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Drive-in church services growing in Beaufort County

Pastors and congregations across Beaufort County aren’t letting COVID-19 stop the fellowship.

Churches around the county have moved services outdoors, opening up parking lots for their church families to attend drive-in services where they participate in praise and worship through song and take in a sermon without ever leaving their vehicles.

After a test run at Haw Branch Church of Christ a couple of weeks ago, pastor Jason Kirkman was pleased with the turnout, which has since steadily grown the past two weeks leading into Easter Sunday.

“We had 310 people here on Easter, as well as 15 dogs and one cat, so it’s a record attendance as far as dogs go,“ laughed Kirkman. “I’m sure Easter had something to do with that, but the past two Sundays we had about 220 folks out here. (The drive-in services) have been a good thing for us, and a great way to keep the church connected in some way. … We talked to the sheriff’s department and our neighboring county, Martin County and everybody was fine with it as long as everyone stayed in their cars.”

Other churches, such as Washington Assembly of God, held their first drive-in services Easter Sunday, while Trinity United Methodist Church and White Plains Methodist combined for a Easter service in Belhaven.

Cris Noble, the pastor at Trinity United was happy with the turn out, and said he will likely host another drive-in service in the coming weeks.

“It went really well,“ Noble said. “There were two of us preaching, there was another pastor singing specials and helping lead congregational singing, a sound man and five parking attendants. Those were the only ones allowed out of the vehicles. We used pre-recorded music that we played over a PA system. The pastor over at Wake Plains and I did a tag team sermon, and we counted about 62 cars.”

Noble said it’s important to have some sort of normalcy at this time, and the gathering gives the congregation the opportunity for fellowship, even if they’re in separate vehicles.

“You see the power of God at work in gathering his people,” Noble said. “Gathering online just isn’t the same as gathering in one general area. We get strengthened when we’re near and around other believers, even though you can’t talk directly to them right now. It gives everyone a sense of, ‘We’re not in this alone.’”

Washington Assembly has been doing a riverside service on Easter for a number of years, but this year, it was held in the church’s parking lot at 6:45 a.m.

“We’re looking into expanding on the drive-in setting, depending on how long this mandatory stay-at-home order and suggestions are in place. I know there’s some churches in our community that have been doing it regularly, so we’re looking at it,” Daniel Haskett, the pastor at Washington Assembly of God said. “There were about 25-30 cars. I was pleased with it, especially for it being 6:45 in the morning. But, we knew it was important to do something on Easter morning because of the scriptural connotation.”

Washington Assembly of God will continue their online services, as they have dedicated a lot towards that platform, according to Haskett.

“We want to provide that community aspect. Beyond all the spiritual ramifications, there’s something about the community being together, building relationships and stuff like that. In this climate, we’ve had to protect people and keep them safe and stay in accordance of our local and national leaders. This way, people are still seeing their friends and loved ones.”

Churches doing drive-in services are still doing communion, but are encouraging people of the congregation to provide their own grape juice and bread.