Nearly every year since 1981, Providence Baptist Church No. 2 in Clanton has held an Easter sunrise program.
The program is an all-in-one outdoor drama and worship service in which Providence congregation members act out the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ in the early morning hours of Easter Sunday.
Only inclement weather would prevent Providence from carrying out its annual Easter tradition, one that draws hundreds of people from Chilton County and farther away.
“Through the years, it’s grown with more cast members and more of the story,” Pastor Glenn Bonds said. “It’s just been a spiritually life-changing event for people in our church. It’s not just a production; it’s a worship service.”
Bonds said Nila Minor, secretary at Providence, envisioned the program years ago as being an event for the church and the entire community.
“It started on a small scale that year,” Bonds said. “It’s just grown since then. I’m the fourth pastor since it began.”
Bonds came to Providence in 1998. By then, the church had held the program for about 17 years.
The cast ranges from 75-100 members, including children and adults. One family even has four generations in the drama.
“Years ago, the children in our church would play the parts of the children,” Bonds said. “They’ve grown up in being a part of the Sunrise service every year. They’ve been educated to the truth of the Gospel. That’s been an advantage for them.”
Bonds said anywhere from 100-400 people gather outside of Providence each year to watch the story of Christ unfold through acting, narration and song.
“We’re telling that story with a purpose at the end to invite people to trust Christ as their Savior,” Bonds said, “To be spiritually awakened through the drama every year. All of the music in the actual service is live music.”
Cast members will rehearse every Sunday afternoon beginning March 4 until Easter Sunday.
“They’ve almost got it perfected,” Bonds said of the cast. “We have props that we’ve been building through the years.”
The Easter sunrise program will start at 6 a.m., but Providence will also hold an open dress rehearsal on Palm Sunday, April 1, at 3 p.m.
“We’ve begun to use that as an extra performance,” Bonds said. “Last year was the first year we had it in the new location. We moved it from the cemetery (across the street) to our new property next to the church.”
The program usually lasts about an hour, Bonds said.
“It’s unusual that you would see this kind of production in Chilton County,” Bonds said. “(It is) our gift to this community.”
Providence Baptist Church No. 2 is located at 6197 County Road 97 in Clanton.