According to a news release from the Diocese of Charlotte, Father Richard Sutter of St. Gabriel’s Catholic Church said the lector in the Sunday service had just reached the 19th chapter of 1 Kings, a Bible passage referring to the prophet Elijah, which said, “After the wind there was an earthquake — but the LORD was not in the earthquake.” It was then that parishioners felt the 5.1 magnitude earthquake centered near Sparta, the most powerful to hit the state in more than 100 years.
Monitors said the 5.1-magnitude temblor struck at 8:07 a.m., following a much smaller quake several hours earlier. There were no reports of serious injuries, but some minor structural damage was reported in Sparta, as well as cracks in roads. Images on social media also showed items knocked off of grocery store shelves.
The Charlotte Observer reported that while he didn’t feel it himself, Sutter said parishioners came up to him as soon as the service ended. He said the moment can be a lesson for the times.
“When there’s fear from an earthquake, when there’s fear from a storm, when there’s fear from a pandemic and uncertainty ... you have to let the Lord speak to us the truth,” he said. "Let’s keep our eyes on Jesus Christ and not the waves (or even earthquakes) we cannot control,” he said.
Father Cory Catron, pastor of the Catholic mission in Sparta, said his church suffered no apparent damage from the quake. “Made for good homily material, though,” the news release said.
In his homily, Catron joked about being worried the next thing would be fire. He called the events a reminder of God's presence, adding “we must not be distracted by the noise and problems of the world around us, but listen for His voice in the stillness."
As the 11:15 a.m. Mass in Sparta was ending and Catron offered a final blessing, there was a 1.8 magnitude aftershock. He said, “The ceiling creaked for like three seconds, and everybody kind of looked up and immediately we knew what it was.”