SPOTLIGHT: Honk for a Hallelujah!

SPOTLIGHT: Honk for a Hallelujah!

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If you’ve been around long enough, you might remember packing the kids up in the car on a Saturday night and heading to the drive-in movie theater where you could sit in the car, eat snacks, and watch a couple of movies. You’d hear the movies from a speaker that you hooked onto your window - or in more recent times, by tuning into an FM radio station - and you and your family had your own little viewing bubble several feet away from the other movie-goers. 

A couple of Massachusetts pastors were inspired by that old memory and turned a church parking lot into a drive-in worship experience.

The Rev. Donna Spencer Collins, pastor of Phoenix Rising UCC in Haverhill, and The Rev. Christopher Hart, pastor of Groveland Congregational Church, UCC – with the help of an FM transmitter – conducted a Sunday worship service together in the parking lot.  The individual cars acted as the barriers needed for physical distancing during this time of Coronavirus health concerns. People stayed in their cars, and because they were parked within a short distance of the church, they could tune into FM 90.3 to listen to the service, music, and prayers.

Twenty-eight cars with about 40 to 45 people drove into the outside worship space, and they honked to exclaim their “Hallelujahs!” Churchgoers had been asked to bring paper and markers to the service, and to write down their prayer requests and the ways they have been dealing with the crisis. Then Spencer Collins and Hart walked car to car, as people held up the papers against their closed windows, and the pastors read the information on their microphones so everyone could hear on their radios.

The service was streamed live on Facebook as well as on the websites of the two churches. All they needed to pull off the amazing feat was one FM transmitter, two wireless mics, a mixer, a laptop to run the live stream, and a technician to manage it all.

“We were so excited to offer this worship opportunity where people could practice social distancing, but still feel part of a community, and be able to gather, sing together, worship God and pray together,” said Spencer Collins. “The idea came out of a necessity to both obey the rules of social distancing during the Coronavirus, and yet continue to create community.”

An attendee, Judy Robilaid, said: “This morning is what I needed. It made me happy to see and be amongst our family and friends. Thanks for making it happen.”

“We are really hungry for community in the sense of being together of experiencing Christ, and even though we were all separated in our cars, we found a way to connect people with us and with one another,” said Hart.

“Drive-in church was a joy and a comfort,” said Spencer Collins. “The honking Hallelujahs were fun. It was a great reminder that we are all in this together.”

Hart said: “When I began the call to worship with the words ‘If you are here because God calls you into community give me one quick honk’ and the thunder of 27 horns reverberated throughout the neighborhood, I knew God was in our midst. I knew a call to see Christ in one another was being woven into our space.”

“This week two people were talking on our Zoom coffee break about what they loved about this drive-in service, and they spoke about being able to wave and even blow kisses and peace signs and I love you signs," said Spencer Collins.  "It was a very, very special time.”

“While drive-in church may have hit a niche, what’s more important here is the invitation God is offering to us,” said Hart. “We have an opportunity to innovate and help our church transition beyond the confines of our walls, …and that's powerful stuff.”

It’s not clear if the most recent directive of “Shelter in Place” from the Massachusetts governor will prevent drive-In church from happening again, but Hart thinks it's something the church will add to its yearly schedule regardless.

“This has been a reminder that God is so much bigger than the current situation," he said.  "And there is an invitation to engage God no matter what is going on.”

For more information, you can contact Pastor Donna Spencer Collins at her office at 978-361-0433 or email churchoffice@phoenixrisingucc.org. Contact Pastor Chris Hart at 978-372-3463 or email gccucc@gmail.com.

 

Author

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Marlene Gasdia-Cochrane

Marlene Gasdia-Cochrane is the Spotlight Editor for the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ

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