Around 70 vehicles pulled into Mitchell Park on Sunday evening for the Greenfield Area Ministerial Association (GAMA)’s Palm Sunday drive-in church service, according to GAMA President Chris Stokes.
The Palm Sunday service is one of GAMA’s two annual community church services, and as it became clear that the COVID-19 outbreak would affect the service, Stokes said GAMA members began brainstorming more creative solutions.
“We were just going to live-stream it from the First Presbyterian Church, but we’ve been seeing other churches do these drive-in services,” Stokes said. “[Soul’d Out quartet member and Greenfield Church of Christ Assistant Pastor] Dusty Barrett was actually the one who came up with the idea of having a drive-in service. He was instrumental in getting the stage and the sound equipment and organizing that side of things.”
Once GAMA decided to move the service to Mitchell Park, it took two to two and a half weeks to plan. First Presbyterian Pastor Mike Anderson had already rounded up musicians for the service, and they already had Bible readers — once Barrett found a stage, they just needed to borrow Nate Fabin’s FM transmitter.
On Sunday, members of the congregation were able to tune into an FM station to listen to local musicians and Stokes’ sermon, which featured a message of hope.
“A lot of people are grieving right now; a lot of people are worried,” Stokes said. “We know that God comforts us now, but we also have that hope where there’s going to be a time when we don’t have to worry about sickness, pandemics and death anymore.”
Stokes’ message included scripture from Mark 11 and Revelations.
Based on drone footage shot by Seely Portraits owner Mike Seely, Stokes counted 73 vehicles, many of which contained more than one person. He estimates that between 150 and 200 people attended the Palm Sunday service.
“I think people need hope and encouragement. I think people look to their spiritual leaders in a time like this,” Stokes said. “This was a small way — or a large way — for the ministers and other spiritual leaders of Greenfield to minister directly to the people of Greenfield. In a small way, I think people felt like they were together, even though they were in their cars and still had to practice social distancing. It was still something to look forward to and to break up the monotony that’s, I think, in all of our lives right now.”
Stokes said GAMA was in communication with the Highland County Health Department and Greenfield officials to make sure they were able to hold the service responsibly.
“We didn’t want to contribute anything to the medical problems that are going on,” Stokes said. “It really is a tribute to our community too: we were able to have such a large amount of cars, and everyone stayed in their cars.”
Despite the service’s unorthodox location, its format was the same as a typical GAMA community service, Stokes said. Only two aspects were missing: communion and the offering.
“We didn’t have any sort of offering, which we usually do when we’re in a church, but we were told not to pass around an offering plate or to do communion,” Stokes said.
Stokes encouraged those who would like to support the Greenfield faith community to consider donating to organizations like New Directions, the Greenfield Area Christian Center, local pregnancies resources, and local community ministries.
Though Stokes recognized the COVID-19 outbreak is a rapidly evolving situation that makes it difficult to plan events for the near future, he said GAMA is considering having another drive-in service for National Day of Prayer, which falls on Thursday, May 7 this year.
To watch the Palm Sunday service in its entirety, visit the “Greenfield Area Ministerial Association” Facebook page.
Reach McKenzie Caldwell at 937-402-2570.