As dawn made way into a golden sunrise on Easter Sunday, bighorn sheep grazed on grass surrounding three wooden crosses planted in a Boulder City park.
The animals appeared unbothered as a couple hundred of their human companions, sitting on lawn chairs, park benches and cool morning grass, worshiped and proclaimed: “He has risen!”
After a two pandemic years, when the tradition was stymied by restrictions to houses of worship, believers across Southern Nevada returned Sunday to honor the “resurrection of Christ” at full-capacity.
“I’m just so excited because it was on hiatus for a couple years,” Susan Reams said about the annual Boulder City event at Hemenway Park, which overlooks Lake Mead. “So, it was really touching to come back.”
Reams described the last two years’ cancellations of the event “heart wrenching.”
“It’s just good to see all the people coming into a fellowship again,” she added, increasingly emotional.
Sue and Phil Garr are regulars at the ceremony.
“This is the only time we get up” this early, the woman said.
Residents in a surrounding neighborhood, the married couple arrived at the park five minutes after leaving home.
“I think it’s such a tremendous throwback to the Midwest,” Phil Garr said about the service. He added that the Bighorn sheep also were a “big attraction.”
Historic Westside service
Late Sunday morning, congregants packed into the Victory Missionary Baptist Church in the Historic Westside. Masking and temperature checks were required, and there were few seats open in the 500-person capacity building.
“Jesus is alive!” the Rev. Sean Taylor proclaimed before leading an high-octane, enthusiastic Easter-related sermon.
“We thank you for Jesus; we thank you for grace,” Taylor preached. Congregants shouted “amen” and “hallelujah.”
“We thank you for the victory that conquered sin, death, hell and the grave,” Taylor added. “And we celebrate the fact that you sent Jesus. In exchange for our guilt you gave us grace. In exchange for our funky disposition, you gave us unconditional love.”
Taylor went on to recite every chapter of the Gospel of John, sprinkling modern references that captivated the audience.
His voice rising as he spoke of redemption at the end of the 30-minute sermon, Taylor said: “Jesus went into your closet, he opened up the door, he got all your skeletons out, he put your skeletons on the cross and said tetelestai — paid in full!”
“And if you trust him, we ain’t gotta talk about your skeletons no more,” he shouted before breaking into song. The sound of the live band reverberated in the room.
Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford has attended the church for about 20 years.
“It was so great to be back in the house of God,” he said. “I really enjoyed the choir, enjoyed the preaching, enjoyed being with my family, so we could be here to celebrate God.”
Gwendolyn Scotton, who wore an elegant hunter green dress and a matching church crown, said she has been attending church since she was in the “womb,” and that she was glad to be back for a full-capacity Easter service.
“I love pastor Sean,” she said. “He’s awesome.”
Asked what the holy day means to her, Scotton said: “All I know is to worship the Lord, and live a good life, and be a Christian and love everybody and treat everybody right. And that’s what I get from the church here.”