In Elko New Market, candle lighting a simple way to evangelize

| December 13, 2016 | 0 Comments
Tea Light Candles

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When Karen Johnson took on the task of boosting evangelization efforts at St. Nicholas in Elko New Market, she decided to start small.

The communications and mission coordinator at the parish since 2015, Johnson planned a simple, inviting opportunity for people to stop and pray during Advent. She calls it “a mini evangelization effort.”

The event’s name — “Come, Light a Candle, Say a Prayer” — summarizes its purpose and process. St. Nicholas will hold its second annual come-and-go event, open to anyone, 3 to 5 p.m. Dec. 17. Catholics have the option of going to confession during the parish’s regularly scheduled time, 3:30 to 4:40 p.m.

“We extended our invitation to other faith communities and really wanted them to feel welcome here at St. Nicholas without feeling pressure of any kind,” Johnson said. “What better way to do this than to have an event where it would be quiet, peaceful and prayerful?”

The parish creates the environment in the church to have all three qualities. People can walk into the church and light a tea light candle near the altar and pray in the relative silence. A recording of Gregorian chant plays softly in the background. The church’s lights are dimmed to add to the peaceful atmosphere.

“Our hope for those attending is that their hearts may be opened, so they can hear the graces our Lord wishes to share with them,” Johnson said.

That happened for Shari Luebbert, 52, who visited last year from Tapestry Vineyard Church in Elko New Market, where she serves as lead pastor. Luebbert, who had been to St. Nicholas before for funerals and an ecumenical service, came looking for a time just to be with the Lord and spent an hour as she planned.

“I left feeling a strong connection to Jesus that I was looking for, that I needed to get to go out and do what I needed to do in my own congregation,” Luebbert said.

For some, it brought healing.

“It just touched me personally because my husband and had been through a loss literally a week or two before,” said Adrian Fischer, 44, a St. Nicholas parishioner.

She added: “For me, it was just really beautiful that I could go there, and I love to light candles” for particular intentions.

Johnson said about 42 people attended, and people expressed interest in holding the event again. Luebbert said she has told members of her congregation about the event, too.

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