By MAGGIE MENDERSKI
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
Christians gathered at Quincy's Greenmount Cemetery at sunrise Sunday to celebrate their faith in the way it began.
The Rev. Ivan Greuter of Central Baptist Church stood among the gravestones and an interfaith population and preached the message of Jesus Christ. The service honored the Christian belief that Jesus died and rose again on the third day nearly two centuries ago, but the setting brought the population back to the earliest days of the Christian church. Greuter reminded the crowd that the first Christians didn't have churches, so they worshipped their God in tombs and catacombs.
"They didn't have pews," Greuter said. "We didn't have comfortable churches. We didn't have climate control. We worshipped in cemeteries."
Greuter said his church has offered this service for the five years. Each year, a small crowd of 100 to 150 people gathers in darkness and greets Easter morning as the sun rises over a makeshift altar and the tombstones.
Brian and Summer Prenger and their children MacKenzie, 11, and Gaven, 8, joined the crowd of about 100 just before the service began at 6:30 a.m. The family huddled beneath blankets and wore winter coats as they sang hymns and prayed along with the crowd. While the family regularly attends Central Baptist Church, this was the first time they'd celebrated Easter in the cemetery.
"In the past, people did celebrate church every Sunday in cemeteries," Brian said. "It's a step outside of the ordinary."
The crowd listed to a Bible reading from Mark 16:1-8 that described the empty tomb Jesus's followers found on the first Easter morning. Greuter said that Christians believe Jesus died, rose from the dead and believe he will return in a second coming. He said he hopes that this yearly graveyard service reminds Christians that they are waiting for that second coming.
"We do it because Christ rose, and he rose out of a cemetery," Greuter said. "We have hope. Christ died, Christ is risen, and Christ is coming again."