Heaven from earth: How churches are embracing the eclipse

by Cara Modisett

Some Episcopal parishes with a view of the August 21’s complete solar eclipse are seeing the astronomical event as an outreach opportunity, according to a story from the Episcopal News Service (read the entire article here). In the plans: everything from parking to parties.

Episcopal churches along that path, from Oregon to South Carolina, are throwing out the welcome mat to eclipse-watching tourists this month, turning churchyards into campgrounds, hosting viewing parties and inviting the public to contemplate the mysteries of God’s creation.

“God made the universe. This is one of his spectacular shows,” Nelson told Episcopal News Service by phone this week.

She has been busy making arrangements for a makeshift campground at St. Matthew’s. By Aug. 21, the church property will accommodate campers at 30 RV sites and 26 tent sites. The congregation hopes to raise about $4,000 by collecting a suggested donation of $25 per night from some of the thousands of visitors expected to descend on this small city in Nebraska’s Panhandle.

An even bigger celebration is expected in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, which is said to be near the point of greatest eclipse. Astronomers describe that as the point where the moon’s shadow will take its most direct aim at the Earth during the total eclipse. With that the distinction, Hopkinsville is marketing itself “Eclipseville.”

“The community’s been talking about it for years and getting ready,” said the Rev. Alice Nichols, rector at Grace Episcopal Church in Hopkinsville.

Nichols said she has heard estimates that more than 100,000 visitors may converge in Hopkinsville on Aug. 21, which would quadruple the city’s non-eclipse population of about 32,000. She has contacted Episcopal churches across Kentucky inviting parishioners to come to Grace Episcopal to view the eclipse. Grace Episcopal isn’t offering camping, but visitors can pay $30 per adult and $15 per child to reserve one of 75 parking spots and join the church viewing party, with proceeds benefiting the church’s Graceworks ministry.

Grace Episcopal also will offer its guests a boxed lunch before the total eclipse begins at 1:24 p.m. Eye protection is included as well. Nichols stocked up with 300 certified sunglasses, a must for anyone wishing to view the eclipse.

How is your parish or diocese preparing for the eclipse?

 

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