To celebrate Easter, at least three Christian County churches are planning drive-in services Sunday morning.
St. John United Methodist, Second Baptist and Concord Baptist have scheduled the morning worship services to take place in the parking lots of each facility.
Because of the coronavirus, the churches plan to follow social distancing guidelines issued by Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear and local law enforcement. Guidelines are that only individuals from a single household are allowed in each vehicle; all attendees must stay in their vehicles during the entire service; vehicles must be more than 6-feet apart and nothing must be passed between vehicles.
“Our church family misses each other so very much,” said Concord pastor David Harrison. “So, with this drive-in they’ll get a glimpse of each other through the windshield or wave at each other out the window. This will kind of be a family reunion because we’ve been out for a month.”
St. John United Methodist conducted a “trial run” this past Sunday as members gathered together for a drive-in service on Palm Sunday.
“We felt this was the closest we could get together and come together to worship,” said Janet Carden, St. John pastor. “We thought this would be a great opportunity to do something a little different, especially during Holy Week.”
Carden said the church received approval from the Methodist district superintendent and the bishop, along with the protocol they needed to follow for the service.
To prepare for the service, Carden said she emailed parishioners throughout the week notifying them that they must follow the guidelines in order to attend.
“We had to be extra careful this time, and they were. They did very well,” she said.
Carden and worship leaders Barbara Felts, Laura McDonald and Donna Williams also took precautions during the service by wearing masks and gloves.
“We were very careful and cautious to take heed to instructions we were given to stay safe,” Carden said. “We just do the best we can. We are all concerned.”
About 50 cars filled the church parking lot for morning worship, including St. John member Norma Cawthon and her 6-year-old granddaughter, Miracle.
“We are enjoying getting to see the people,” Cawthon said. “We may not interact, but we can see the people. I think this is great.”
Carden said she was happy about the turnout on Palm Sunday.
“We were tickled to death to have that many to participate,” she said. “It was nice just to see them at a distance and as they drove by to see them wave. We heard the voices of them as well, which was very encouraging for all of us.”
Carden said the church plans to conduct its morning Easter service following the same guidelines. Parking will be guided by volunteers starting at 9:45 a.m. with the service starting at 10:15 a.m.
“I know there are some who are not able to come … due to health issues and underlying conditions. We stay connected by sending them the service (link) on YouTube,” Carden said. “Whomever we have will be terrific. Where one or two are gathered together, so we’re looking forward to those one or two or 50.”
David Tucker, pastor of Second Baptist, said he believes it is important to have a gathering at Easter. He said worshiping via social media is not the same as in-person service during Holy Week.
“Easter without going to church would not be Easter. There’s something about coming to the house of God and having that sense of stepping onto that ground that is special,” he said. “For our church, we say all of the time that ‘church is family.’ We are on this journey of faith together — to be able to have a moment, a service where we gather together, even car-to-car.”
Tucker said the church is planning to follow guidelines set forth by the governor and city officials.
“The church in the community should be setting the example that others follow,” he said. “My hope is that as a church we can not only praise God and share the gospel, but we can also indicate what it looks like to be a good citizen.
“These regulations, I think, create as safe an environment as one can have to gather and worship,” he added.
Tucker said the service will be broadcast over FM transmitter to the vehicles in the parking lot. He said the service will be abbreviated to 30 minutes. The Easter service will start promptly at 10:15 a.m. Cars will be parked by volunteers starting around 9:45 a.m.
In the event of inclement weather, the church will be pre-recording an Easter service that will be broadcast on television and posted to social media.
With the COVID-19 outbreak limiting interaction with friends, loved ones and church members, Tucker said celebrating face-to-face on Easter Sunday is important to share God’s message of hope.
“Easter proves (Christ’s) power over death. If there’s anything that our world needs today is that reminder and that promise,” Tucker said. “We live in a world where we are constantly being told every day — and sometimes by the hour — how many are dying from this virus. I think it’s critical for the church to stand up and say that we have a savior who has defeated all death, including death by corona(virus). Easter for us is the time to gather and make that statement.”
Concord Baptist Church will also celebrate Easter with a drive-in service Sunday morning at 11 a.m.
Harrison said Easter “is the most important holiday we celebrate as Christians.”
“As a Christian, that’s what our faith stands on — the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ,” Harrison said. “We’re celebrating that he went to the cross, he died for our sins … We serve a risen savior.”
Harrison said having a gathering on the church grounds on Easter during the coronavirus pandemic is important — even with social distancing.
“The hope is in the eternal savior. The true fear is not this virus. The true fear is death. When you get to the root source of it — death — to me the only comfort is eternity with Jesus Christ,” he said.
“To me, the most important message is the resurrection of the savior and we just really want people to hear that message … It’s all about showing people the love of Christ.”