Published: Apr 20, 2014 9:35 AM EDT

FORT MYERS, Fla.- Thousands of people gathered at City of Palms Park in Fort Myers to celebrate Easter Sunday with the annual sunrise service.

Congregations from throughout Southwest Florida gathered to worship and to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Free coffee and pastries were served both before and after the service which began at 6:30 a.m.  

The inspirational message was delivered by Pastor Gary Cox of First Christian Church in Fort Myers.   Ministers from a dozen area churches participated in the planning of this year’s annual Easter Sunrise service, which has become a tradition in Fort Myers.      

Supporting the program will be Rev. John Q. Daugherty and Rev. David Pleasant, co-pastors of CityGate Ministries (formerly known as First Baptist Church of Fort Myers and Elevation Ministries); Rev. Jeff DeYoe of Covenant Presbyterian Church; Rev. Paul deJong of First Presbyterian Church of Fort Myers; Rev. Chris McNeill of First United Methodist Church; Rev. Arlene Jackson of Grace United Methodist Church – Fort Myers Central; Rev. Dr. William Glover of Mount Hermon Ministries; Rev. Philip D. Read, II, SSC, of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church; and Rev. Dr. Israel Suarez of Templo Cristiano El Buen Samaritano.

The Community Easter Sunrise Service has been a tradition since the 1950s and has moved over the years from the Fort Myers High School Stadium to Centennial Park to City of Palms Park.  This is the 21st year that the service has been conducted at City of Palms Park.  Last year, more than 3,000 people attended the service.