First Sunrise Service
The year was 1909. The place was Mount Roubidoux in California. In the valley at the foot of the mountain was Mission Inn. Here, staying as a guest, was Jacob Riis, the famous social crusader and father of slum clearance in New York.
As Riis looked up at the crest of Mount Roubidoux, he caught a vision. At the evening song service of the Inn, he passed along his thoughts to Frank Miller, the inn proprietor, and the assembled guests:
“I see in the days to come an annual pilgrimage—call it what you will—winding its way up the steeps of Mount Roubidoux, climbing ever higher toward the cross that crowns the summit, where the dell peels out its message of peace on earth and good will to men, and gathering there to sing the old songs that go straight to the hearts of men and women.”
Riis spoke as a true prophet, but even he could never have dreamed how soon his words would come true. The next Sunday was Easter, and Miller decided to make its observance memorable. He invited one hundred of his guests and friends—Riis had left by then—to climb with him at dawn to the summit of Mount Roubidoux and there to hail the breaking of the holy day with a simple, impressive service.
In the light of that Easter dawn of 1909, the first sunrise service on record was held by those one hundred pilgrims.