Lights Out, Spirit in at College First


Technical issues are the bane of our 21st century church services. Sometimes, it doesn’t matter how well trained the sound tech is, or how many times the band has rehearsed, something just goes wrong, but as they say in show business, the show must go on. College First Church of God in Findlay recently had some technical issues of their own, but the result worked toward to turn a normal Sunday service into something that those in attendance won’t soon forget.

This past Sunday, June 2nd, at the 10 A.M. contemporary service at College First, everything was set to go according to plan. As the worship service started in the Winebrenner Theological Seminary building, suddenly all electricity was cut at the building. The worship instruments fell silent. The mics cut out. Even the sound of the air conditioning units came to an abrupt stop. Most importantly, the crowd was thrust into the dark. Now, for most church buildings, when the lights are off, people are able to better appreciate the stained-glass windows, or at least get some ambient light from modern windows. But that’s not the case in the Winebrenner TLB auditorium. The auditorium has exactly zero windows, and the only light that might leak in would come from the four separate double door entrances. But those doors are mostly closed during the service. Attenders testify that it wasn’t just dark in the building but pitch black.

Some quick thinking had everyone begin to pull out their cellphones and turn on their flashlights. Not unlike a modern rock concert, just with cellphones instead of cigarette lighters, the crowd used their lights to give the band some visibility, and the worship continued acoustic style for a song.

Soon it was figured out that the lights wouldn’t be coming back on anytime soon. The streetlights had also gone out, meaning it was a power issue all the way down the block, and at least two other churches were wrestling with the same issue.

Carefully, and with unity, the congregation picked up their chairs and began moving them out into the atrium of the building. Situated around the large wooden cross, with windows all around and above, the church once again had some light, and the band started playing. Pastor Ed Rosenberry started everyone singing “this little light of mine”, which was, admittedly, a little on the nose, but felt quite appropriate.

Communion was held beneath the cross, and the atmosphere was more intimate than a typical service. Some remarked that the service felt a little like camp service, and others suggested that maybe College First needed to have a bonfire service more often to capture that spirit of camp and unity.

What strikes me about the morning is how the disruption to the status quo allowed for a service that, while certainly more stressful on the worship team and pastors, was also more meaningful and communal than the typical Sunday service might have been. Churches are very intentional about trying to get people involved, to feel like they are not just watching a worship service, but actively taking part in it. Yet, it’s still difficult to manifest that feeling of togetherness and community when the service is being put on for you. When the lights went out, and everyone had to pick up their chairs, and use their own lights to make the service happen, there was no question about it. Everyone present had to pitch in to make sure the service could continue. There wouldn’t have been a service without every individual taking an active role. I’m not sure that sense of ownership can be replicated without putting in the work.

That doesn’t mean that every service should be like this, and I’m confident College First will be at least a little on edge next week, hoping and praying the power doesn’t go out again, but maybe an all hands on deck service every couple of months would have a strong impact on the ownership that congregants have over their churches vision, mission, and values.

CGGC eNews—Vol. 18, No.  23

CGGC eNews

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