Churches in Northern Ireland may soon be rolling out "drive-through" services in a bid to serve their congregations during the current coronavirus lockdown. The innovative services, which have been popularised in the United States, were suggested as an alternative form of church gathering in a new proposal by the Northern Ireland executive outlining plans to gradually reduce lockdown restrictions.
The idea, which has been welcomed by Christian leaders across the country, may involve congregants gathering together in church car parks, windows closed, with the minister leading worship from a stage at the front.
Billy Jones, pastor of the Dunseverick Baptist Church, explained to The Telegraph: “Hopefully from next Sunday, I will be leading the sermon from a lorry which has a platform attached with a sound system. People can tune in to a specific radio frequency from their vehicles too if they want.”
“It will mean the local community can come together with a desire to encounter God and can enjoy the fellowship by expressing faith - even if it is from their cars.”
The Church of England has yet to comment on the potential for hosting drive-through services, while the Church of Scotland has completely ruled out engaging in the practice.
In the US, a drive-through service in Mississippi prompted intervention from the Department of Justice (DOJ) after congregants were issued fines for violating the state's lockdown order. Attorney General William Barr was outraged after police showed up at Temple Baptist Church in Greenville and fined eight members $500 each for gathering to worship in their own cars.
"The City of Greenville fined congregants $500 per person for attending these parking lot services – while permitting citizens to attend nearby drive-in restaurants, even with their windows open," Barr said in a statement last month. After the DOJ filed a Statement of Interest to back Temple Baptist Church in their lawsuit against the city, the fines were quickly rescinded and a decision was taken by the mayor to allow drive-in services.