Riding his bike in the dark, Bruce Reed was one of the first to arrive early Sunday morning for the Easter sunrise service at the Jessye Norman Amphitheatre.
"I've never been down here around sunrise. It's pretty," said the 31-year-old Augusta resident in the pre-dawn darkness.
Minutes later, the theater was packed with a diverse group of worshippers taking part in the annual Easter sunrise service along the bank of the calm Savannah River.
For many, it was standing room only at the back of the theater. Organizers estimated the crowd to be between 1,000 and 1,200 people.
They came - as did millions of Christians around the world - to celebrate Easter and the sacrifice Jesus Christ made.
"It's a beautiful morning," proclaimed the Rev. Allan McDonald of the Catholic Church of the Most Holy Trinity in his welcoming remarks.
Sunday's cool springlike and sunny morning was a welcomed change from last year's cold temperatures.
"It (the weather) is much nicer than last year," said James Hickman, who was accompanied by his wife Jackie. "Everything was wonderful."
In fact, it was such a nice day the some didn't want to leave after the service was finished.
"Is that it? I have to leave now?" said B.J. Hendricks of Appling. "You hate to leave from here."
The non-denominational service, which began at 6:18 a.m. and lasted about half an hour, was sponsored by a number of downtown Augusta churches.
It featured music from the Augusta Salvation Army band, singing by the male chorus at the Trinity CME Church, remarks from area preachers and a sermon by the Rev. J. Ronzell Maness of the Trinity CME Church.
In a calm and uplifting sermon, Rev. Maness reminded the eclectic congregation - some dressed in suits and Sunday dresses, while others wore blue jeans and T-shirts - the meaning of Easter and importance of spiritual and human love.
"When you exercise endless love, salvation is yours," he said.
Though brief, the service touched most there.
For Iowa resident Lee Collins, who was visiting her daughter, it was an unfamiliar chance to participate in a sunrise service, which, she said, is not offered at her hometown church.
"I enjoyed the opportunity," she said.
Donations taken after the service will be divided between the Downtown Cooperative Ministries, the Master's Table Soup Kitchen and the Salvation Army.
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