“No doubt about it,” says Sallie Laurie Bell. “One story in The Weekend Sun and we more than doubled the congregation at our Memorial Park Easter Sunday dawn service.” He's certainly chuffed and he dropped by The Weekend Sun office this week to say thank you.
Normally the Salvation Army pulls about 30 uniformed diehards to the service. “This year there was 72 people there to celebrate Christ's rising from the dead,” says Laurie.
The Army was well-pleased with that turn-out and very thankful. “Hang yeah, very, very thankful,” says the lifelong Sallie. And probably all the ring-ins were just interested members of the public – women, husbands, babes in arms, babes on knees, kids in pushchairs and a few dogs were drawn by The Weekend Sun's promotional story, a brass band, songs of celebration, a sunrise and a breakfast barbeque.
“And regardless of whether they were Sallies, they all sang heartily,” says Laurie.
Laurie made himself known to the congregation and many told him they'd read The Weekend Sun story. “It was enough to get them out of bed smartly on Easter Sunday morning. I was all through the story too. It made me famous.” He's doubly famous now.
Afterwards there was a symbolic barbeque. “Fish burgers – a bit like the Sea of Galilee loaves and fishes.”
The Sallies have held the outdoor Easter Sunday service for as long as Laurie's been in town and that's eight years. “It just adds to the atmosphere and the uniqueness of the occasion. And people said they would be back next year for the service.”
It's a special service on a special day and no doubt the Sallies and Laurie will be knocking on the door at The Weekend Sun looking for another promotional story and looking to break 100 at the service next year.