Moravians Mark Their 242nd Easter Sunrise Service on April 20, 2014

Moravians Mark Their 242nd Easter Sunrise Service on April 20, 2014

Core Facts


Sunrise Images available:

The longest running Easter sunrise service in the United States will greet the dawn with brass bands, songs and prayer on Sunday morning in Winston-Salem, NC on April 20, 2014. 

The tradition has been observed—with few changes and regardless of weather conditions—in this same spot since 1772. The observance begins at 6:00 am EST when visitors and congregants gather in front of Home Moravian Church and the grounds of Old Salem Museums & Gardens as the Rt. Rev. Lane Sapp, pastor of Calvary Moravian Church, officiates.

The services are organized and sponsored by the Salem Congregation, a group of 13 churches in Winston-Salem, all affiliated with the Moravian Church in America. The world’s first Moravian sunrise service was held in Herrnhut, in eastern Saxony, Germany in 1732. Moravians fleeing religious persecution eventually migrated to the North Carolina foothills and settled on land known as the Wachovia Tract.

Preparation on Saturday: On the Saturday before Easter, hundreds of church members scrub each of the 7,000 grave markers, all the same size and measurement as Moravians believe all come into the world equally and depart the world equally. Fresh flowers are added at every marker in the cemetery. Some churches also host Saturday night music services.

Rousing their neighbors: For the musicians, Easter activities begin between 2 am and 4 am on Sunday morning. Small groups of brass brand members rouse local neighborhoods, playing chorales on the street corners. “Sleeper’s Wake” is a popular selection.

“We started using a police escort for this so we’d have traffic control,” explains Moravian Dick Joyce, who has played in the band for 50 years. “There’s often someone new in the neighborhood that doesn’t understand the tradition.”

(If you’re visiting, you can still experience the brass band; stay at the Historic Brookstown Inn, within easy walking distance of Old Salem and the service to hear the band’s wake-up call.)

Band member breakfast: Band members next gather at Home Moravian Church for breakfast along with local officials after playing in the neighborhoods. (This event is not open to the public.) Scrambled eggs, country ham and biscuits and Moravian Sugar Cake are on the menu with stout Moravian Coffee. The meal is served in the crowded fellowship hall of the church by teams of volunteers. The band then divides up and finds their assigned positions around God’s Acre. (See more on this breakfast and a recipe for Moravian Sugar Cake at

The Service: About 35 to 45 minutes before sunrise, the pastor leading the service makes his or her appearance in the square outside of the church. Only a few spotlights illuminate a solitary figure at the podium, reading scripture and leading a short service. The musicians, now positioned on hill sides surrounding God’s Acre are cued to play antiphonally: one band on a hill starts a hymn, and another band answers in time, all the while walking to their final destination where all 400 musicians play together in the heart of God’s Acre. Thousands of attendees follow the band into the cemetery to greet the rising sun with the triumphant sounds of trumpets, trombones and French horns.

Visit Winston-Salem, NC any time of year. See Old Salem Museums & Gardens; God’s Acre;  Winkler Bakery (famous for its wood-burning oven, Moravian Sugar Cake, Lovefeast Buns and Moravian Cookies--and it's more than 200 years old) and Home Moravian Church:

If you plan to attend the service, visit: (and definitely contact us at Visit Winston-Salem)

VIDEO of brass brand, 2012 service:

VIDEO: Band practice for 2013:

Downloadable high-resolution images, perfect for online slide shows, print and online use:

Facebook album of images throughout the band’s journey:

For more information, contact Susan Dosier at or 704.993.7871 (mob) or Marcheta Keefer at Visit Winston-Salem,

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Winston-Salem is centrally located in North Carolina between the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Atlantic Ocean beaches. It is easily accessible by car via Interstate 40, Business Interstate 40, Interstate 77, Interstate 85 and U.S. Highway 52. Scheduled air service is available through Piedmont Triad International Airport just 20 minutes east of Winston-Salem. Accommodations range from bed and breakfasts to luxury hotel rooms. For more information on Winston-Salem, call toll free 866.728.4200; go to; or stop by the Winston-Salem Visitor Center, 200 Brookstown Avenue in the historic Brookstown Mill area just south of downtown Winston-Salem.

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Marcheta Keefer
Director of Marketing & Communications
Visit Winston-Salem

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