Grace United Methodist Church is taking a unique approach to services during the coronavirus outbreak. A first for the church and for the area, a drive-in church service will be held at 6 p.m. on Sunday at the church. Senior Pastor Bill Blair will give an inspirational message on the church balcony over the parking lot behind the church that will be broadcast over WMUG-FM 105.1.
First and foremost, the idea came in the interest of keeping the church congregation safe and healthy.
“We understand that it’s important for people to keep their distance,” Blair said. “So by keeping people in their cars, they’ll limit their exposure to others.”
The idea for the drive-in service came from a collaboration of some of the contemporary worship leaders and members of the congregation who work at the radio station, including its founder, J.D. Varner. It was posited for Pastor Blair to stand on the balcony and broadcast his voice via a phone call to the radio station to those who tune in.
“I’ll be able to talk through my phone,” said Pastor Blair. “Someone at the radio station will give me a call before the time of the service and then patch me in. Then our phone conversation will go live.”
Since this is such a new endeavor, they’re hoping that things go correctly. There are some pre-recorded songs that they have to play in case things take longer to set up than they anticipate.
“We’re fortunate to live in a time when we can use technology in such a way,” Blair said. “Even if it takes awhile and even if we’ve never tried this before, we may end up with something wonderful.”
Like many other churches, Grace Church has also been utilizing Facebook to share live videos of presentations and messages. Those videos stay on the page for people to watch at their leisure. This new venture, however, is a way for people to stay more connected than by just watching things on a screen, even though they’ll be separated and in their cars.
“I fully believe that we are made in the image of a relational God,” Blair said. “Without relationships we dry up. We have to keep building on and celebrating these relationships, even if we can’t be physically close together. Hopefully, seeing a live person and hearing their voice, even if they’re far away, will help people feel connected.”
As of right now, the church plans to hold this Sunday’s service as well as one next week at the same time and location. According to Blair, if the formatis well received, the church will try to continue them in the future.
“We’ll do them as long as we’re allowed to,” he said. “We’re taking things as they come day by day as much as any of us can. The current situation has left us with some staff changes, but we’re doing everything we can to stay out there.”
The church will continue to post videos on Facebook as well as make calls reaching out to its members and sending out activities and lessons for the kids and teens that attend.
“We’re just doing what we can,” Blair said. “I truly believe that we can come back stronger from all of this than we ever have before. God is with us every day and he will be able to take what is evil and bring it to the good. We’ll take things day by day and know that some good will come out of this.”
Written by Amanda Dunlop