Fri | Dec 8, 2023

Honks replace hallelujahs at drive-thru church service

Published:Monday | May 4, 2020 | 12:07 AMRicardo Makyn/Chief Photo Editor
Pastor Alvin Bailey preaching at the drive-in worship service at Portmore Holiness Christian Church on Sunday.
Pastor Alvin Bailey preaching at the drive-in worship service at Portmore Holiness Christian Church on Sunday.

Moviegoers went to the now-defunct Harbour View Drive-in Cinema for film, frolic, and, ahem, more. Now, churchgoers are turning off their engines and cosying up with their Maker at the Portmore Holiness Christian Church drive-in.

That’s the innovative spin spearheaded by Pastor Alvin Bailey yesterday as worshippers sent into exile by government-ordered social-distancing rules are finding a creative way to pray and fellowship together – while apart.

Since the emergence of the new coronavirus pandemic in Jamaica on March 10, congregations have dwindled as distancing laws – first, of three feet apart and later, six feet – have prohibited gatherings exceeding 20 people. That was later downgraded to 10.

That reality has caused a mass migration of congregations to online portals as technicians leapfrog pastors as the main purveyors of the Great Commission.

But even though Portmore Holiness live-streams services, worshippers like Sheryl Baptiste, a member of the Hellshire-based church since 2017, opted to turn up for the inaugural drive-in session for a slightly more authentic feel.

Baptiste, who studiously pored over Bible passages in her Honda Civic motor car among approximately 20 vehicles in the parking lot, said that this was the first time coming on to the premises in weeks.

She praised the efforts by Bailey and the other senior laity who came up with the idea for a drive-in service.

“God’s people must be united despite social distancing,” Baptiste told The Gleaner.

Another member, who gave her name only as Lorna, gushed about being on the outskirts of the worship centre.

“I miss the fellowship, being together as one big family,” said Lorna, who has been attending Portmore Holiness for two decades.

The sound of car horns blared in unison – replacing the customary Amens and Hallelujahs – in endorsement of Bailey’s sermon live-streamed to members at home and belted through speakers in the parking area.

The pastor, who conducted the service inside the church, said that even amid the COVID-19 pandemic, believers were still committed to the cause of Christ.

“We must not only articulate the Christian faith, but emphasise the unmovable foundation of the Christian faith.

“It is in the midst of this that the pastors like myself and other ministers must be prepared to inform Christians, the body of Christ, because there comes a time, and we have to close ranks. We have to close ranks and take care of those who God has placed in our care,” the pastor said.

Bailey, who administered communion rites remotely with the parked congregants, challenged churches to innovate by hosting multiple services to navigate the handicap of social distancing and to reaffirm fellowship and faith.