Easter Dream

The Rev. Alan Eschenbacher of All Saints Lutheran Church stands for a portrait Tuesday in the Greenwood Memorial Terrace upper section, where he will preside over the annual sunrise service Sunday. (Jesse Tinsley)
The Rev. Alan Eschenbacher of All Saints Lutheran Church stands for a portrait Tuesday in the Greenwood Memorial Terrace upper section, where he will preside over the annual sunrise service Sunday. (Jesse Tinsley)

The Rev. Alan Eschenbacher will preside at service he’s been attending since the 1970s

Since going with his youth group in a van caravan to 1970s Spokane’s Ecumenical Easter Sunrise Services, the Rev. Alan Eschenbacher has attended most years.

“I never thought I’d preach at one,” he said.

He is the preacher for the 2011 service, which begins at 6:30 a.m. Sunday at the Lofty Cross of Inspiration overlooking Spokane from Greenwood Memorial Terrace, a cemetery just west of downtown Spokane.

The theme, “At One with God and with Each Other through the Power of the Resurrection,” he said, fits with his ministry at All Saints Lutheran Church, serving people in West Central, downtown and Browne’s Addition in Spokane.

As part of his outreach to people struggling to find jobs and struggling with recent cuts to a state aid for the disabled and unemployable, he has helped organize “Companionship Training” that has drawn Lutheran, Episcopal, United Methodist and Covenant clergy and laity to develop a mental health chaplaincy and outreach.

“We need to be there with and for people in our neighborhoods and community,” said Eschenbacher, who has been at All Saints Lutheran since 2002.

When he was in the ninth grade, he moved to Spokane with his family from Froid, in eastern Montana, where his father worked a family farm with his uncle. His father came to Spokane to work in construction.

Eschenbacher worked for 22 years in the insurance and investment profession, with “God pestering me” since he graduated in 1982 from Gonzaga University with a degree in business.

He said he tried to run away from his call to ministry, but finally began seminary at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, Calif., in 2002, continuing to live and work in Spokane, and commuting to seminary until he completed studies in 2004.

He was ordained in January 2005.  He served All Saints while studying. All Saints Lutheran was formed in 2009 by a merger of the former Emmanuel, St. Paul and Grace Lutheran churches.

It partners with Salem Lutheran on ministry in West Central Spokane and hosts at its building, 314 S. Spruce St., a weekly soup kitchen, prepared by volunteers from 10 Spokane Evangelical Lutheran Church in America churches.

The Rev. Paul Rodkey, pastor of Bethany Presbyterian Church and campus minister with Cooperating Ministries in Higher Education at Eastern Washington University, and Shonna Bartlett, program director of Gonzaga University’s Ministry Institute and St. Ann Catholic Parish, will lead and accompany music for the sunrise service.

The  Rev. Kathy Makus of St. Paul’s United Methodist will serve as worship leader.

Organizers of the service include pastors on The Fig Tree Board of Directors, in cooperation with Interfaith Hospitality of Spokane.

In 2010, The Fig Tree assumed responsibility for planning the service from the Interfaith Council, the successor to the Spokane Council of Ecumenical Ministries, the Spokane Christian Coalition – The Fig Tree’s founder in 1984 – and the Greater Spokane Council of Churches, which started the service in the 1950s.

A freewill offering will be shared by The Fig Tree and the Interfaith Hospitality of Spokane. Interfaith Hospitality is a response by the faith community to serve homeless families by providing shelter and support to help families sustain their independence.  The program helps three to four families at a time, sheltering them at one of 12 host churches, assisted by 18 support churches and daytime case management.

The Fig Tree publishes a monthly newspaper and website, and an annual directory of congregations and community resources. These publications share stories of people making a difference and help connect the faith and nonprofit communities to serve more effectively throughout the Inland Northwest.

Reprinted from the April issue of The Fig Tree.

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