Yes, you heard right – Drive in Church! Move over Lightning Maqueen!
Epsom Community Church on the outskirts of Bendigo, has really taken on board the BUV’s focus on innovation during the COVID-19 restrictions and is currently holding Drive-In church services.
Households come together in their cars, park in the church carpark while the Pastor preaches from a pulpit outside the church doors and is broadcast through an FM radio frequency.
The first week they had 29 people in 17 cars, the second, 33 people in 19 cars and they are expecting more as time goes on.
Expanding the innovative thinking even further, they hope to eventually, once the weather is more predictable, move to a park where they would picnic in families while listening to the service via FM radios.
The story goes like this. Epsom Community Church are like any other rural church, feeling the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown, only being allowed 10 people meeting outside the church and no services inside.* The Leadership Team knew their congregation were missing the Sunday fellowship and seeing their greater church family, so they started to hatch a plan. They had looked at how to do services inside earlier in the year when restrictions were set at groups of 20 inside. Issues of cleaning, contact tracing and the risk if someone were to be infected, halted any progress for inside services. So, when restrictions increased to only allowing 10 people outside, they knew it would be difficult. Some innovative thinking was required.
Alan, the Church Secretary tells the story “I had a friend who is a genius with electronics so he helped me source an FM transmitter which has a low frequency. He helped set up aerial, microphone and we were able to hold our first Drive-in Church service in early October. Instead of the allowed 10 gathering outside, we had 29 people in 17 cars. All logged onto our FM selected channel and our pastor gave a 15-20 minute message, after which we all headed home. Our Pastoral Care team also encouraged those who wanted, to head to a local park and sit around in groups of 10 for BYO lunch and chats. We had our second meeting this week with similar formats and 33 attended in 19 cars.”
Pastor, Kelvin Niblett is adept with technology and has also been able to use Facebook to record the outdoor service and download to Youtube, so those unable to join the Drive-In Church can still watch each Service. The weather has been kind to them so far, but the contingency plan is for the Pastor to move into the Church where each service can still be transmitted and recorded safely. The congregation drive away from each brief service listening to Christian music, until they run out of FM reception.
On top of a focus of bringing the church family back together, the Church also needs to hold an AGM and will be needing to farewell their Pastor in early December. Assuming COVID restrictions are still in place, the plan is to both using the FM radio transmitter.
“By the time of these two meetings, my friend will have sorted a smaller antenna and all will be in a portable bag and run off a motorbike battery. Thus we hope the chairperson will be able to walk to our people in cars (or in their groups of 10) and people can ask questions, give comments which can be heard by everyone on their FM radio. For the farewell to our Pastor, we may end up on a farm and split into distanced groups (to abide by Covid restrictions) and thus the luxury of SEC connection for power will not be available – we will modify as required.”
The Drive in Church has been well received – “people are just happy to have some form of gathering together at church, despite being in cars. It is so good to see familiar faces again.” says Alan.
Epsom Community Church will continue to meet as a Drive-In Church until restrictions allow the congregation to all return to Church together.
*Rural Victoria is in Step 3 to the Road to Recovery – different restrictions apply to Metropolitan Melbourne