just felt the need to stand up.
Behind the Scenes
Cindy Gore visited the Saturday evening service with her husband at the invitation of her daughter, a regular Rock attender. Cindy said she was a bit intimidated by the traffic and crowds, but noticed Rock volunteers taking time to talk to the people as they waited in line to enter the church.
"Once inside, I was surprised at how easy it was to navigate into the sanctuary and find a seat. There were several people, all who had badges on, that were willing to help. As I sat and looked around, I saw a refreshing sea of diversity, of color and age in the congregation," said Cindy, who occasionally participates in the Rock Church Writers Ministry.
Hundreds of staff and volunteers worked hours behind the scenes to make the weekend happen.
Roger Nijinsky had manned the Information Booth for five years. When asked why, he answered simply, Helping people. We open the door. Some people just come to church and dont know what they want. We just help them along the way. We are just servants.
That how Jennifer Gandy looks at her Hospitality work: To serve Gods people, to help them feel welcomed into this church. Fellow Hospitality volunteer Lisa Ronco acknowledges how it helps her as well. So that Im not just coming to church, but being a part of the community of our church. Doing something.
David Mendiola, a Security Ministry member stationed outside the Pebbles classrooms, described his volunteering this way: First and foremost, it is one of my tithings that I do. Im a truck driver so its the only time I can serve. I can at least do something, like Pastor Miles says.
David said he got started three years ago when he got an email that mentioned service opportunities. Since then Ive been very blessed. The most blessed thing is that Ive managed to hear people tell me, Thank you for all you do. I feel that even in my darkest hour, it reminds me that God is there and I thank Him every time someone thanks me.
Saturday's Silent Ride
Also on Easter Saturday, the Rock Mountain Bike Ministry held a Silent Ride around Mission Bay. Every age and rider, whether on a bike, unicycle, skateboard or blades, was welcome at the event, marking in silence the sacrificial death of Jesus.
This story was compiled by Rock volunteer writers Nicole Bravo, Victoria Elder, Cindy Gore, Emily Holding, April Josey-Schultz, Shawn McCowan and Anita Palmer. Find out more about the Rock Church Writers Ministry by visiting www.sdrock.com/ministries/writers/ or by contacting [email protected]
For more information about the Altar Call Ministry, click here »