FARMINGTON — In the biblical story of the resurrection, three women checked on Jesus' body in a tomb at sunrise on the third day after his death.

That's why sunrise Easter services are popular among Christians, said Jonathon Dobbs, the pastor of Aztec Church of Christ.

Dobbs and pastors from other Aztec churches have organized the annual sunrise service at Aztec Ruins National Monument. This year's service will begin at 6:30 a.m. Sunday. The sun is expected to rise around 7 a.m.

"I think that it's a good opportunity for the community to get together," Dobbs said.

Dobbs said he enjoys watching the sun rise and "the knowledge that we are together from all different churches worshiping the savior."

The Aztec Ruins National Monument will host an Easter sunrise service at 6:30 a.m. Sunday. The ruins are pictured in June 2013.
The Aztec Ruins National Monument will host an Easter sunrise service at 6:30 a.m. Sunday. The ruins are pictured in June 2013. (Magdalena Wegrzyn/The Daily Times)

Barry Cooper, the former superintendent of the monument, said the service is a traditional event for Aztec.

"I think it started long before Aztec Ruins was a park service area," he said.

Cooper was superintendant for 15 years and said the service was an annual event before he started.

Dewain DePew, the pastor of Aztec Presbyterian Church, said he thinks there is a special atmosphere around the ruins.

"When we're in the plaza, there's just an atmosphere there of connecting the past with the past," DePew said, referring to bringing together the ancestral Puebloans' culture with biblical history.

He said it is beautiful to watch as the sun rise over Knickerbocker Hill.

DePew said the sunrise service tradition stopped for a few years before he and a Catholic priest brought it back in 2005.

Different members of the community set up and organize the event each year. The Kiwanis Club of Aztec brings chairs to set up on the plaza, and Crash Music Co-owner George Rowe helps with the sound system.

"It's a pretty broad group of people involved," DePew said.

The Aztec Ruins National Monument will host an Easter sunrise service at 6:30 a.m. Sunday. The kiva at the ruins is pictured in June 2013.
The Aztec Ruins National Monument will host an Easter sunrise service at 6:30 a.m. Sunday. The kiva at the ruins is pictured in June 2013. (Magdalena Wegrzyn/ The Daily Times)

In addition to Dobbs and DePew, the Rev. Rod Conover from Aztec Christian Church; Jeff Simonds, the pastor of Aztec Methodist Church; and Bob Schlaugher, the pastor of Bethel Baptist Church, are helping organize this year's service.

DePew said the sunrise service connects Christians with the resurrections, which Christians believe happened shortly before sunrise.

"Although we use a cross as a representation of our faith, the resurrection is the key because without the resurrection, Jesus is nothing but a good rabbi," DePew said.

Hannah Grover covers news, arts and religion for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 and hgrover@daily-times.com. Follow her @hmgrover on Twitter.