Easter service on Mount Rubidoux is back, here’s what to expect – San Bernardino Sun

The sunrise Easter service on Mount Rubidoux returns this Sunday for the first time since 2019, and the excitement is, appropriately for the holiday, rising.

“Every year there’s a lot of interest, this year especially, because for the first time in two years it’s official,” says Brenda Wood, the lead pastor for the nondenominational service.

“A few of us walked up and did everything online,” Wood elaborates concerning 2020 and 2021. “Last year it wasn’t really official. Some people walked up, about 20.”

This year she expects normal attendance of 2,000 or even 3,000.

The tradition began more than a century ago, almost by chance, and via a celebrity who did not stay in his lane.

Social reformer and journalist Jacob Riis, who was famous for drawing attention to slum conditions in New York City, visited Riverside on April 4, 1909, and in a speech at the Mission Inn declared that the mountain would be a swell place for a Yuletide procession.

This seems off-brand for Riis, like Karl Marx endorsing a breakfast cereal. But the God-and-flag appeal of Riis’ idea was embraced by hotel owner Frank Miller, who rather than wait for Christmas quickly organized the first Easter sunrise service for the following Sunday.

The service caught on and got bigger and bigger, continuing annually other than during a hoof and mouth epidemic, World War II and the coronavirus pandemic. It’s the longest-running outdoor Easter service in the United States.

The modern version is a collaborative effort. Wood, who’s been involved for the past decade, tells me: “We want to keep it going, to keep the tradition going despite the circumstances.”

The service starts at 6 a.m. and ends at 7. Participants are urged to park at Ryan Bonaminio Park and allow 45 minutes to walk to the summit, bringing chairs and water if they like.

This would seem to eliminate almost everyone but morning people and insomniacs. To state the obvious, a sunrise service means arriving in the dark. Boy Scouts will be there to help light the path, but still, you have to then walk up the trail 3 miles, possibly while lugging water and a lawn chair.

And as for arriving at the parking lot no later than 5:15 a.m., the spirit might be willing, but the flesh is weak (and the bed is warm).

“That’s why we do the livestream,” Wood says, because most aren’t able or willing.

Who attends?

“It’s local Riversiders who’ve been here a long time and want to be part of the tradition,” Wood says. “We have whole families that come up. It’s their Easter tradition.” Afterward, some go to their regular house of worship for a sort of Easter double-header.

The service consists of prayer, worship, remarks by a slate of pastors and an altar call in which people can step forward to commit to Christ.

The sun will rise at 6:17 a.m., about a quarter of the way through.

“It’s really neat when you’re up on the mountain and you see the sun come up,” Wood tells me. I’ll take her word for it.

She’s up far before dawn.

“I get up at 3 o’clock on Easter morning. Every year I think, ‘Why am I doing this?’” the pastor shares with a laugh. “Then I get up on the mountain and realize, ‘This is why I’m doing this.’”

Docs to cops

Troy Pennington of Arrowhead Regional Medical Center is now also a reserve police officer in Fontana. (Photo by David Allen, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

Troy Pennington, emergency services director of Arrowhead Regional Medical Center, has been quoted in some of our coronavirus stories on conditions at San Bernardino County’s public hospital.

And on Tuesday, the ER doc, wearing his dress blues and a badge rather than a surgical smock and a stethoscope, was sworn in by the Fontana City Council as a reserve police officer.

He’s now officially a member of Inland Valley SWAT, a regional team with members from Fontana, Rialto and Colton. He’s not the only physician/cop: Stephen DeBouchet, an Arrowhead colleague, was also sworn in Tuesday.

Recognizing Pennington’s name as I read the agenda online, I headed for the meeting to find out more. Would the doctors be armed with scalpels? Would they shoot suspects, then immediately extract the bullet?

Police Chief Billy Green told me Pennington and DeBouchet will train officers on emergency medical techniques, including mental health and drug overdose assistance, and will also be on assignments to render aid to officers or suspects if needed.

Two previous ER docs, Michael Neeki and Benjamin Archambeau, have served on the team, which consists of 38 tactical officers, seven negotiators, three tactical dispatchers and one tactical paramedic. Pennington and DeBouchet will volunteer their time and skills.

“We couldn’t afford to bring them in to do what they do for us as volunteers,” Green said.

Pennington, an osteopath, told me he and DeBouchet went through the Police Academy like other reserve officers. One inspiration was the San Bernardino mass shooting in 2015, during which Neeki was among the first on the scene.

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