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'Church is not the building': Church Hill pastor hosting 'drive-in' service Easter Sunday

Jeff Bobo • Apr 10, 2020 at 8:30 AM

CHURCH HILL — Pastor Bill Clark will tell you that a church is not a building — a church is its people. But on Sunday his church will also be a parking lot.

Beginning at 11 a.m., the Church Hill Church of God, 206 Old Union Road, will offer a “drive-in” Easter service that meets the requirements of social distancing including a safe and sanitary communion alternative.

The Church of God has been at that location for about 45 years, and many of its members have been attending services that long as well. But this will be the first time the church attempts a drive-in service.

As of Thursday, the forecast was showing a slight chance of rain Sunday until around 1 p.m.

Clark will be under a tent with a portable public address system, so he’ll push forward if it sprinkles. Nonmembers are welcome to attend, and Clark told the Times News Thursday he’s praying that the rain holds off at least until the service concludes around noon. 

Clark took a few minutes Thursday to answer some questions for the Times News about the upcoming event.

KTN: Are you planning to do the drive-in service like a drive-in movie?

“We don’t have any speakers (for individual vehicles). We have a parking lot where two rows of cars can park side by side. I can fit 25-30 vehicles in my parking lot, and then set up a portable PA system and portable keyboard out in front of the cars. People can sit in their cars and roll their windows down, and they should be able to hear fine on our portable PA system.”

KTN: How’d you come up with the idea?

“I saw it online several weeks ago, and I thought about it, and we said, ‘We’ll just do Facebook live for right now.’ Then I talked it over with some of our members, and they thought it would be a pretty good idea because we’ve got a parking lot that’s conducive to that. So we decided we’d give it a try.”

KTN: Is Easter Sunday the first time you’ll have the drive-in service at your church?

“Yes. We were going to do it last week, but a few days prior the governor put out the Safer at Home mandate. We were kind of unsure about that until we checked into it a little further, so we went ahead and canceled (the drive-in service) this past Sunday. We found out at a later time that it did not cover church meetings as such, so our drive-in church would be acceptable. We’re looking forward to having it for Easter Sunday.

KTN: I understand you’ve also made arraignments to offer a safe communion.

“We have self-contained, disposable communion cups. It has a little wafer on top that’s sealed, and then you take that off and the second layer has a seal that covers the juice cup. So we have the self-contained communion sacraments that we can just pass out on a tray from car to car, and nobody will touch it except the person getting their own little cup. They’re manufactured and you can buy them online or get them from Christian bookstores. It’s convenient and I use them in my regular service as opposed to having to fill cups.”

KTN: Are you expecting to fill your parking lot up Sunday?

“Our average attendance (under normal circumstances) is 25-30 individual people, and I’m not sure how many vehicles that adds up to. But some of our folks are elderly, so we don’t expect them to come out for the drive-in. We have talked with another church down the street, and he may bring his folks down here and have a combined service. Of course this all hinges on the weather cooperating.”

KTN: Do you think there would be room for nonmembers to participate in your drive-in service as visitors?

“Absolutely. And you could also bring a lawn chair and set up, just as long as you adhere to the requirements of social distancing. Right now we’re just praying, ‘Lord send the rain somewhere else’. If the weather doesn’t cooperate, we’ll be planning on doing this the following Sunday.”

KTN: If it rains Sunday, are you going back to Facebook live?

“I’m still going to do Facebook live even if we have the outdoor service. I’ve been able to reach people, even out of state, who are watching our Facebook live. People who would not even come to our church are watching our ministry. As a result of that, we’ll probably continue the Facebook live from now on, even when things get back to normal and we come back indoors.”

KTN: Did you feel it was important, especially in light of this epidemic, that Christians continue to congregate on Easter weekend?

“The good thing about it is, and real Christians realize this, the church is not the building. The church is us. We are the church, and I maintain contact with my members and attenders whether it be through Facebook or over the phone.”

KTN: Have you thought about what your message will be Sunday?

“Obviously Easter, in some form or another. We’re confined but he’s not. Something along those lines.”

If the drive-in service is canceled due to rain it will be announced on the Church Hill Church of God Facebook page.

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