Darkened worship service was still bright

Published 7:18 pm Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to go on a special spiritual retreat. It was called a “Cursillo,” which is Spanish for “little course.” It is basically a three-day study of my Roman Catholic faith.

I don’t want to give too much away, because the organizers of Cursillo prefer for the unique aspects of the retreat to remain secret. However, there was one lesson that I found especially inspiring.

In this lesson, we were reminded that the members of the body of Christ make up the true church. The church is not a building made of bricks and mortar, but the church is people. It is people who come together to live their lives in a Christian way, and to serve as an inspiring example to others.

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While this may seem like a rather basic lesson, it is still something important to remember every now and then.

And that lesson took on an even deeper meaning this past Sunday.
As I usually do, I got up that morning to head to St. Robert Bellarmine Catholic Church for Sunday Mass. Sure, it was raining pretty hard as I was driving there, but that wasn’t necessarily unusual.

However, I was a little surprised when I pulled into the parking lot and saw only about five cars there. I was even more surprised when I went into the sanctuary and it was pitch black.

At the altar, our priest, the Rev. Gordon Milsted, had a portable electric lantern and some regular wax candles. After opening the side doors to let in some more natural light, the service began.

As I’m sure you’ve figured out by now, my church was one of several in Atmore that lost electricity during the early morning rainstorm. Father Milsted said he had never had to give Mass in the dark before, but apparently there really is a first time for everything. As he poignantly said, we would let “Christ be the light for us.”

We had a shortened service of about 20 minutes, and then headed back home.

Oddly, I found the darkness added a special atmosphere. It felt almost like the ancient Christians, who often had to have services underground and in secret, to hide from Roman prosecutors.

It was also a visible reminder that even when our world becomes hectic and stressful, God is still there with us. By not having electricity, it drove home the point that sometimes it’s good to take a step back from the hustle and bustle of the modern world, and the comforts of technology.

Would I like to have every church service in the dark? No, certainly not. But on Sunday, I found it a very moving and inspirational experience. There may have only been 20 or so parishioners in the darkened sanctuary that day, but I still felt the power of the holy Spirit with us.

After all, as Jesus told his followers, wherever two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

He didn’t say anything about whether you’ve got power or not.

Justin Schuver is the publisher of The Atmore Advance. You can email him at justin.schuver@atmoreadvance.com.