The Solar Eclipse: How Churches Are Preparing to Guide Viewers to Spiritual Light

Michael Foust | CrosswalkHeadlines Contributor | Updated: Apr 03, 2024
The Solar Eclipse: How Churches Are Preparing to Guide Viewers to Spiritual Light

The Solar Eclipse: How Churches Are Preparing to Guide Viewers to Spiritual Light

When the United States experiences a rare total solar eclipse on April 8 -- the last one in the contiguous U.S. for another 20 years -- churches within that narrow path say they will be ready to point visitors in their cities to the light of Christ. 

A total solar eclipse takes place when the moon completely blocks the visible surface of the sun, thus instantly darkening the sky and allowing viewers to see planets and stars as if it were night. Nocturnal animals sometimes wake up. Non-nocturnal animals may believe it’s time to sleep. Temperatures fall.

During this time -- which lasts less than five minutes -- the sun’s outer atmosphere, the corona, is visible.

In the U.S., the 2024 total eclipse will start in Texas and then cross into parts of Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York before exiting the U.S. in the New England states. A partial eclipse will be visible in a wider range of states.

Solar viewing glasses are necessary for viewing it safely.

Churches say the event is a great time for outreach and evangelism, with millions of tourists descending on the path of totality. The next total eclipse in the contiguous U.S. won’t be for another 20 years, in 2044.

At Driftwood Christian Church in Vallonia, Ind., members will hand out Moon Pies covered with the words of Jesus: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness.”

“That God created something like this for us to enjoy -- God’s just like, Enjoy my creation, on an epic scale! -- I think you just have to be in awe,” pastor Daniel Ison told Christianity Today. “Even the fact that the size of the moon and the distance between the moon and the sun has to be exact for this to be a thing -- the majesty of it is amazing.”

Hope Church in Brunswick, Ohio, expects hundreds of members and visitors on its 10-acre property, CT reported. The congregation purchased 5,000 pairs of solar viewing glasses to give to visitors.

“We want to care about what they care about,” pastor Shawn Brennan told CT. “I think the days of just existing and putting a sign out front are over. We’re trying to be intentional in our community, representing the heart of Christ and being an active presence.”

David DeFelice, an elder at Hope Church, said the eclipse is an opportunity to celebrate God’s creation.

“It points to a creator God who loves beauty and patterns of regularity,” DeFelice told CT. He formerly worked at NASA’s John H. Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. “It points to the design of an awesome creation and we want to point to that.”

At Steel City Church in Ohio, totality will last nearly four minutes, during which time the church will hold baptisms outdoors in the parking lot.

“We see it as an opportunity for people that have come to Christ to experience that opportunity to come from death into new life that way, coming out of the darkness,” pastor Billy Glover told Baptist Press. “Those baptized can say, ‘I did this at a time when the world went dark and I came out of that darkness.’”

DeFelice sees similarities between the eclipse and faith in Christ.

“You try to tell people about your faith and they don’t get it,” he said. “And it’s kind of the same way with an eclipse. People look at you, like, What’s the big deal? And you say, ‘Just trust me. It’s an amazing experience. Just give us a few minutes. Just try. It’s amazing.’”

Image credit: ©Unsplash/Abed Ismail

Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist PressChristianity TodayThe Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.

The Solar Eclipse: How Churches Are Preparing to Guide Viewers to Spiritual Light