- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 27, 2005

Churches are expected to be more crowded than usual for Easter services today in the midst of a national preoccupation with the plight of brain-damaged Florida woman Terri Schiavo and an ailing pope.

“The words of Jesus continue to comfort and strengthen Christians around the world,” President Bush said in his Easter message. “May the joy of Easter fill our hearts with gratitude for our freedom, love for our neighbors and hope for peace.”

A Gallup poll released Friday found that 62 percent of the overall population plans to go to church today — a turnout that pollster Frank Newport deemed “significantly higher than normal” Easter attendance.

When surveyed separately, seven out of 10 Catholics and Protestants said they would attend Easter services. The poll also found that “84 percent of Americans identify with a Christian religion.” The survey of 1,001 adults was taken March 21-23.

Meanwhile, 71 percent of American teenagers say they “believe in the message of Easter,” an American Bible Society survey of 1,000 teens released March 22 found.

Easter devotion is both rich and varied.

Georgia-based Truckstop Ministries will tend to the religious needs of long-distance drivers through ongoing “Resurrection Services” today. The nonprofit, interdenominational group maintains roadside chapels at 66 truck stops in 26 states.

In Florida, the Christ Fellowship of West Palm Beach has moved its worship services to the county fairgrounds to accommodate a record 20,000-member congregation this morning. Services in three shifts will be enhanced by four Jumbotron screens and a 475-member choir with full orchestra.

Fort Lauderdale’s Calvary Chapel — which is expecting 30,000 worshippers — will offer a traditional service in Joe Robbie Stadium, home of the NFL’s Miami Dolphins.

“A lot of people are still looking for something — peace, joy, grace, mercy — and feel undone and ill-equipped until they find it,” Calvary pastor Bob Coy told his sizable flock in a message last week.

Things will be quieter but no less meaningful at the Juda Zion and Oakley Union United Methodist churches in Juda, Wis. — about 25 miles south of Madison.

The youngest members of both congregations will rise early and present a “Sonrise” service at 7 a.m., providing their own music and Scripture reading — as well as a pancakes-and-eggs breakfast for early worshippers — before the regular Easter service begins at 9:30.

The Forgotten Man Ministries is also busy.

Based in Cassopolis, Mich., the jail ministry has persuaded churches in this small farm community about 30 miles east of Lake Michigan to remember the incarcerated.

Volunteers from the Lord’s House and other congregations packed up and delivered bags filled with fresh fruit, homemade cookies and marshmallow “Peeps” for 142 inmates at the Cass County Jail yesterday.

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