Not the-temperature-is-rising-let’s-grill-out hot; I’m talking that walk-outside-and-the-humidity-draws-the-lotion-out-of-your-skin kind of hot. If you’ve ever lived in Northeast Ohio in the summertime, you know this heat and you avoid it whenever possible.
But, at 3rd Street, it’s different.
The heat isn’t different, don’t get me wrong. We’ve got that same flesh-melting heat. It’s the people who are different.
Let me take you back for a moment.
It is mid-June, and as summer is rolling in and the temperatures are on the rise, I am curious to see who will stick with us for the summer and who will choose to sleep-in on Sundays until late September when our gym with no air conditioning and no windows cools down a bit. There are mornings I debate doing the latter, but as the pastor’s wife, I assume that’s past the “frowned on” category and closer to “you just can’t do that” territory.
As we roll out the covering to protect our basketball court, set-up chairs and get the sound system unpacked, the team is sweating already. I am standing in one of the kids’ classrooms talking with Maquitta, our Kids Director, when suddenly the lights shut off.
“Can you turn the light back on?” Maquitta asks me.
I look at the light switch, the ceiling, and my hands as if somehow all of them did something and I just missed it.
“I don’t think I turned it off,” I respond, very confused and wishing I drank a little coffee before this.
We walk to the hallway and find that we have lost power in the entire building. We start calling around to neighboring buildings, only to find that our entire section of the city is out. 44707 has lost all power.
“So, what’s the backup plan?” Garret, our Sports Minister and resident jack-of-all-trades, says through laughs.
JD, Creative Arts Director, tells the worship team to scrap their plan and move all the instruments to the floor to get ready for an acoustic set.
“The kids’ classrooms will be cooler without lights anyway,” Maquitta says, walking away to finish the set-up. Her son, Abdul, follows close behind her.
I stand in the hallway and look around, amazed at this group of people. Not a single person mentioned canceling. Each leader came up with a new plan and immediately went to it.
“I wonder if people will just turn around when they see the traffic lights out?” I think to myself.
As people start entering, a group of us welcome them and apologize through laughs for no electricity.
“We decided to cut electric to save money on bills,” we joke. “Welcome to 3rd Street!”
“Pastor Corey told us we needed to be more budget-friendly, so instead of cutting coffee, we cut sound and lights.”
Group after group, people arrive and grab seats. No one leaves. No one cares.
From the gym floor with chairs circled around them, the worship team begins singing. No lyrics displayed on screens, no lights on a stage, and no amps projecting sound. No microphones.
I walk to the back of the bleachers and listen. Like a choir, the voices of 3rd Street Community Church fill the gymnasium. Together, groups of people from every background, every age, every pocket of our Canton community gather and in unity sing from their hearts.
Tears fill my eyes.
Every single Sunday, I am stunned. We are ten years into a journey with the people of 44707 and almost three full years into formally gathering as a church. I’m still waiting for the feeling of, “I can’t believe people still show up” to wear off, but I secretly hope it never does.
Fulfilling the stereotype of every millennial, I pull out my phone and make fun of myself. I know the audio won’t be near as good, but I want to remember this moment. I hit record and pan the room. Listen for a moment.
Everyone stayed. Everyone worshipped.
The sound of that morning was so undistracted and quietly beautiful. During the Word, we could hear cars drive down the street, neighbors outside, and little bugs and birds chirping.
Ironically, our sermon series at the time was called “Power.” That morning, we learned the true power of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit does not reside in the plans of man, in the power man has created, or in the power of ourselves. The power of the Spirit is mustered and found when people gather for pure, broken, honest worship of our Creator, at any cost and with an expectation of nothing but Him.
I am always proud to be part of 3rd Street, but that day, my heart was overflowing.