MADISON HEIGHTS — Easter is this Sunday, and an alliance of eight local churches is preparing an epic egg hunt to usher in the holiday with lots of excitement.
The scramble for about 5,000 candy-filled eggs across three zones — including the coveted golden eggs, redeemable for prizes — will be at Civic Center Park, at 13 Mile and John R, kicking off with a dramatic countdown at 12:30 p.m. the day before.
The Church at Madison Heights is behind the event. The ‘Church’ is a coalition of eight local churches unified around the concept of doing more for the community together than they could apart.
All are invited to the egg hunt, which features a free hot dog roast and hot chocolate, live music, face-painting tables, balloon animals, and a professional photo booth with the Easter Bunny. All photos will be available to download from the coalition’s Facebook page and website, http://www.thechurchatmadisonheights.com.
The event will take place, rain or shine.
“We actually think it would be even more fun with inclement weather — a lot messier with the mud and rain,” chuckled Ben Rathbun, pastor of Gospel Life Church, and co-founder of the coalition. “Maybe we could even have puddle-jumping contests!”
In past years, Gospel Life put on the egg hunt at Rosie’s Park, with assistance from Central Church, led by Pastor Sam Anderson, the other co-founder of the coalition. Last year’s event attracted 400 kids, hunting around 2,500 eggs.
This time, there will be twice as many eggs to collect. The park will be divided into three zones, each for a different age group, the difficulty tailored accordingly. Each section will be delineated by caution tape and well-marked signs.
Kindergarten-aged children and younger will search for eggs in the southernmost part of the park, the wide-open field people often drive by to access the parking lot. Here, the eggs will be scattered like rain, Rathbun said, making them easier to find.
Just north of that area will be a zone for first- through third-graders, dotted with more trees and shelters to make the hunt more interesting for them.
And to the right of that, east of the area with the jungle gym and many trees, the fourth- through sixth-graders will search for the most cleverly concealed eggs.
Each zone has three gold eggs hidden somewhere within their boundaries, and each gold egg can be redeemed for a prize like a solid-chocolate bunny. The gold eggs are hidden well, regardless of zone.
The staggering leap in scale — a 100 percent increase over last year’s egg count — can be attributed to the participation of the eight churches in the coalition:
• Gospel Life Church, 1042 E. 12 Mile;
• Central Church, 1529 E. 12 Mile;
• Living Waters Church, 27300 John R;
• Madison Heights Church of the Nazarene, 555 E. 13 Mile;
• Prince of Glory Evangelical Lutheran Church, 1357 W. 14 Mile;
• Red Oaks Assembly of God, 30728 John R;
• St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church, 1434 E. 13 Mile; and
• United Methodist Church of Madison Heights, 246 E. 11 Mile.
Other churches are also considering joining the coalition.
“We divided the responsibilities (for the egg hunt) based on the commitments each church can provide,” Rathbun said. “Everyone does something, but we’re giving credit to Jesus for the whole thing.”
Anderson said it was harder to cover the costs and logistics of the egg hunt when Gospel Life and Central Church did it by themselves.
“The expense alone was huge,” Anderson said. “Everyone is carrying a little bit this time, but we’re able to get a whole lot more done. It’s more simple per church, but I feel it’s going to be more extravagant than it has been in the past.”
It’s quite a sight to see the children take off once the countdown hits zero and the siren sounds.
“It’s pandemonium,” Rathbun laughed. “It’s awesome to watch the kids go nuts. I’d recommend coming even if you don’t have kids, because it’s great to see them go crazy for the eggs.”
The end result, organizers hope, is a situation where no single church gets all the attention — “Jesus gets the glory,” Rathbun said — and the community comes together as a whole, neighbors meeting neighbors they might not have known, and families having fun with their children in a friendly setting, all at no cost.
“All of the churches in Madison Heights are super supportive of the family unit, and we want the family to succeed,” Anderson said.
Collaborations like the Church at Madison Heights aren’t exactly common, Rathbun said. He noted the pastors of churches are usually concerned with preserving their individual “flocks” and don’t favor coordinating with other churches.
“Talking to other pastors in other cities, I realized how rare this coalition is, and just how proud our city should be of our pastors coming together and being inclusive, all around the idea of helping the community,” Rathbun said.
Anderson added, “It’s the mission of the whole coalition shining through this.”
The 1st Annual Easter Egg Hunt of Madison Heights, presented by the Church at Madison Heights, will be in Civic Center Park, at 13 Mile and John R, kicking off with a countdown at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, March 30. There are three sections, for kids younger than 5, first- through third-grades, and fourth- through sixth-grades. The event is free and includes free roasted hot dogs, hot chocolate, live music and more.
For more information, visit http://www.thechurchatmadison heights.com.