Unconventional Easter Service To Christen Multi-Event Center

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A few years ago, Barry Cardinael prayed that the very first presentation at the long-awaited, much-delayed Payson Multi-Event Center would be an Easter Sunday church service in 1999.


"My prayer has been answered," Payson's former rodeo arena relocation director said.


"OK, I was off by a year, but it's been answered."


The result, titled "The Resurrection Day Celebration," is an all-denominational Easter-morning sunrise service that will serve as the multi-event center's grand opening.


The service will recall the traditional story of Christ's death and resurrection in a nontraditional way, organizer Pastor Gordon Haumptman said.


First of all, this April 23 sunrise service will begin promptly at 7 a.m. -- about 45 minutes after sunrise.


"We wanted to make it more convenient for the general population -- for those who wake up on Sunday morning and struggle to get going," Haumptman said. "We thought we'd set it a little later just to make it a bit easier and encourage attendance."


Sponsored by the Payson Christian Ministerial Fellowship, which represents about 30 pastors in the Rim country, the presentation will be officiated by four local pastors from churches Haumptman does not want to identify to preserve the all-faiths concept. The officiating pastors have not yet been selected.


Each pastor will handle a portion of the Easter story without identifying his church affiliation. Similarly, the music will be performed by members of several local, unidentified congregations.


"If we're all part of the Body of Christ, then the particulars about how we express our faith really aren't important," Haumptman said.


A continental breakfast will be served after the service, at about 8 a.m.


By Easter morning, all but two of the multi-event center's promised amenities -- electrical power and rest rooms -- will be installed and functional, Cardinael said.


Power generators and portable rest rooms, however, have been donated by local businesses for the event.


With those details taken care of, there's only one thing Haumptman is nervous about.


"The last two Easter Sundays, we've had snow," he said. "Last year, we had about 11 inches on the ground, and we had to cancel our service.


"But this year, we're prepared. In the event of inclement weather, the event will be moved to the Tonto Apache Reservation gymnasium."

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