Despite overnight rain, four Topeka churches gather for Easter sunrise service at Old Prairie Town and Ward-Meade Park

Small, historic church filled Sunday with morning worshipers

The Rev. Ivan Greuter, pastor of West Side Baptist Church, presents a dramatic reading at Sunday morning’s Easter sunrise service in the historic Everest church at Old Prairie Town and Ward-Meade Park, 124 N.W. Fillmore. (Phil Anderson/The Capital-Journal)

Becky Poe hadn’t been to an Easter sunrise service in years.


Decades, really.

But on Sunday morning, the 62-year-old Poe brought her grandchildren Sage Poe, 15, and Aaron Poe, 10, to an ecumenical Easter sunrise service at Old Prairie Town and Ward-Meade Park, 124 N.W. Fillmore.

“I haven’t been to a sunrise service in years — not since I was their age,” the elder Poe said, motioning to her grandchildren. “It’s exciting to be a part of it with my grandkids.”

The service was sponsored by four churches in the west-central Topeka area: Central Congregational United Church of Christ; Potwin Presbyterian Church; West Side Baptist Church; and West Side Christian Church-Disciples of Christ.

Originally, the service was scheduled to be held at 7 a.m. Sunday in an outdoor courtyard at Ward-Meade Park. However, because of overnight rain, it was moved into the historic Everest church, located in the park’s Old Prairie Town section.

Shortly before 7 a.m., a handful of people had been seated on the old wooden pews inside the dimly lit sanctuary.

But people continued to walk up the gravel street in front of the church, and shortly after the opening song, “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?” was sung, all the pews were filled, with about a dozen people standing at the back of the sanctuary.

In all, about 85 people turned out for the service.

“We’ve never had this many people,” said John Swain, 72, a member of West Side Baptist Church, who passed out bulletins for people as they came into the building. Swain ran out of bulletins shortly before the last few people arrived.

In addition to music, the service included Scripture readings, prayers and Holy Communion.

It also featured dramatic readings that told the Easter story of the resurrection of Jesus Christ through the eyes of Mary Magdalene, Mary of Zebedee, Thomas and Peter.

The Rev. Ivan E. Greuter, pastor of West Side Baptist Church, the host congregation, said Sunday marked the first time the Easter sunrise service had been held at Old Prairie Town and Ward-Meade Park.

And though the service didn’t take place outdoors as had been planned, Greuter said having the historic church building available served as an excellent alternative.

“It’s a little different atmosphere,” Greuter said. “It shows the ecumenical spirit and cooperative spirit among our churches in the Ward-Meade area.”

Greuter said Easter sunrise services have held a special place for Christians for hundreds of years.

“The early Christians worshiped in the cemetery at sunrise to remember the resurrection and the great day of the Lord,” Greuter said. “I really like the sunrise service. It reflects God’s glory, and it shines new light on spring and Easter.”

Following the service, attendees returned to their individual churches for breakfast and Easter services.

Many other Topeka-area churches had special Easter sunrise services on Sunday, with some gatherings taking place in their own buildings and others outdoor.

Contact Phil Anderson at (785) 295-1195 or follow live reports @Philreports on Twitter. Like him on Facebook at