Faulkner County churchgoers strong in their faith have found creative avenues to continue worship services during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some church groups are streaming their weekly services online, and others are hosting “drive-in” church services.
The Oak Bowery Baptist Church near Saltillo is among those holding its services from the front steps while members safely stay inside their vehicles with their windows rolled down.
Ninety vehicles filled the surrounding parking lots at the Oak Bowery Baptist Church on Sunday morning, and several returned for the evening services.
Pastor Matt Corkran said he is amazed by the church members’ enthusiasm in keeping their worship services up and running through the global coronavirus pandemic.
“I’m just thankful that the people have been supportive and the Lord has given us a creative way to get together and allowed us to continue to share the gospel,” he told the Log Cabin Democrat on Friday afternoon.
The church is following the social distancing guidelines handed down by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Everyone must remain inside their vehicle, with the exception of few who direct traffic and work to ensure those in attendance are parking 6 feet apart.
Corkran said he is doing his best to make the service “as normal as a regular service.”
The church is also exploring the option of broadcasting its service over a radio channel from the parking lot for rainy days, the pastor said.
“We’re looking at doing that,” he said. “We’ve got one ordered, we’ve just never done this before.”
For now, sound equipment and an electric keyboard are stationed on the church’s front porch, which allows Kim Shock, the church’s pianist, to play gospel music while song director Lloyd Kelley leads the group.
“We can’t really hear everyone singing, but our song director led everyone [on Sunday] anyway,” Corkran said.
Transforming the Oak Bowery Baptist Church worship services into a drive-in event was made possible thanks to Assistant Pastor Tim Nolan as well as other church members.
“I just want everyone to know that I am thankful to have a deacon body and an assistant pastor that had a vision to continue to seek God’s guidance and worship during this time,” he said Friday.
Being able to worship together from a safe distance is important during the outbreak, the pastor said.
“I think that coming together is so important for God’s people, even though we’re having to do it in a limited way,” Corkran told the Log Cabin. “God’s people need one another. We’re going to do what we have to do … and we’re thankful we’re able to.”
Those with prayer requests are able to send in requests through Remind, which is an online app.
Corkran said he thought it was inspiring to see other motorists driving by cautiously as the church held its weekly worship service on Sunday.
“It was unique to see how many people were respectful to the service going on,” he said.
Church members said they’ve enjoyed the unique worship experience.
“We had our first drive-in church service from the front steps [Sunday] morning at Oak Bowery Baptist Church,” Julie Evans Sanders said in a social media post following last week’s service. “Every car was parked at 6 [foot] distances. … We would love to have you come out.”
Several churchgoers posted selfies from in their vehicles to the church’s Facebook page following the Sunday-morning service.
The church will continue hosting its services in this “drive-in” fashion at 11 a.m. Sundays. Evening services will also continue at 6 p.m. Sundays and at 7 p.m. on Wednesdays.