This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:5)
The Back Story for Those Not There
On Sunday, April 6, at approximately 10:15 a.m., the power at Sylvania Church went out. So, about five minutes before the corporate worship service was to begin, we had no power. No lights, no sound, nada. It was quite the deluge that morning, but we had a decent crowd in spite of the rain. So, what were we to do?
Without skipping a beat, the leadership determined that we would still have a service. We could get a small group to serve as a “choir” and aid in corporate singing. Someone could still pray (just loudly). The people could all “squeeze” into the center sections (gasp!) I could preach from the center aisle, loudly, without the aid of a microphone. To top it all off, it was the first Sunday of the month, which at Sylvania means Communion celebration. How would that work? After a short deliberation, we determined at the end of the service to have everyone actively come forward to receive communion rather than passively receive it at their seats (less chance of something getting spilled in the dark)!
So far, to a person, everyone who has spoken to me about the service was blessed and moved. They loved the simplicity of things. They loved the attentiveness they had to have to listen. They loved the active movement to receive the “meal.”
For this blog today, I would like to point out a few lessons/observations I gained from having an impromptu worship service in the dark.
What I Learned When The Lights Went Out
First, I learned that a little (or a lot) of rain is not a great reason to miss out on a corporate worship service. Now, this is not meant to be some sort of legalistic, guilt trip statement. There are some people who have legitimate reasons for needing to stay out of the rain. But for most of us, with a covered walkway, ushers/greeters to help people in and out, an elevated parking lot that allows water to run off, there is little reason to avoid the Sunday service because of a bit of rain. God meets with his people in all sorts of weather!
Second, I had reinforced what I have thought for some time: technology can hinder worship rather than enhance it. Notice, I didn’t say that technology does hinder worship. But it can. One of the most common praises for the day came in this form, “I was able to be so much more attentive with the power out. I wasn’t distracted by my notes sheet, the Power Point, the movement of people around me, etc.” How many of us, when we have the advantage of a well-lit, technology driven space, are prone to distraction and short attention? When those things were removed, most people found a peace and clarity they rarely have at any time in life.
Third, the kids were quieter. Maybe they fell asleep. Probably not. It likely had more to do with them not being able to see the coloring sheets, or the sticker books, or their friend down the aisle. It was likely that mom/dad/grandma/grandpa/whoever, was being extra quiet and extra still themselves, and lessons are “caught” more than “taught.”
Fourth, we should try and sit closer together, even when the lights come back on. Many expressed to me the intimate closeness they felt with the larger body by being “squeezed” into two sections rather than spread out among the four.
Fifth, communion by candlelight through active reception has always been an incredible experience for me, and it was for Sylvania that morning. Walking down together as a family of faith, watching parents instruct their children, seeing people take a few moments to stop and pray, all of it was incredible to enhance the meaning of being in communion with one another.
Sixth, we were forced to celebrate worship in a fashion more reflective of the global church. How many other people worshipped on Sunday without power? Without lights? Without air or heat? Without sound equipment? Praise God for all of these benefits. Yet, we should also remember the countless others of the global church who praise God just fine without them.
Finally, it was simple. In a world that is overly complicated and harried, slowing down and engaging in simple, basic worship was beautifully refreshing. Sure we need to make announcements; sure it is nice to greet new-comers in the service; sure it is good to have airtight transitions between parts of the service. But there is something good and right about a prayer, a few songs, a sermon, a sharing of the Lord’s table, and dismissal song. Everyone of us needs to learn simplicity, quiet, and calm. Thank Jesus that He made us do that Sunday.
I know not everyone could be there. For those that were blessed by being there, I am sure it is a service you won’t soon forget. I know it will hold a special place in my heart for some time to come.