Calvary Chapel’s Resurrection Celebration at the Tucson Convention Center includes visual and audio enhancements, as well as a performance by the Newsboys, a Christian rock band.

Calvary Chapel of Tucson

For Easter, Minette Marriott-Shook’s preference is the quiet, informal, sunrise service her congregation offers.

At 6 a.m. each year, she gathers with about 60 others around a simple, outdoor altar at St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, 3738 N. Sabino Canyon Road.

The feeling is intimate, she says. The group sits on folding chairs, singing songs without accompaniment.

“It’s quiet and reflective,” she said. “It allows you the opportunity to reflect on Easter Day because you start off in a special and quiet way, a holy way.”

For Tucson’s Calvary Chapel, Easter is a chance to share the New Testament with as many people as possible.

“We have one service, and it’s down at the Tucson Convention Center,” said Calvary’s Paul Almquist, worship director and assistant pastor.

The nondenominational congregation has been holding Easter services there for the last decade.

Easter, the celebration of Christ’s resurrection from the dead, is the most significant observance for Christians. It is also a time when people who don’t regularly attend services come back, even if just for the day.

While a 2012 Pew Research Center poll found about 3-in-10 U.S. adults said they seldom or never go to religious services, Easter is an exception. It is the most attended Christian service of the year, followed by Christmas, a 2012 LifeWay Research study found. Mother’s Day comes in third.

Calvary Chapel’s celebration is a major undertaking that includes visual and audio enhancements to reach the thousands who gather. This year’s service will include the Newsboys, a Christian pop rock band.

“This is a community event that is open to the public,” Almquist said. “It is by far our biggest — our chance to extend the message of the Gospel out to the Tucson community.”

Almquist said the church will “take over” the TCC. Children’s activities will be held separately. The service begins at 10 a.m., with doors opening at 8:50 a.m.

“We recommend people get there early, because it fills up quickly,” he said.

For Ivan and Stephanie Ashcraft, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Easter includes not only services with their church community, but also a personal celebration at their Marana home.

After dinner today, the couple will use a special set of 12 plastic eggs to teach their five children more about the meaning of the observance.

“Each egg has a special Easter message written inside, along with an object that goes along with the message,” Stephanie said.

After each one is found, the family shares verses from the New Testament that correspond to each egg’s message.

The Easter message of life after death is even more significant for the family this year because Stephanie’s father died in November.

She said their children are comforted to know that, because of Christ’s resurrection, “They will see (grandpa) again.”

“It’s a great way for our children to remember that Jesus really did live, gave his life for us all, and because of him, we are all able to live again,” she said. “Death is not the end.”

Contact reporter Patty Machelor at or 806-7754.