The rain pelted the hoods of our jackets as we rushed under the shelter of the awning, standing alongside the others waiting to enter the sanctuary. We stepped through the doors and headed towards our normal pew section (we don’t want to sit in the same pew each week, but being people of habit, we have our regular pew section). Though the sanctuary was living up to its name, protecting us from the sting of the cold, we could still hear the rain pinging against the roof. And with a sanctuary that has 3/4 of the walls as windows, we could see the storm battering everything in sight.
I was surprised at how many people were there. On rainy days in California, I generally expect attendance to drop by about 25%, with many people opting for Pastor Blanketensheets for their morning worship. But the number of people in the sanctuary seemed comparable to a sunny spring day. I smiled as I noticed one of our high school students (Emma) step up to one of the microphones. Seems she was one of the worship leaders for the morning. I was excited to be led in worship by her.
The band played two songs and as it began the third, I noticed Emma look over to the main worship leader, waiting for her cue. When he nodded her head, she stepped forward to the microphone and began to sing. It was beautiful to see her absorbed in the music, living into the liminal space where Spirit and song meet. With eyes closed, she sang her heart to the Lord.
Halfway through the second verse, the power went out. Guitar, bass, and microphones were dead. What was once a bright, warm room now took on the color of the rain. Immediately a look of fear and confusion overtook her and she looked to the worship leader for some sense of direction. But before he could do anything to help guide the moment, the entire congregation jumped into the song, belting it with gusto and fervor. We began the song as Presbyterians, but now we were a bunch of Pentecostals. What was once fear and confusion upon her face was now joy as she joined in with God’s people, her voice now lost in the chorus.
Our service was powerless for the next 30-40 minutes. In that time, we consolidated from 6 aisles to 2, squeezing next to former strangers, now brothers and sisters. The scripture reader belted out the passage and one of our associate pastors, the most soft-spoken, preached the word with vigor and strength. As people filed out the sanctuary, I heard numerous comments that the service had been the most powerful services they had been to at our church. And all it took was a little power outage for the true source of our power to be revealed.