Cook Forest Sunrise Service Celebrates 65th Anniversary

IMG_0293 COOKSBURG, Pa. (EYT) – The annual Cook Forest Easter Sunrise Service celebrates its 65th anniversary on April 5 this year.

Started in 1950 by Verna Leith, the Tri-County Men’s Club, and the Leeper Women’s Club, the inner-denominational service has kept its same format at the Circle Campground in Cook Forest State Park with a musical prelude at 6:30 a.m. followed by the service at 7:00 a.m.

Like his father before him, Ronald Flick of Shippenville is chairman of the Easter Sunrise Service Committee and proudly points to the local people who have kept the tradition alive. Many of the committee members replaced their parents and now guide the service.

“Dad was involved since the early 50s, and I joined it 38 years ago,” said Flick who is retired from a job with National Cash Registers.

“It started as an inter denominational service, and they have always kept it that way. It lost a few people over the years once churches started doing their own services, but it still gets a good following.”

Weather is always a question for the early morning service, depending on which date Easter falls on in any particular year. Flick remembers years with snow, but the ceremony has always been held.

This year’s service will be broadcast over C93 FM in Clarion starting at 7:00 a.m. after the 6:30 a.m. prelude. The program includes a prelude with Miranda Loll; trumpet by Rachel Bendal; Soloists Lisa Buchwitz and Rebecca Miskimmins; invocation by Rev. Jonathan Bell of the Good Shepherd U.M. Church; and message by Rev. Ozy Alvarado.

Bendal is a music graduate of Clarion University.

Buchwitz graduated from Crown College in St. Bonifacious, MN, and attended Alliance Theological Seminary in Nyack, NY. She recorded a CD two years ago, “In the Hands of God.” She and her husband Dale and three children live in Leeper.

Miskimmins lives in German Hill, Tionesta. After two years in Nashville, she returned to the area with her husband to raise their two children. She accompanies herself on guitar.

The committee puts the entire event together each year thanks to the support of the community. Patrons of the service are also prominently listed in an extensive printed program. Contributions are welcome to help fund the event’s expenses such as rental of a sound system, seating, and similar materials. Various businesses serve as radio sponsors.

Committee members include Flick (chairman); Ron Johnson (vice chairman); Jody Weaver (treasurer); Mark Lauer (secretary); Denise McCloskey; William Gilbert; William Hall; Earl Berlin; Greg Hoover; Celeste Malm; Doug Castner; Mike Kahle; Karl Schlenter; and Steve Bowen.

Flick also thanked the cooperation of Cook Forest State Park over the years.

Sixty-five years ago the Cook Forest Easter Sunrise Service struck a chord with the local audience as the Warren, Pennsylvania, Boy Choir led the choral music, a chord that remains strong today.

Dr. Dale Houk, president of Slippery Rock State Teachers College, served as guest speaker at that first service.

“The forest was God’s first great cathedral, the ‘organ’ is all but destroyed,” said Houk. “But here we may stand beneath God’s own green pines, the pipes of heaven’s great organ, and listen with reverence as the winds play to stir and uplift the soul of man.”


(Photos of earlier services provided by Ron Flick.)

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