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All welcome at Easter Sunrise Service on Stockade Hill

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All set for the Easter Sunrise service on Stockade Hill in Howick at 6.45am on Sunday, March 31, are, from left, Andy Shudall, Peter Morton, Brigitte Crowe and Billy Davis. Times photo Wayne Martin

Local churches are preparing for the annual East Auckland Easter Sunrise Service at Stockade Hill on Sunday, March 31.

This Easter several church leaders will be putting on a united front to take part in the service at 6.45am on Howick’s iconic landmark.

The service, organised by leaders from the East Auckland Ministers Association [EAMA] who serve among 60+ churches throughout the district, runs for 30-40 minutes with beautiful views of the sunrise.

Co-ordinator of the service Rev William HC (Pakuranga Chinese Baptist Church) says, “We welcome all east Auckland residents to this year’s Easter Sunrise Service to celebrate the certain hope that the resurrection of Jesus has brought to generations of migrants to our district.

“To attend you don’t have to be a regular church attender – everyone is welcome.”

This year’s event, starting at 6.45am, will begin with a customary welcome in Māori and English led by Billy Davis (Ngāti Porou, member of Pakuranga Chinese Baptist Church), followed by hymns, readings and prayers for the local community.

Pastor Andy Shudall will share a message of hope, with the service timed to end with the sunrise from the east.

The tradition of an annual sunrise service on Stockade Hill began almost 30 years through the leadership of Rev Richard Waugh who led the first service in 1995.

According to Rev Waugh and local historian Alan La Roche, East Auckland’s history is closely tied to Christian foundations, with churches playing a key role in the early migration of the Fencible families to the district.

William adds, “A lot has changed in east Auckland since then – we have become an incredibly diverse population that’s now larger than cities like Tauranga or Dunedin. In recent years, our churches have also had to adapt to the different challenges facing our society.

“What hasn’t changed is the message of hope that Jesus’s resurrection brings to our many faith communities, and how His sacrificial death motivates us to love God and our neighbours in practical ways.”

Other local Christian leaders taking part this year’s service include Brigitte Crowe, Mike Turinsky and Peter Morton.

Brigitte Crowe (Lead Pastor, Howick Community Church) shares that the Easter Sunrise Service is special because “it’s the family of God coming together from different faith communities to celebrate publicly the fact that our Saviour is risen! It’s a mini family reunion if you like.”

Her church’s building, the Picton Centre, sits at the heart of the Howick village.

“We are delighted to be so well used by the local community.”

Sowers Trust, which is part of HCC, employs social workers, youth workers and an occupational therapist. They work closely with our local schools, as well as families in need.”

“Living and working local has changed how I experience our local community.”

Mike Turinsky, CEO of Bravo Charitable Trust and Howick Local Board member, is a regular attendee of the Sunrise Service and will bring greetings from the community.

“The church’s reach and impact is far reaching. They have food banks, provide community services for youth, families, the elderly, and immigrants and more. The churches provide a place for people to gather together and buildings for the community to use.

“At the same time people are struggling these days. It’s hard to get through each week sometimes, let alone getting the family together for a Sunday service. There is more practical need in the community than the church is able to fulfill.”

Peter Morton chairs the East Auckland Ministers Association and loves being a part of the east Auckland community.

“I’ve lived in this part of Auckland pretty much my whole life – and I love the community and the family-feel of this part of the city.

“Coming together to celebrate Easter publicly is worth the effort because the death and resurrection of Jesus is the central heart of the entire Christian faith.

“While there are many differences between churches on how we practice our faith, and varying views on Scriptural interpretation and theology – the message of the cross and the empty tomb is a focal point that every true Christian agrees on and highly values.

“Gathering together like this is a chance to unify and rally around this fact, and it’s also so good to bring believers together from across the area to connect and worship.

We’re blessed with so many great churches here in east Auckland which are impacting the community in a multitude of ways.

“From food banks, to crisis support networks, to youth development programmes and work in the schools, to providing community and support for immigrants, to a variety of great community events that are provided often for free – the Christian Church is a vital part of the east Auckland community.”

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