Since the mid-1960’s, the SonRise Easter Service has been a Los Banos tradition. Hosted by St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church since the inception of the service, it is an ecumenical celebration of the resurrection of Christ Jesus.
The inaugural service was held in Pacheco Park, but was moved the following year to the shores of O’Neill Forebay, across Highway 152 from the dam for San Luis Reservoir. The celebration is held annually to the left of the boat ramp, next to one of the day use picnic areas. Scattered trees and the Forebay itself form a backdrop, as the sun rises over the distant Sierras, reflecting off the water through the trees.
The SonRise Service, as St. John’s calls it, includes several ministers from other Los Banos-area churches. In the past, clerical participants came from First Baptist, Calvary Baptist, United Methodist, St. Alban’s Anglican and Crossroads, among others. An offering is collected as part of the service, 100 percent of which is donated to a local charity. Last year, $300 were provided to support the Feed the Need program run by Los Banos Rotary Club.
The entire community is invited to attend the service, regardless of church home or lack thereof. St. John’s provides some folding chairs, but many arrive with their own chairs and blankets. Early spring mornings can be chilly and a challenge for the musicians to stay in tune!
The San Luis SRA management has been generous in recent years to accommodate this event, including providing free parking passes good for the duration of the service only. While the service went on hiatus in 2020 due to the pandemic, the State Park made contact in 2021 to find out if St. John’s would resume the tradition. The service resumed its place in Los Banos yore.
The gates open to the Forebay at 6:00 am, with the service starting at 6:30. Free parking passes good for only the duration of the service will be provided at the San Luis Creek Kiosk, which is the entrance to the Forebay on the right side of Highway 152 after it crosses the dam inlet. Follow the signs from the kiosk to the boat ramp. The service will be held in the area to the left of the ramp, beyond the restroom facilities.
Following the service, St. John’s hosts an Easter continental breakfast in their Parish Hall. All are invited to join.
During the season of Lent, St. John’s also holds Wednesday evening Lent services at 7 p.m., proceeded at 6 p.m. by a soup and salad dinner. Members of St. John’s alternate who prepares the dinners, usually with two choices of soup. All are invited to come and share the meal, which are free.
Regular services are every Sunday at 9 a.m., followed by fellowship time in the Parish Hall with coffee and treats. St John’s is located at 250 W. Adams Ave., three blocks west of the Sorensen’s Rental Yard and the block directly behind Bruce’s Tires and Best Western Executive Inn.