“You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ,” (1 Peter 2:5).
What is a church? We know that it is more than four walls, brick and mortar, or even a place. Each of us is the church. We are the living stones. The Holy Spirit dwells within us no matter where we are.
“…built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit,” (Ephesians 2:19-22).
In this pandemic, with lock-down and quarantine, gathering together in the church building can be dangerous, and the Coronavirus can spread rapidly through a small group of people. You can still pray in your home, with Zoom and other group meeting technologies, we can attend worship, speak to neighbors and fellow worshipers, but the church is not just about listening to a minister.
For many, the church is a place of community. It is solace and a balm in rough times. The world seems out of control, and many are missing the security and comfort of seeing their friends and neighbors and communing with the Lord together. Christianity is a communal activity. We gather strength from one another, from testifying and worshiping together.
Some churches are developing (or rather returning to) different ways to worship together safely: the drive-in church. Parishioners fill the parking lot, just as at a drive-in movie. Families stay in their cars, but can wave at their friends, and even roll down windows at a safe distance. The minister speaks through a microphone to all, or on a certain bandwidth onto their radios. Instead of “Amens,” he gets a chorus of car horns!
In order to meet the demands for space— since cars take up more room than people—some larger venues like old drive-in movie theaters or regular theaters, are offering their parking lots for churches to use.
In the 1930s, another time of great hardship and suffering, circuit preachers and other traveling ministers would often set up tents on empty lots to offer worship to the largest number of people possible. If the tent was full, the faithful would sit in their cars, or on their hoods, and truck beds to listen to the preacher as he boomed into the microphone.
As recently as the 1950s, Reverend Robert Shuller hosted drive-in services in Garden Grove, California, so great was the desire for people to hear him preach.
There is something remarkable about a crowd of people, gathered together for one purpose, to praise the Lord. The energy is palpable. The excitement contagious—in a good way! People can sing in their cars—perhaps with more gusto and passion than they would if they were sitting in the pews. One minister said that it might be a way, even after the Covid-19 lockdowns are lifted, to welcome new members. After all, it’s easier to pull your car into the back of a lot, than to walk into a new church.
Some churches are going all out, hiring big screens to project the minister onto a screen for everyone to see. Event companies, who have lost bookings due to the virus, are eager for the chance to be working.
No one but God knows what the world will look like when the height of this pandemic has passed. Some things will definitely be different. What a relief it will be to be able to hug our friends and neighbors again in greeting and comfort! But, the new ‘drive-in church’ may be an addition that is here to stay!