While most churches in Colorado are planning to stream Easter services online, some congregations are hosting services in a somewhat archaic way — drive-ins, where hundreds of people can park their cars and listen to Sunday’s sermon through a transmitter.
“For our people, this is such a special time for them,” said Jason King, lead pastor of Faith Bible Chapel in Arvada, one of the congregations holding services in the parking lot, like a drive-in. “We realize that there is a physical impact on people getting out and congregating with this virus but there's also an emotional impact for people being socially secluded. So we just felt like this was the best way that we could serve our people and encourage them.”
This is the first time the congregation has ever done something like this, King said.
The chapel will closely follow Gov. Jared Polis’ social distancing guidelines. For weeks, the Governor has pleaded with Coloradans to stay at home unless its absolutely necessary to go out. He acknowledged that this time of year will be especially tough for people who are of faith.
Good Friday, Easter, Passover, Ramadan and other faith traditions are all held in April. Polis issued additional guidance to faith leaders on Wednesday about how to properly host a service like this, adding that most congregations could better serve their members through streaming.
King said that social isolation has its effects, though.
“Any shift like this has a consequence,” he said. “Being around people, congregating, that has a consequence that could be a negative. But social isolation can also have a negative consequence and so we just have to adapt and find ways to take care of each other physically, emotionally, and mentally through this time.”
Passover, over Zoom
King said the chapel has shared the rules for the drive-in already and will tell attendees as they pull in to stay in their vehicles and keep their windows rolled up. An attendant will monitor an emergency bathroom but it’ll be limited to one person at a time.
“The biggest part for us is communicating to our church. It's such a large church and making sure everybody knows what's going on when it's happening so that everybody is confident, can come in and feel safe and experience a good Sunday,” he said. “It's really no different than sitting at a stoplight next to somebody else.”
Faith is expecting 1,500 people to attend the Sunday services. King said organizers are prepared for more because he suspects people are hungry to be outside and connect with others. The congregation typically serves around 2,000 people.
Cherry Hills Community Church in Highlands Ranch is also hosting drive-in services on Saturday evening and Sunday morning.
While these two congregations are testing out something new, other faith communities have remained firm on keeping people at home and streaming services online.
The annual Easter Sunrise Service at Red Rocks will be virtual this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Catholic Church in Colorado will not hold any public Masses for Good Friday or Easter. Instead, people can watch Mass with Archbishop Samuel Aquila online or view Masses from other local parishes.
Rev. Amanda Henderson, executive director of the Interfaith Alliance, said the most faithful thing people can do right now is to stay at home and find new ways to mark holy days.
“I share in that sadness of losing the traditions that we hold dear in this moment,” she said. “The way we can show love and compassion and commitment, the way we can love our neighbors, is to assure that we stop the spread of COVID-19.”