The altar at Sacred Heart Cultural Center in Augusta glowed a hot pink Monday as the strains of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” echoed off the ornate domed ceiling.
Ryan Abel belted out the familiar 1980’s pop tune as 20- and 30-somethings in jeans and T-shirts moved from socializing to taking their seats, and the lights began to dim.
Abel promised a crisp $50 bill to the winner of a social media contest in which guests were asked to take a selfie with a friend and upload it to Twitter or Instagram.
Then the Electric Cathedral began in earnest.
The service marked the one-year anniversary of the parachurch. Brandon May, the pastor of the new Illuminate Church - which meets weekly at Westside High School - gave the message, in which he likened the power of the Holy Spirit in each saved person to the power of Grayskull in the old He-Man cartoons.
After the service - or “gathering,” the preferred term for the monthly meeting - guests were served anniversary cupcakes before many of them went to Whiskey Bar Kitchen for dinner and more informal socializing.
“(Electric Cathedral) was started by four guys who just met and wanted to do something for young professionals in their 20s and 30s,” said Abel, the executive director.
Abel, who is on the staff at Wesley United Methodist Church, said he and friends from other churches realized it was difficult to establish a ministry to reach that particular demographic at each church. The area doesn’t have a large enough population to support several ministries that cater to young professionals, he said.
So they combined efforts and created an organization with its own board of directors and bylaws through which any church wishing to partner with them could benefit.
Seven churches are partners with Electric Cathedral. They support the ministry financially and through prayer and participation.
The partner churches encompass a variety of denominations. One of Electric Cathedral’s goals is to break down denominational barriers and the territorial nature sometimes perceived between churches.
Kelsey Bensen, 25, and Sarah Hanes, 28, have been coming from the beginning. They are friends with some of the organizers.
Hanes said she loves the music and the people, and Benson likes the environment.
“The message is really good,” Hanes said.
Sisters Lakrista Davis, 25, and Lakeiba Davis, 29, drive from Aiken every month to attend.
Lakrista heard about Electric Cathedral from her pastor, Terrance Thomas, of Nazarene Missionary Baptist Church in Fairfax, S.C., when he came to preach one Monday four months ago. She has been coming ever since.
“The fellowship is amazing,” she said. “It’s just a great group of young people. Everybody’s so welcoming. We don’t have to worry about feeling left out or different.”
Lakeiba attended Monday for the second time and has already joined the volunteer staff.
“Catering to that age bracket, it gets that young group out there. So many, they’re stuck on, when they go to church they want that laid-back setting. (Electric Cathedral) gives you that laid-back setting, but at the same time, they’re teaching. . the worship is awesome.”
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