FaithHamil R. HarrisReligionShevry Lassiter

Worship Becomes a Drive-In Experience

The parking lot of the RFK Stadium in Southeast was filled with over 200 cars Sunday morning as members of the Greater Mount Calvary Holy Church in northeast D.C. held an outdoor service using a drive-in method where churchgoers tuned their radio stations to 87.9 FM.

One of the ways churches are finding alternatives to brick and mortar sanctuaries is through a modern version of the old drive-in theaters.

Some of the largest congregations in the area that include Greater Mount Calvary, Alfred Street Baptist Church in Virginia and First Baptist Church of Highland Park in Maryland are holding services using Zoom, YouTube, Facebook and now a temporary drive-in where the honking of car horns replaces a shout back to the pastor.

Bishop Alfred A. Owens Jr., pastor of Greater Mount Calvary Holy Church, thanked Mayor Muriel Bowser for use of RFK Stadium for the church’s service as he preached from a raised platform in the parking lot. The service was also streamed on several social media platforms.

Bishop Alfred A. Owens, pastor of Greater Mt. Calvary Holy Church, preaches in the parking lot of RFK Stadium in southeast D.C. (Shevry Lassiter/The Washington Informer)
Bishop Alfred A. Owens, pastor of Greater Mt. Calvary Holy Church, preaches in the parking lot of RFK Stadium in southeast D.C. (Shevry Lassiter/The Washington Informer)

“We haven’t seen anybody since March, we haven’t been able to get together, and it’s overwhelming to look at the cars and be able to wave to them … and so we’re just happy,” said Owens.

“Greater Mount Calvary members are more than excited to be together again and if this is all we have then we’re excited about it so we’re happy to be here,” said Elder Julia Chaney.

Elder Dr. Barbara Reynolds said, “I miss my pastors I’ve missed so many people and it just gives me such joy to just be here. It’s a new normal but whichever way it goes we will still be Calvary.”

“Praise the Lord everybody!” declared Owens, whose greetings elicited a chorus of honks.

In Alexandria, Rev Howard John Wesley, pastor of the Alfred Street Baptist Church was preaching hard about the life of Paul from the book of Romans in the New Testament.

“Death is not the final chapter in the life of the believer,” said Wesley on Facebook live as members tapped away responses on/ their cell phones. “We are a generation that quits on God too easily. Walk with the assurance of your victory.”

At the University Park Church of Christ in Hyattsville, members had a choice of listening to Minister Ed Wilson live or on YouTube live. Those who actually came to the building had their temperatures taken and sat six feet apart in the pews. About 40 people have done this since the church reopened while most members watch online.

Rev. Henry P. Davis, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Highland Park said that his congregation is coming back to the sanctuary in phases. “We will first hold a Saturday service, take temperature and practice social distancing etc.”

“We did a survey and 70 percent said they want things to be safe before they come back, so I am really addressing the 30 percent who want to come to church,” Davis said. “Our first phase is Saturday evening. We have 3,500 on the roll and the church has grown during the pandemic.”

“Our classes on Zoom have been very effective. We do a call in for our seniors on Tuesday and we are trying to use all technology,” Davis said. “Our new slogan is ‘faith strong during the pandemic.'”

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