Eyes to the Skies: What the Total Solar Eclipse Means for Your Church

Eyes to the Skies: What the Total Solar Eclipse Means for Your Church

August 9, 2017 by

Ever see the sun disappear from the sky mid-day? Nope? Me neither. Unlike our pals in Egypt, Exodus 10 edition, I’ve never been alive to witness the sun blocked from the sky during typical daylight hours.

But if that idea intrigues you (in a totally awesome, non-plague kind of way), as it does me, you’re in luck.

Build bridges with people, and start by exploring our shared fascination.

This month, on Monday, Aug. 21, God is gracing us with a total solar eclipse. It’s a natural phenomenon so rare that it’s only experienced in the same populated location once every 375 years, according to TIME Magazine. Now, for the first time since 1979, it’s coming to America.

What’s the Solar Eclipse Mean for Your Church?

Since it’s only viewable in specific locations across the U.S., this total solar eclipse is naturally drawing people together. That means: Your church has an open door to take part in the innate community forming around the eclipse.

But how, you ask? Here are a few community-building ideas from fellow churches.

1. Plan an Overnight Viewing Event

In Salem, Ore., Morning Star Church will be donating the proceeds from campsite reservations to charity, and they’re even bringing food trucks for their eclipse event. Because, hey, fed people are happy people.

Peoples Church in Salem also knows this. At their sports field campout, they’re opening their coffee shop, complete with Wi-Fi.

Imagine getting people to share on social media that they were at your church’s event. Ahem, better have your hashtag visible on event signage and your eclipse-equipped Snapchat geofilters queued up.

2. Be Hospitable and Be Humble

In Wyoming, Fire Rock Church isn’t only offering ranch house and RV reservations. They’re talking about it in the right way, saying they get to “play host to the world’s eclipse-chasers” (italics added). Now, that’s the spirit.

Remember: You represent a church. Ultimately, you represent Jesus to people, too.

At your eclipse event, be hospitable. Be kind. Be cognizant of how this opportunity reflects back to how people may view the church as a whole.

3. Invite People to Come With You

For Union Church in Berea, Ky., the total solar eclipse won’t be viewable unless they travel. So, that’s exactly what they’re going to do. They’re packing up and trekking together for three hours.

You know what happens on long car rides? Deep discussions. Good connections over shared music tastes. Story time.

Think about the life-giving conversations that could happen if you invited people from both your church and your community to join.

4. Talk About Science

This eclipse is a vehicle. It’s an opportunity for churches to talk about a scientific event catching the attention of our communities. Capitalize on it.

On Eclipse Day, St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Nebraska will host a guest speaker to talk about “Matters of Church, Truth & Science.” The best part of this strategy? Your church doesn’t even have to be within eclipse territory.

Resource your church members to have informed conversations about the intersections of faith and science. Give talks from the pulpit. Host special guests. Visit science centers. Share the platform with those who have done their research.

Have courage to talk about tough stuff. And trust the Holy Spirit to do his work in people’s hearts and minds as they search for answers in the safe space of your church, its workshops, and small group settings.

Now, Get Ready: Viewing the Eclipse

Remember: You can’t just pack up the church van, and drive your youth group to a viewing site without proper preparation. (Please, please communicate that to your church’s excitable student leaders.)

Looking directing into the sun can severely damage your eyes. You’ll need access to a telescope with a solid, solar filter or ISO-compliant eclipse glasses.

Now, you don’t necessarily need to buy fancy eclipse glasses online or from your local astronomy society chapter. Unless, like me, you want commemorative memorabilia that will make you über-cool in the stargazing community for years to come.

Instead, NASA has curated resources in their NASA Eclipse Kit for viewing the total solar eclipse with inexpensive, everyday materials, like tin foil and cereal boxes.

Think Beyond the Eclipse

Can’t take part in seeing the eclipse? That’s OK. I have to agree: Committing to hours of travel on a workday just isn’t logistically possible for many of us. So, if you can’t make it, don’t get down. At this point, it might be too late to plan anything anyway.

Instead, take this opportunity to think about how your church can connect with your community in the future. This is a once-in-a-lifetime event that has people all over the country talking. How could your church be a part of that conversation? Or be a part of the next once-in-a-lifetime (or once-in-a-while) event, whether it’s an eclipse, the Olympics, a city centennial, or something else?

  • Latch on to a topic: The solar eclipse’s scientific nature means your church has an opportunity to connect with the scientific community, whether you’re near the path of totality or not. Talk science and the God of the universe within your congregation. Engage local thinkers, observers, researchers, and more. Whether it’s a sermon, a discussion group, or something unique to your setting, find the opportunity to engage a topic.
  • Welcome the community: Churches in the eclipse’s path have a unique opportunity to invite people onto their grounds. Now, think through your own city’s chances to gather people together. Take advantage of times when people are looking for space to hangout, like stargazing, fireworks, or even Christmas lights. Then, be prepared to host well.
  • Go into your community: Sure, your church could join a group of locals to check out the eclipse. But an eclipse isn’t the only time to connect. Go into your community instead of waiting for them to come to you. Whether it’s a local parade, book club, or city celebration, guide your church toward finding ways to be a part of its community.

We’re all humans with a deep desire to explore, connect, and discover our place in this wide world beneath the skies. Build bridges with people, and start by exploring our shared fascination.

Photo by: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.
Post By:

Ally Siwajian

Ally Siwajian is the digital engagement and communications liaison for a church denomination based in Los Angeles. She also tweets personally about mobilizing Christ-followers, being a native Nevadan and reveling in all things nerd here: @AllySiwaj.
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