When early settlers came to Sumner, the small town began its journey to the quaint community it is today.
A man by the name of Whitman came with the first group of settlers, and he established the Sumner Academy, according to Art Sphar, a retired Sumner Police Department chaplain.
“He was a very active evangelist,” Sphar said of Whitman, an early settler in Sumner. “He was one of the first Methodists here.”
Catholics and Presbyterians soon followed, causing Sumner to mirror the first settler’s beliefs when it came to establishing the town.
“It’s quiet, peaceful and pleasant,” Sphar said. “It just has all those things you think of with a churchgoing community. When I was police chaplain, the officers would call it ‘Mayberry,’ and it is still like that today.”
Echoing the community’s strong churchgoing roots, Sphar and the rest of the team in the Sumner/Bonney Lake Ministerial Association will host the annual Community Easter Sunrise Service on Sunday (March 27) at Sunset Chev Stadium.
As for how long the annual sunrise service tradition dates back, Sphar says he’s been a minister in the Sumner community for more than 30 years and the service was going strong when he first arrived in 1983. Sunset Chev Stadium was built in 1959, and Sphar says it was going on then, too.
“There’s been years that there’s been snow and we’ve been out there freezing,” he said. “There’s been other years that it’s sunny and warm like last year.”
The traditional Easter service starts at 6:30 a.m. with hymns and a sermon, followed by coffee and donuts. While many churches host their own sunrise services, Sphar says the Ministerial Association’s is unique.
“It’s non-denominational,” he said. “It’s one of two times a year the Sumner church community meets as non-denominational.”
Secondly, every penny of the offering collected goes toward what he calls “general community benevolence.”
One of the many beneficiaries of the general community benevolence is the Sumner Family Center, headed by Joannie Hill. The Family Center is a co-op between the cities of Bonney Lake and Sumner, the Sumner School District, Good Samaritan Community Services and the state health department.
The money collected is then distributed to families and individuals in need of support in the Sumner community based on a pledge process, Hill said.
If students need help covering the cost of athletics, student fees, ASB fees, or community members need help accessing resources, the Ministerial Association is there to help fill that gap.
“They’ve gone above and beyond when it comes to helping the community,” Hill said of the association. “I don’t know how I could do it without their help. They’ve even helped with rent assistance and hotel stays if they don’t have a spot to stay that night. I’m very grateful for their support. It provides hope and light in people’s worlds that may be dark.”