Posted on : Thursday April 16, 2020

By Sharon Mager

COLUMBIA, Md. —Driving to church on Sunday almost seems like a thing of the past during the COVID-19 government-mandated emphasis to stay home, but some folks are still heading to church, parking, and then staying in their cars. Drive-in church is a way some churches are either meeting weekly or using the venue as a “special” service event.

Bruce Outreach Center in Westernport, Maryland, gave the idea a try on Easter Sunday. Senior Pastor Steffan Carr said it was a first for the church, and he felt it went well.

They bought a transmitter from a company on Amazon. “We plugged it into the sound system and we were able to broadcast to the radio for about a ¼ mile radius,” he said.

A small ensemble played music and Carr shared a message.

Carr shared, “I have a habit of saying, Amen, and when I did, people started honking their horns.”

For the offering, Carr said he announced that if folks wanted to make a contribution, they could drop it in the church’s mailbox.

“There were two ‘positives,'” Carr said. “People had their own worship service in their vehicles with their families. Secondly, they could see their brothers and sisters at the church, and wave and honk at each other. It was very therapeutic for folks.”

Joel Rainey, the pastor of Covenant Church in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, agreed that getting out and seeing other church members was therapeutic. They had a drive-in Easter service in their church’s parking lot.

“We thought that ‘for Easter, if legal, let’s do something safe but that allows us to see each other,'” Rainey said.

Rainey called the county sheriff’s department, explained what the church wanted to do and their precautions, and asked for police presence. The police complied.

The rule for the service was that everyone had to stay in their car, no matter what. They were permitted to lower their tops or sunroofs, but not to roll down their windows.

Like Bruce Outreach Center, Covenant purchased a transmitter. As folks drove in, they heard pre-recorded announcements that included resources to support local businesses, and church information, including the church’s regular food distributions.

At the end of the service, Rainey donned a mask and “met” cars as they left.

“Normally I would go to the back and stand at the foyer and greet between 250-300 people per service, shaking hands and hugging. This was different. I was able to stand by the exit and wave,” he explained. And folks honked their horns.

Rainey said,”It’s important to balance public safety with people’s need for emotional and spiritual support. Seeing each other was important.”

“It gave them a sense of hope,” he concluded. This is going to end.”

Photo of Pastor Steffan Carr sharing at Bruce Outreach Center (used with permission).