When the sun goes dark Aug. 21 during a total solar eclipse, churches from Oregon to South Carolina will use the event as an opportunity to illumine their communities with the gospel.
The 70-mile-wide “path of totality,” in which a total eclipse will be visible, will pass through 14 states.
The first total eclipse visible from the U.S. since 1979, this month’s cosmic event will occur when the moon passes between the sun and the earth and blocks the sun, according to NASA’s total eclipse website. Everyone in the contiguous U.S. will be able to see at least a partial eclipse. But the 70-mile-wide “path of totality,” in which a total eclipse will be visible, will pass through 14 states.
Millions are expected to gather in those states to view the eclipse, and churches in the path of totality are planning an array of outreach events.
In Casper, Wyo., Mountain View Baptist Church and College Heights Baptist Church have partnered with Child Evangelism Fellowship of Central Wyoming to purchase copies of a DVD titled “God of Wonders,” which explains how creation reveals God and how salvation is available through Jesus Christ. Church members will distribute the DVDs during the eclipse along with 3,000 evangelistic bookmarks.
“Additionally,” Mountain View pastor Buddy Hanson said, “if our parking lot is utilized for eclipse watchers, we will take that opportunity to try and share the gospel.”
In Lincoln, Neb., the launch of Hope City, a North American Mission Board church plant, is set to correspond with the eclipse. The congregation’s first service is slated for Aug. 20. That day and during the eclipse, the church will distribute 2,000 “college survival kits” at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
“These kits will be filled with ramen noodles and Pop Tarts,” Hope City pastor Logan Merrick said, “as well as the book of John and some other gospel-oriented things.”
Missouri Baptists’ newsjournal The Pathway reported on three churches in the Show-Me State that are planning eclipse outreaches – Santa Fe Trail Baptist Church in Boonville, First Baptist Church in De Soto, and Concord Baptist Church in Jefferson City.
Grand Oaks Baptist Assembly in Chillicothe, Mo., will host a “Wonders of Creation Solar Eclipse Family Retreat” Aug. 20-21, including mini-golf, hiking, swimming and an opportunity to learn about the eclipse from a Christian worldview perspective.
“Since we’re in the range of the eclipse, we thought we were in a position to do teaching and ministry for families,” Grand Oaks manager Don Boyer told The Pathway, adding that he hopes the event inaugurates an annual back-to-school retreat for families at the campground.
First Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tenn., is hearing “quite a buzz” in the community about the eclipse and is planning multiple outreach events, executive pastor Bruce Raley said.
“With projections of 250,000 or more people coming into our county, many from foreign countries, we wanted to be on the forefront of welcoming the guests,” Raley said. “We will begin on Sunday evening, Aug. 20, with a concert featuring several [Gospel Music Association] artists as well as our own musicians. On Aug. 21, people are welcome to view the eclipse from our parking lots. Hot dogs and ice cream are available to the first several hundred to arrive.
“We have already handed out over 4,000 eclipse viewing glasses and have several hundred more for those needing them,” Raley said.
Beginning just after 10 a.m. local time in Lincoln Beach, Ore., the total eclipse will take approximately an hour and a half to pass over Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)