Enrich up your Easter traditions with historic celebration that dates back to 1772. Held continuously in Old Salem 245 years in a row, the annual Easter Sunrise Service at Old Salem is truly a one-of-a-kind experience to include on your Bucket List.
The Salem Congregation Churches have hosted the Sunrise Service as a religious celebration that welcomes participation from Moravian scholars and history buffs to visitors, the faithful and the local Winston-Salem community. It begins with an outdoor strolling band at 2:00 a.m. and culminates with community worship at sunrise.
The 245th Easter Sunrise Service will be held on Sunday, April 16, 2017, beginning at 6:00 a.m. at Home Moravian Church, 529 South Church Street (at the corner of Academy Street and S. Church Street) in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. For details, click here.
The Moravian tradition of Sunrise Service originated in Herrnhut, Saxony, in 1723. Before dawn on Easter Sunday, a group of young men gathered to sing hymns and commemorate the resurrection of Jesus Christ at their church gravesite, called “God’s Acre.” As the sun rose and shed light on the men and the surrounding landscape, they felt a deeper connection to and appreciation for their faith. Since that day, the Sunrise Service has become an annual event at Winston-Salem’s Moravian Church on Easter Morning.
True to its traditional, liturgical format, Easter Sunrise Service in Winston-Salem begins with an outdoor call to “awaken” at 2:00 a.m. This strolling band of musicians plays a series of traditional hymns, songs and carols to celebrate the day, as well as to rouse the city to worship. Guests and visitors are welcome to walk the streets to experience the call and walk with the band.
Then, at 6 a.m. Easter Sunday, worshipers gather in front of Home Moravian Church for the services led by the Rt. Rev. Lane Sapp, pastor of Calvary Moravian Church. The worshipers then assemble in God’s Acre for the conclusion of the service.
The service is open to anyone who wants to attend, and is casual. Families with strollers and guests in wheelchairs are welcomed and encouraged to attend as well. If you’re interested in attending this wonderful Sunrise Service, you can make it a weekend of history and culture by staying at the Graylyn Estate and enjoying their Living and Learning Package.
Below are some of the areas available for parking during the Easter Sunrise Service:
Old Salem lot off Salt St. (location of old Visitors Center)
Old Salem upper Salt St. parking lot
MESDA lot on east side of lower Main Street at cul-de-sac
Old Salem Visitors Center parking lot at Walnut Street and Old Salem Road
Salem College lot on Cemetery Street
Salem Funeral’s parking lot (First Street between Main and Liberty Streets)
WHAT TO EXPECT
Once you park and walk into Old Salem, you will notice ushers at various locations. These people are available to direct you to your destination as well as answer general questions that you might have. It will be somewhat dark when you arrive and there is a fair amount of walking involved, so plan to dress appropriately for the weather and wear comfortable walking shoes.
If you are with someone in a wheelchair, you may drive into Old Salem near the square to drop off and then leave to park your vehicle. Restroom facilities are available at various locations (click on link below) and any usher will be glad to help direct you.
ABOUT THE GRAVEYARD – GOD’S ACRE
Moravians still call their graveyard by the significant and ancient name used by their ancestors – “God’s Acre.” It is a “field” in which the bodies of loved ones are sown in faith as “physical bodies,” in due time to be raised as “spiritual bodies.”
A feature of God’s Acre is the recumbent stones, symbolizing the Moravian belief in the democracy of death. It is therefore impossible to distinguish between the graves of the rich and poor. The burial of members according to “choirs” or station in life (married men, married women, single men, single women, etc.) rather than by families, is another distinguishing feature, carrying out the departmental system which was introduced into the Moravian Church over two hundred years ago.