MC observes Easter 2019 with annual sunrise service; tradition dates back to 1918

MC observes Easter 2019 with annual sunrise service; tradition dates back to 1918

April 9, 2019 

Maryville College’s annual Easter Sunrise Service will be held Sun., April 21, 2019 at 6:30 a.m. on Lloyd Beach. The service is open to the community.

The Rev. Dr. Anne D. McKee, campus minister, will deliver the sermon, titled “Pressed Down, Running Over”

Scripture for the sermon will be Isaiah 65:17-25 and Luke 24:1-12. Student musicians will lead the service.

Lloyd Beach is located behind Lloyd Hall, on the southeastern end of the campus, and offers a spectacular view of the sun rising over the Chilhowee Mountains. The service is casual, and attendees who are not able to stand during the service are encouraged to bring lawn chairs and blankets.

“Easter is just about as late as it possibly could be this year – a month after the beginning of spring,” McKee said. “Maybe many of us feel like we have waited a long time for the arrival of good news, of new life. But here it is, pressed down, running over, abundant beyond our hopes. So we gather together, on a hillside where the sun comes up, and celebrate Christ’s life that has overcome all forms of death, and the hope that brings to us and our world.”

 All are invited to enjoy coffee, pastries and conversation on the porch of Willard House following the service.

In the event of rain, both the service and the breakfast will be held in the Samuel Tyndale Wilson Center for Campus Ministry (CCM).

For more information about the College’s Easter Sunrise Service, please contact the Center for Campus Ministry at 865.981.8299.

Tradition began in 1918

The first Easter Sunrise Service was held in 1918. The tradition was begun by the Rev. Dr. William Patton Stevenson, who came to Maryville College from the pastorate of First Presbyterian Church in Yonkers, N.Y., to be College Pastor.

“With Dr. Stevenson’s arrival, the Easter Sunrise Service came to be a central event of the spring,” according to By Faith Endowed by Carolyn Blair and Arda Walker. “The announcement of the service in 1918 promised music by the orchestra, a double mixed quartet, and a soloist; a reading by Miss Creswell; and a ten-minute talk by Dr. Stevenson. The College bell rang early enough to arouse the campus.”

The first Easter Sunrise Service was held in the center of the campus, but the service was relocated to the amphitheater in the College Woods in 1938, where it remained for nearly five decades.

Maryville College alumna Gail Hafner ’60 attended the sunrise service every year as a student (spring 1957 through spring 1960). She was a member of the Vesper Choir, which was led by Dr. Harry Harter and had around 60 members. She and her fellow choir members would meet at Wilson Chapel around 5:30 a.m. and walk together to Morningside (now RT Lodge), where MC President Dr. Ralph Waldo Lloyd and his wife, Margaret, lived. After enjoying a breakfast served by Mrs. Lloyd, choir members would walk to the amphitheater in the College Woods before the service began.

“Both students and community members attended the service. People brought blankets and chairs and sat on the hillside,” Hafner recalled. “Dr. Lloyd and the College chaplain led the service, and the choir sang along with the brass. I remember the sun coming up through the trees, but as a member of the choir, my back was always to the sun, so I never actually saw the sunrise. I remember feeling the sun on my back as the sun came up.”

In recent years, the service has been held on Lloyd Beach.

Former Maryville College Registrar Martha Hess ’67 recalls a particularly memorable sunrise service on Lloyd Beach in the late 1980s.

Abeba Wuhib ’89 was the Scripture reader for the service that year, and as soon as she got to the part of the Scripture reading that said ‘Christ is risen,’ the sun popped up over the mountains at that exact moment,” Hess said. “Everyone gasped as it happened, and even Abeba turned around, wide-eyed. I always think of that moment whenever I attend a sunrise service on Lloyd Beach.”


Maryville College is ideally situated in Maryville, Tenn., between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Knoxville, the state's third largest city. Founded in 1819, it is the 12th oldest institution of higher learning in the South and maintains an affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Known for offering its students a rigorous and highly personal experience that includes an undergraduate research requirement, Maryville College is a nationally ranked institution of higher learning that successfully joins the liberal arts and professional preparation. Total enrollment for the Fall 2019 semester is 1,148.