Witnessing in Worship
COVID-19 has brought a host of challenges in all aspects of life. One major challenge for church leaders has been trying to balance how to host corporate worship safely in a pandemic. Churches across Missouri worked hard to stay connected with their community of believers. Immanuel in Honey Creek, Peace in South County St. Louis, and Immanuel in St. Charles found an alternative method to sanctuary worship: drive-in services.
Starting back in March, these churches found the technology, airwaves, and volunteers to make such a service possible. Most use a combination of radio frequency as well as microphone/speaker sound systems to bring audio to those in attendance. Each church has a “pulpit” area, which often requires set-up and take-down for each service. Those participating are able to gather together, heard the Word of God preached, and give offering – all from the safety of their own vehicle.
Pictures of Peace in Saint Louis with senior pastor Rev. Dr. Jon Furgeson serving in worship.
While most sanctuaries have resumed in-person services with increasing capacity, these churches have decided to keep offering their drive-in services. “The drive-in services have continued to be popular for both our regular Saturday laity as well as persons who are not yet ready to enter the building,” explains Rev. Dr. Jon Furgeson, Senior Pastor at Peace in South County. Rev. Scott Schmieding of Immanuel, St. Charles has seen similar results, “Our drive-in services at Immanuel St. Charles have been a huge blessing to help keep many members active at in-person worship during the pandemic,” says Schmieding, “We are currently averaging over 150 vehicles (with about 500 people total) every week...we are also blessed to have several visitors from the community at each drive-in.”
Immanuel in St. Charles is often blessed with many four legged friends and special guests, like their 101 year old member.
Dan Sommerer, Lay Leader at Immanuel Honey Creek, realized they had something special back in April. The congregation replaced their temporary trailer (used as the “pulpit” area) with a more permanent scaffolding and a large cross, which couldn’t have come at a better time. “It was right before Easter, and we built this 27 foot cross,” explains Sommer. “It was really emotional for people to come at a time where we didn’t know if we would be able to continue worship, and then there was this cross wrapped in white cloth...it’s pretty amazing really.”
A picture of Immanuel Honey Creek's setup including their two-story "pulpit" area and 27 foot cross.
While these services take quite a bit of set up and take down effort, all churches agree they are an amazing blessing for their congregation and outreach into the community while also providing a great opportunity for unique engagement. “We’ve had people drive up in their four wheelers, SUVs, ride horses, come up on tractors, and had boats on the back of their truck, then get out of their trucks and listen in groups in the boat,” says Sommerer of Immanuel Honey Creek. Immanuel St. Charles often get four legged friends to join in attendance! Keeping community is also important at Peace in South County. “Overall, the drive-in service has been a successful bridge between keeping up the concerns for social safety and still gathering as God’s people,” Furgeson states, “As a pastor, it gives me a personal connection before and after services to greet folks and keep in touch with my flock at Peace.”