Home Christian News Eclipse Watchers May Use Church Parking Lots To Look Toward the Heavens

Eclipse Watchers May Use Church Parking Lots To Look Toward the Heavens

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A total solar eclipse is seen above the Bald Knob Cross of Peace, Aug. 21, 2017, in Alto Pass, Ill. Small towns and rural enclaves along the path of April 2024’s total solar eclipse are steeling for huge crowds of sun chasers who plan to catch a glimpse of day turning into dusk in North America. Throughout history, solar eclipses have had profound impact on adherents of various religions around the world. They were viewed as messages from God or spiritual forces, inducing emotions ranging from dread to wonder. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)

(RNS) — The special glasses have been delivered. The portable toilets have been ordered.

Now, for expectant sky watchers and for property owners — including a number of churches — in the path of the total solar eclipse Monday (April 8), it’s just a matter of waiting and hoping for good weather until the eclipse begins.

Across the swath of the United States stretching from Texas to Maine where “totality” is expected, clergy have come up with ways to make the most of the astronomical show — handing out those glasses, giving out-of-towners a place to park and observe the event, and even offering locals the opportunity to be baptized near the time of near-total darkness.

Billy Glover, pastor of Steel City Church in Sheffield Lake, Ohio, said he has five “school aged students” who intend to be baptized that day as the moon briefly blots out the sun.

“The purpose of holding baptisms during the eclipse is to offer a once in a lifetime opportunity for new believers, to be raised from darkness into a new life through Jesus Christ,” the Southern Baptist pastor told Religion News Service in an email.

Glover’s church will provide paid spaces in its parking lot, “which will include two pairs of certified eclipse viewing glasses.” In addition, there will be access to bathrooms and concessions.

Deborah Haarsma, president of BioLogos, an organization that seeks to foster the integration of science with Christian faith, said she views the eclipse as a new way for churches to connect with a wider community.

“This is a moment where we can be worshipping the Creator,” she said, “and doing that together, doing that at church, I think, is a wonderful thing for the church community itself and also great outreach to the larger community where they see that a church is engaging things in the natural world, things that everybody’s curious about.”

Though they are aware of the time and the date of the eclipse, clergy realize there are a lot of unknowns for an event that NASA says will occur over more densely populated regions than the path observed in 2017.

The effect of unusual levels of traffic is one worry. “The impact on our roadways from the projected number of visiting spectators is a significant safety concern before, during and after the eclipse,” Glover said. “Then, if that is not enough, we have been notified from emergency services that part of our property will be used to station the medical helicopter for medevac purposes.”

Lifeway Baptist Church in Ellettsville, Indiana, plans to make three portable toilets and its two parking lots available for free — first come, first serve — on Monday, but Doug Stewart, pastor for member growth at the independent Baptist church northwest of Bloomington, said there’s no telling whether some people might show up even before its Sunday service begins.

“If that happens Sunday morning, then we’re just going to have to make the best of it and try and find a way in and we’ll just do whatever we can,” said Stewart. “We’re just trying to manage this incredible opportunity with an unknown potential for there being tons of people or maybe it’s just going be just a little more congested.”