Drive-in church: Reverend tries new way to worship during the pandemic
SURREY, B.C. -- Reverend Gwen Dreger is implementing a new way to worship: drive-in church.
“We wanted to make sure people were safe, but we also know that people need to have a place where they can see faces,” the pastor for Celebration Life Church in Surrey told CTV News Vancouver. “So we’re understanding that drive in was the way.”
Working with a new, boutique internet service provider, Dreger said the church installed two wifi devices that allow the congregation to drive up to the church, park and stream the service happening just inside.
“People can see each other in their cars. They kept their windows up, they’re waving at each other,” she said.
Some participants even flashed their headlights when they were excited, Dreger said. She and her team handed out individually packed bags with grape juice and crackers for communion.
The idea came really quickly during a call with her tech-savvy brother, Dreger said.
“From the time that it was requested to the time that it was finished it was 24 hours,” said Athena Molina, secretary with Five D Networks Inc., the company that installed the system. “We actually were quite surprised with this because it is a pretty cool idea.”
The first service held this way was on Dec. 13 and Dreger said it went well.
“I think we had about 20-something cars,” she said.
The provincial health order allows drive-in gatherings for religious services and holiday festivals of lights. It limits gatherings to a maximum of 50 cars and requires everyone stay in their vehicles. All drive-in events must have COVID-19 safety plans in place.
For participants who needed to use the washroom, the church had security guards waiting in the parking lot to escort them into the building, Dreger said.
“Somebody would come and guide them through, and we would just have one person at a time,” she said. “When they were through, we cleaned the bathroom every single time.”
The last few Sundays have seen churches in the Fraser Valley ignore the public health order and gather anyway. Some churches are facing thousands of dollars in fines and charges because of this practice.
“I understand their frustration,” said Dreger, noting that the provincial government continues to say churches are dangerous places.
“We’ve asked them, the government, repetitively, to back up their data and we haven’t seen it,” she said.
Regardless, Dreger said she is going to continue the drive-in option for those who want to use it and will continue to stream services online until the health order is lifted.
“It’s challenging for me to continue to message hope, but that’s what I try to do,” she said.