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Hundreds Gather to Celebrate Rising Son

Religion: Faithful mingle with outdoor enthusiasts during Easter service at Lake Casitas.


Shrouded in a thick blanket of fog beneath a rising sun, Lake Casitas' marshy banks rivaled the most ornate man-made cathedrals Sunday morning.

Or so some of the nearly 400 worshipers who trampled through wet grass for Ojai Valley Community Church's annual lakeside Easter sunrise service said.

"We thought about how beautiful it would be to come out to see the sunrise on the day that Jesus rose from the dead," said April Osborne, a Ventura resident who was there with her husband, Jim, and their two sons, Landin, 5, and Nicholas, 2. "We discussed this last night with our sons. . . . We talked a lot about Jesus dying."

As the service was underway, boaters were preparing to launch fishing boats while campers and day hikers were up and about, looking for a prime trail or picnic spot at the lake. It was a sharp contrast from the year before, when the sun hid behind thick clouds for most of the morning service.

Oxnard resident Adelaine Brian had her sons, Michael, 13, and Martin, 23, up before dawn to nab a picnic table along the lakefront for a family gathering later in the day. They got the spot plus a little religion, since the table they claimed was only about 25 feet from where the faithful set up their chairs for the Easter service.

That was fine with Brian, whose husband, Martin, was readying their boat for a day of bass fishing.

"This is really nice," she said as the service got underway about 6:15 a.m. "We went to church last night, but the boys didn't attend. But here they are. It's a miracle."

Leading the service, now in its fourth year, was the Rev. Paul Bergmann, a former NFL football player who now spends his Sundays as pastor of Ojai Valley Community Church. Bergmann, who recently returned from a trip to Israel, used his Easter sermon to urge the audience to work through life's obstacles.

The story of Easter is all about Christ doing the same thing, he said.

The heavy stone that Christians believe Christ pushed from the front of his tomb after his resurrection is the ultimate symbol of overcoming an obstacle, Bergmann told the audience.

"The stone in front of the tomb is very large," Bergmann said. "We all have our own stones to lift. The fear of death. The fear of failure. How many of you would like to lift those stones out of your backpacks?"

Before he spoke, Bergmann asked Oak View resident Mike Poland to stand before the audience and "give his testimony."

Poland talked about how he is trying to be a good father and husband after two divorces and a lengthy battle with drugs and alcohol.

"I hope what I have to say gives people hope that you can go through a lot in life and overcome it," he told the audience, many of whom sat under heavy blankets while sipping hot coffee and eating doughnuts provided by the church. "I have been through some hardships in life, but the Lord has always been there whether I knew it or not."

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