Fasten your seat belts, drive-in church now showing in Gerringong

Church with a difference: Rev Peter Campbell leading a drive-in service on Sunday outside Gerringong Uniting Church. Picture: Greg Ellis
Church with a difference: Rev Peter Campbell leading a drive-in service on Sunday outside Gerringong Uniting Church. Picture: Greg Ellis

Parishioners swapped cold pews for warm seats in their cars for the first church service in two months at Gerringong Uniting Church, in NSW's Illawarra, on Sunday.

Rev Peter Chapman said it was an idea born out of necessity. He said even with the easing of restrictions the 4sqm social distancing rule severely limited the number of people who could attend an indoor service.

He knew many were keen to return but was still unsure how many would roll up literally onto the church grounds because some in the congregation had been telling him how much they have enjoyed the online streaming at home.

He was pleasantly surprised to see dozens of cars and close to 200 parishioners join in activities such as a game of Simon Says using car horns, headlights and indicators.

I have been coming to church all my life but I never imagined attending a drive-in church or doing bible studies on Zoom.

On arrival ushers directed drivers where to park and how to tune in to 99.7FM to hear the service.

"We really are stepping out in faith with this service," Rev Chapman said.

"Doing community is what we do. It is our core business but the lockdown has really hit churches hard. We have been looking for a way to still gather together but the 4sq/m is a big impediment.

"This is our way to try and do what we can in these strange and uncertain times. We are doing communion. People have brought their own bread and juice. We are doing what we can in a safe way to do the right thing and still come together as a church."

Gerringong Uniting Church has also given parishioners the chance to interact daily in a half-hour catch-up and prayer via Zoom.

Laurel Gray, 87, of Gerringong is among those who have made the most of the new way of doing things during COVID-19.

"I think it is a great idea to experiment. I have been watching services online. I have been coming to church all my life but I never imagined attending a drive-in church or doing bible studies on Zoom."

Mrs Gray got to enjoy a car theme for Gerringong Uniting's first drive-in sermon which was taking an alternate route.

"The big idea today is God might be doing a new thing and taking a new path so we are innovating," Rev Chapman said.

"My bible reading is from King David winning a battle in two different ways.

"The take home message is just because we did something one way yesterday doesn't mean it is going to work today."

Drive-in church

Rev Chapman said one thing that has happened with online streaming is that many people have been tuning in who wouldn't normally come to church.

He said it was great to be able to connect with more people.

So the online services will continue on the church website.

Rev Chapman said he wasn't aware of any other churches in the region doing drive-in services but some in the United States have.

"I have been here 15 years and I not in a million years I ever expected to be doing something like this," he said.

"None of us saw this (coronavirus) coming. The church like everyone else is learning to adapt."

This story Fasten your seat belts, drive-in church now showing first appeared on Illawarra Mercury.