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Annual Easter Sunrise service held despite challenges

Concern over COVID-19 and severe weather forced organizers to adjust their plans, but the changes failed to diminish the joy and spirit of the Vicksburg YMCA’s 71st Easter Sunrise Service.

“This was one of our more unusual sunrise services, but I believe it is my favorite, because of the way it came together and the people coming together to join in the virtual service, said Phillip Doiron, Purks  YMCA director.

The sunrise service is traditionally held Easter Sunday morning at a site in the Vicksburg National Military Park, but concerns over the COVID-19 virus almost forced organizers to cancel the annual service altogether.

“Two people are responsible for us going ahead with the service,” Doiron said, “Mayor George Flaggs pushed for it; he told me he wanted to see it occur, and then Mark Jones of V105.5 said he wanted to see it go ahead, too,” 

The main challenge, he said, was how to meet the health precautions required by COVID-19, such as the 6-foot social distancing requirements.

The service was moved from the Vicksburg National Military Park to Halls Ferry Park, where people would watch the service from their cars while parked in the park’s parking lot. When severe weather threatened, it was moved into the Purks YMCA gym, where equipment was set up to broadcast on V105.5 and streamed live through the YMCA’s and The Vicksburg Post’s Facebook pages.

The streaming brought a strong response from area residents who watched it on computers or cell phones.

“I just want to thank everyone who came together to make this work and help us make the 71st sunrise service possible,” Doiron said. 

“It was a little surreal,” he said. “I did not have a large speaking role, but I can imagine how it may have affected the ministers.

“Basically you’re talking to a wall. I think we did the best we could to get the message out.”

Doiron said, however, the knowledge that people were watching and listening to the ministers’ message made the program special.

“It was definitely something different,” he said.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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