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First Baptist Church hosts drive-in service
On Tuesday, March 31, Governor Greg Abbott extended the state’s social distancing mandate through the end of April. Additionally, virus restrictions were further tightened with Abbott limiting social gatherings to no more than 10 people.
However, one exception was made. Abbott proclaimed that with proper social distancing in place, religious services could continue.
Although most local churches have halted in-church and in-person service altogether, many have begun to use alternative methods such as Facebook, YouTube and other online platforms to stream Sunday morning worship.
Holy Cross Catholic Church, Bethel Assembly of God, First United Methodist Church and Family Harvest Church are only a few that have begun offering online church experiences.
“These are unprecedented circumstances and we are trusting God for creative solutions and new and better ways to proclaim the message of redemption louder and louder,” Family Harvest Church Pastor Joey Hamlin said.
While churches continue to develop solutions to the current obstacle at hand, First Baptist Church may have found an answer.
On Sunday, April 5, First Baptist Church hosted their first ever drive-in service.
“It’s a strange way to celebrate Palm Sunday,” Pastor Keith Garner said. “It’s a very different and historic Palm Sunday.”
With one block of West Main Street blockaded, volunteers began ushering vehicles into the three parking rows facing the church before the start of service at 10:30 a.m.
Although attendees weren’t allowed to leave their vehicles, they were able to roll down their windows or tune into 107.3 FM to listen to the service.
“We are used to being able to get together and celebrate and do all of those things we can’t do right now,” Garner said, “but that’s not going to stop us from celebrating. We celebrate anytime we worship.”
Attendees were even given instructions on how to use their car lights to practice normal reverence.
To clap, individuals were directed to turn on their hazards and, to say amen, flash their headlights.
Those who were unable to attend were welcome to stream the service through Facebook Live, a service First Baptist Church has been providing since March 22.
Although Garner said looking out into a crowd of cars was far different than what he’s used to seeing, he is grateful that God has provided a way for the congregation to still come together.
“I know we would much rather be together, greeting each other and loving on each other,” Garner said, “but isn’t it neat that through technology, God has provided a way?”
Consequently, Garner predicts that next year more people will celebrate Easter online than ever before.
“By livestreaming, we have the ability to worship with people all over the world,” Garner said.
In fact, on Easter Sunday, April 12, the First Baptist Church plans on using the same set up. However, this time in the Old Mill Trade Days parking lot, offering a citywide service which Garner says he is very excited for.
“I’m excited about that,” Garner said. “I’m excited about what God’s doing even in the midst of all this.”