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Sunday, Apr 20 2014 02:31 PM

Christians celebrate 'the greatest day of the year'

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    By Felix Adamo/ The Californian

    Miranda Fitchpatrick, right, greets Katelynn Harbin before services begin for Resurrection Sunday at Olive Drive Church.

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    By Felix Adamo/ The Californian

    Landen Belardes and the Olive Drive Church musicians start Resurrection Sunday services with songs of inspiration.

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    By Felix Adamo/ The Californian

    Olive Drive Church, which started as the First Baptist Church, has been celebrating Easter for 125 years.

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    By Felix Adamo/ The Californian

    Michelle Coats holds a cross made of clothes pins which was made and given to her as a gift from a friend.

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    By Felix Adamo/ The Californian

    Sherri Cruse, right, and her mother, Lori Cruse, in a moment of prayer during Resurrection Sunday services at the Olive Drive Church.

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    By Felix Adamo/ The Californian

    The congregation sings along during Resurrection Sunday services at the Olive Drive Church.

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    By Felix Adamo/ The Californian

    Stuart Allen, Olive Drive Church.

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    By Felix Adamo/ The Californian

    Ashley Richards, 19, Olive Drive Church.

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    By Felix Adamo/ The Californian

    Cheryl Richards, Olive Drive Church.

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BY RUTH BROWN Californian staff writer rbrown@bakersfield.com

To Cheryl Richards, Easter day is about more than cotton-tailed bunnies and chocolate eggs.

"This is the rebirth of Christ and it is our salvation," she said. "It's more than just hiding eggs."

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OLIVE DRIVE CHURCH GALA

The church is celebrating its 125th anniversary with a gala April 29. Tickets are available for $30 per person at the church, 5500 Olive Drive.

It includes a reception, dinner and time of reflection.

Richards, 68, is a lifelong member of the Olive Drive Church, which was formerly known as the First Baptist Church, located on Truxtun Avenue.

Richards, of Bakersfield, sat with her family in the Great Room of the church waiting for the Sunday service to begin.

An estimated 150 people attended the 10:45 a.m. service Richards went to. The 9 a.m. service brought about 100 parishioners.

Among most Christians, Easter is the believed resurrection of Jesus Christ after he was crucified to save believers from their sins.

"For us, this is the greatest day of the year," Rev. Joshua Kirstine said. "Without this there is no eternal life. It's a great day to be together and to celebrate."

Stuart Allen, 36, was at the worship service and said he has been attending Olive Drive Church since 1998.

"To me, Easter is victory in death," he said. "Christ died for the sins of those that believed."

The church's worship service began as a band played Christian rock songs and churchgoers sang in celebration.

Cathy Warren, 50, of Bakersfield, attended the Easter worship with her family as well.

"This is about faith and family. It's not a religious thing," she said. "It's about staying close to Jesus."

Nineteen-year-old Ashley Richards, of Bakersfield, said the best part of Easter was spending it with her family members, who were seated next to her at the church.

Sunday was especially important to parishioners at Olive Drive -- it was the church's 125th anniversary.

Prior to being at its current location, the First Baptist Church was founded in 1889. Its name was changed to Olive Drive Church on Jan. 24, 2001.

Leadership then focused on also bringing their beliefs to younger families in Bakersfield.

Kirstine said it was amazing that after 125 years, multiple moves and several changes in leadership, the congregation was still together. He said while the church is Baptist, it tries to focus more on the Gospel than the denomination.

"This Gospel is really fulfilling," he said. "This is I why I do this. It's God's work."

Kelly Nott, of Bakersfield, said she encouraged other people to explore Christianity and their beliefs and look at the importance of God.

"This day is a great celebration of the gift that God gave us," Nott, 40, said.

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