A church graveyard on the night before Easter? It’s all about light and hope.

Attendees at St. Andrew's On-the-Sound's annual Great Easter Vigil carried their candles from the church's graveyard into the sanctuary on April 7. Photo by Amanda Greene

By AMANDA GREENE
WilmingtonFAVS.com

The sun had just set Saturday (April 7), and the graveyard behind St. Andrew’s On-the-Sound Episcopal Church was filling with the living.

Solemnly, the church’s rector, the Rev. Richard Elliott, lit a flame in a grill in the middle of the graveyard. From that flame, the congregation each lit small white candles.

Elliott said a blessing in remembrance of Jesus Christ’s death on the cross and for the hope embodied for Christians in his resurrection.

The crowd of about 50 members silently filed into the church’s darkened

Great Easter Vigil attendees participating in the service Saturday April 7 at St. Andrew's On-the-Sound. Photo by Amanda Greene

sanctuary for St. Andrew’s yearly Great Vigil of Easter. For congregants, it’s a time of quiet reflection and scripture readings in preparation of Easter Sunday (April 8).

For Elliott, the Easter vigil is “one of the times I feel I really get to go to church.”

Before his liturgy, associate rector, the Rev. Mark Powell, directed the congregants to blow out their candles.

“Hallelujah, Christ is risen,” he said.

“The Lord is risen indeed,” they responded.

But for 50-year-old James Richard Criswell, it was also the night of his

James Criswell says his vows to renounce sin before his Easter vigil baptism. Photo by Amanda Greene

baptism and a new beginning. Elliott explained that in the ancient church, the Easter vigil was a customary time for baptisms, though it’s not as common a practice today.

“It was just time for me to get serious about faith. I kind of got a little choked up when I was up there,” he said after his baptism. “It’s been a big, uplifting experience for me.”

James Criswell's baptism. Photo by Amanda Greene

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