How Washington D.C. Celebrated Easter

A sunrise service at the Lincoln Memorial was hosted by the Capital Church of Vienna. (Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)
A sunrise service at the Lincoln Memorial was hosted by the Capital Church of Vienna. (Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post)

As dawn streaked the sky above the Mall on Sunday, April Vance was far from her native California, where she usually celebrates Easter, but she felt right at home.

Shoulder to shoulder with thousands of others who had awaked in darkness to attend the Easter sunrise service at the Lincoln Memorial, hosted by the Capital Church of Vienna, the 33-year-old Hill staffer described the experience as “bliss.”

“It’s incredible to be with all these people, believing,” she said. “Imagine getting up with your kids at 4 or 5 in the morning. . . .I was really blown away.”

The 6,000 people overflowing from the seats and filling the marble steps of the monument included Washington area natives, tourists and immigrants, all drawn to the spot with views of the Capitol, the Washington Monument and the reflecting pool.

Pastor Amos Dodge reminded the crowd that the annual sunrise celebration had expanded over the 36 years since it began — and then he invoked an even earlier Easter in the same spot.

“On this day, 75 years ago, an estimated 75,000 people gathered on these grounds to hear a singer who had been banned from singing at Constitution Hall because of the color of her skin,” he said.

That singer, the world-renowned African American contralto Marian Anderson, was instead invited by first lady Eleanor Roosevelt to sing on the Mall on Easter 1939. Dodge played a recording of Anderson singing “My Country ’Tis of Thee” that day.

“There’s hope for you on this Easter, no matter who has locked you out or who has pushed you away,” he told the crowd as several people raised their arms in praise.

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SOURCE:  
The Washington Post

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