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Faith remains even without Easter Sunrise Service in Port Neches

PORT NECHES — For likely the first time in decades there will not be a crowd of faithful worshipping at the 10-foot tall cross at Port Neches Riverfront Park as the sun rises over the Neches River.

This year, due to COVID-19, there will be no hymns, sermon, prayer or song at the Easter Sunrise Service.

The cancellation may seem like a damper for participants from various religions but it does not have a negative hold on them.

This year would have been Robert Arnold’s fourth year taking part in the celebration that began 52 years ago with the now-deceased Judge Morris McCall at the helm.

Arnold found a pattern that worked for the event that drew hundreds by scheduling different churches to do opening prayer, the message, closing prayer and music and rotating those duties each year. There would be coffee and snacks and fellowship.

Robert Arnold shows another design of a cross he makes. (Mary Meaux/The News)

“I like the early morning, the start of the day,” Arnold said. “There’s something special to be there at the start of the day. Christ gives you new life and you start all over. As the sun comes up on the water, if it’s not cloudy, you see a shimmer on the water and in the cool of the morning you celebrate the start of a new day going forward.”

His faith is strong, and though there will not be the traditional service, the meaning of Easter is still there.

“It doesn’t change the meaning,” he said. “It’s still the most important, through Christ’s dying and coming back to life and our belief is that is how we obtain our salvation. We should never forsake that.”

Arnold regularly attends church services and at times has spoken as a lay person. He would rather walk the walk than talk the talk — let his good works speak instead of using his voice.

Arnold, who is a retired, does woodworking and one of his current projects is making a cross for a woman who lost her son. The woman has certain elements she wants incorporated into a cross that will represent her lost son. Arnold is now working to find the perfect items to add to the cross.

And with that thought, the conversation comes full circle.

Like many in the area Arnold will tune in to Facebook to take part in church services on Sunday.

This year’s Easter Sunrise Celebration at Port Neches Riverfront Park is canceled due to COVID-19. This would have been the 52nd annual celebration. (Mary Meaux/The News)

“I do miss to being with the people I’m used to seeing every Sunday, but this is something we have got to get through and we will come back strong, stronger for it,” he said. “But we should never forget the reason or the season. Maybe that’s the reason this cross (he is making for the grieving mother) is so important to me.”

Debbie Plaia doesn’t believe there will be a void left with the cancellation of the Easter Sunrise Service.

With everything being on social media she will be able to watch multiple denominations’ services.

“You pull on your faith more than ever,” Plaia said. “It’s like this quarantine came at a time when everyone’s faith is tested. The same thing as when the (TPC) explosion came at Christmastime.”

This, she said, is a time to be still, reflect and pray for family, friends and businesses that this is taking a toll on.

“Then you take the not being able to have the Easter Sunrise service that everybody is used to; that’s one more thing to stress about,” she said. “Remember, sit back and breathe and give it to God. At the end of the day, it’s out of our hands.”