NORTH MANKATO — Across Mankato and across the world, faithful churchgoers and “CE Christians” alike are filling places of worship this morning to celebrate the most important day of the Christian calendar. They come in numbers seen no other day of the year, with the possible exception of Christmas, and they often come anticipating an extraordinary service.
At Crossview Covenant Church in North Mankato, between 600 and 700 people were expected at each of two services this morning — double a typical Sunday. What they would see has been weeks in the planning with hundreds of hours of preparation both by paid church staff and a cadre of volunteers.
“Sunday morning is the tip of the iceberg,” said Chris Willard, worship director at the Howard Drive church. “It’s two services that are an hour long that represent many hours of work.”
Interim Pastor Rich Theilen set the spiritual message back in early February, based on verses in the third chapter of 2nd Corinthians that teach that the glory of Easter can be the glory of anyone who follows Christ. Since then, musicians, set builders, producers of video images and others have been constructing a service that reinforces that central theme.
On Saturday morning, a quartet of guitar players, a drummer, a keyboardist and three vocalists rehearsed for nearly four hours. There was special emphasis on the service’s opening, which included a three-minute dramatic reading by Chris Pappenfus, the pastor of student ministries, that tied Old Testament teachings to the events of Palm Sunday, the Last Supper and Good Friday’s crucifixion.
The music slowly grew in intensity as Pappenfus connected those events to Easter and talked of the “unspeakable joy” that Christ had risen from the dead.
The opening sequence was something new for the Crossview congregation, which is part of the expectation, Willard said. The church outgrew its small worship space off of Lookout Drive several years ago, moving its Easter services to a ballroom at Mankato’s civic center for three years as a new church was planned and built.