The mountaintop service has been an Atlanta tradition since 1944, when Stone Mountain First United Methodist Church member Lucille Lanford took her youth group to the top of the mountain on Easter morning to watch the sun rise.
Over the years, the Easter Sunday trek to the top of the 825-foot-high mountain has grown to thousands ascending the mountain to experience serenity and peace on the day that Christians celebrate the rising of Jesus Christ and his ascension to heaven.
Darryl Alford, the Stone Mountain First UMC Certified Lay Speaker who will deliver the benediction at this year’s service, said it’s just simply amazing to get to the mountaintop on Easter Sunday.
“To get there at 4:30 a.m. and see all the people who are already there, and then to see the sun come up on that day that God’s son rose, it just gives you chills,” said Alford, who will be doing the benediction for the fourth consecutive year.
From the top of the mountain, worshippers will face the direction of Snellville and watch the sun rise.
“It’s very solemn, very peaceful,” Alford said, adding that a record crowd of 4,000 people participated in the service last year. “It’s just a wonderful time for good fellowship.”
He said he is usually so pumped up after that service, he gets off the mountain and goes straight to his church for their 8:30 a.m. Easter Service.
The Stone Mountain Sunrise Association – comprising representatives from Stone Mountain First UMC, Stone Mountain Ministries, and Smoke Rise Baptist Church – is hosting two nondenominational Easter services simultaneously on April 8 in Stone Mountain Park.
One service will be at the top of the mountain, which is 1,683 feet above sea level. Alford said the other service will be on the Memorial Lawn at the base of the mountain. Worshippers there will face the mountain.
Both services, which last 30 minutes, start at 7 a.m.
The park’s Skyride opens at 4 a.m. to begin transporting people to the top of the mountain for the service.
For the mountaintop service, worshippers sit and stand on the mountain’s granite rock. Alford said many carry blankets to sit on or wrap themselves in, if it’s a little chilly.
This year, the termperature is forecasted to be in the mid-60s, but Alford said there have been times when it was zero or below.
Pastors, chaplains and certified lay speakers from Stone Mountain First UMC, Chestnut Grove Baptist Church and Stone Mountain Ministries Inc. will lead the service on the mountain.
On the Memorial Lawn, ministers from Smokerise and Briarlake Baptist churches, New Covenant Christian Ministries, Mountain Park United Methodist Church and Stone Mountain Ministries Inc. will officiate.
Because of the large crowds expected for the service, the park suggests that you plan an extra hour or more to get into the park.
Church vans and buses enter free.
Round-trip Skyride fees are $9 for adults and $7 for children ages 3-11. A one-way ticket is $5.50 for those who want to ride up to the mountain and walk down after the service. It’s free to take the walk-up trail to the top.
Vehicle entry to the park is $10 for a one-day permit. An annual permit is $35.