How to do an Easter service at the best location in the most “religiously unaffiliated” city in the US

photos by Ted Huang

Over 40 of us gathered on the grounds of Pittock Mansion for the first Easter Sunrise Service we’ve done in years. There were over 50 by the time we ended, as early morning runners, cyclists, and dog walkers stopped and listened in. We celebrated the Love of God winning over death as we faced east over a calm and soft lit portrait of Portland. While a little sunshine would have made it perfect, we were plenty happy to just be dry during April in Oregon.

Months ago, our staff was brainstorming Easter plans, and we decided to revive our Easter Sunrise Service. Of course, a Sunrise Service needs to be outdoors, and it’s just bonus if you can get a good view. We thought of Pittock Mansion, a historical site and museum in the hills that overlook Portland. While the mansion itself is owned and ran by its own foundation, the grounds are public and kept by Portland Parks & Rec.

Decided. We’d have the service up at the grounds of Pittock Mansion. After combing through websites and city rules, I knew that we were fine to gather for a service on the grounds, but I thought I’d call Parks & Rec just to cover my bases. Here’s how that phone call went:


Parks & Rec Office Receptionist: Hello?

Me: Hi, this is Ric Shewell. I’m the pastor at Christ United Methodist Church, I’m calling about having an Easter Sunrise Service at Grounds of Pittoc–––

Receptionist: NNNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! Hahahaha. You can’t have a church service at Pittock Mansion!

Me: Oh, sorry, I thought it was public grounds, and the website says that the grounds open up at 6:30 am. What’s preventing 15 or so of us from gathering for a short service together on the grounds? We wouldn’t bother other guests up there at that time.

Receptionist: …. hold on…. (I assume she goes to speak to a supervisor) Okay, how many of you?

Me: 15 to 20.

Receptionist: What time?

Me: 7:00 am

Receptionist: You can’t reserve the space, and you can’t have any set up.

Me: Oh yeah, nothing to set up, just 15-20 us together singing some songs and talking about Easter. There might be a guitar (said with a chuckle).

Receptionist: A what?

Me: A guitar.

Receptionist: Hold on …….. okay, a guitar should be fine but no sound system or set up.

Me: Oh yeah, we won’t bring anything else. I mean people might be bringing umbrellas, but that’s all.

Receptionist: Hold on …….. okay, handheld umbrellas are okay.

Me: Okay, thank you!

Receptionist: bye.


Well, anyway, I thought that conversation was funny. Please do not tell them about the ukulele or the folding chairs people brought! 🙂 Or that we topped 50 in number. Happy Easter! Jesus is Risen!


Peace to your souls! †

Ric Shewell