Drive-in church service offers brief, peaceful return to normalcy

Georgetown Mayor Bill West looks out at the several hundred worshipers attending Sunday’s drive-in church service staged in a field at the Nutter Marvel Carriage Museum. Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe

GEORGETOWN — No pews. No altar. No organist. No communion.

An open field basking in radiant morning sunshine was the backdrop Sunday for a drive-in church service that brought several hundred people facing the uncertain world of COVID-19 and quarantine to the Nutter Marvel Carriage Museum grounds.

Bruce Rogers, pastor of Long Neck United Methodist Church, delivered the Palm Sunday message, punctuated by occasional response of “Amen” horn honks from the congregation confined to their vehicles.

“You know, now that we are confined to spend our time at home, isolating ourselves with social distancing, we have all the time in the world to work on that relationship with the Lord,” said Pastor Rogers.

Georgetown Mayor Bill West said the vehicle count was 120. He conservatively estimated 200 worshipers, probably more, attended. Under quarantine/social distancing restrictions, attendees always remained in their vehicles — the service was tuned to radio frequency 96.9 FM — with windows rolled up throughout the service, which began with a half-hour of bluegrass/gospel music.

“Fantastic. That is what I expected,” said Mayor West, who noted other churches are doing similar services. “I was very pleased. I walked out to the end of the road, and waved to everybody as they were leaving, and all the smiles and all the thanks that were given are worth every bit of it.”

Mayor West believes the service provided a brief return to normalcy during challenging, stressful and fearful times during the coronavirus pandemic.

In the shadow of the stage area, Long Neck United Methodist Church Pastor Bruce Rogers delivers the Palm Sunday service to drive-in worshipers in vehicles at the Marvel Museum.

“I was hearing comments, ‘I haven’t been to church in four weeks’ or ‘I haven’t been to church in a long time,’” said Mayor West. “This gives them an opportunity to get back in a setting that they are fond of and gives them a chance to bring a little bit of peace to everything that is going on.”

The service was made possible through facilitating efforts of Mayor West and the town of Georgetown and State Sen. Brian Pettyjohn, as well as Jim Bowden and the Georgetown Historical Society, which owns and operates the historic Marvel Museum.

The service drew positive applause on social media.

“This was an uplifting and needed service,” said Mary Lee Phillips, who suggested in her Facebook post that those attending give a “donation to the historic society for use of property.”

“It was a nice service; kudos to all that made it possible!” posted Janice Owens.

“It was awesome, and I want to thank you all that had a part in it. Looking forward to next Sunday, too,” Edith Poore stated in a post. “We have some great people in Georgetown.”

Plans are already in place for an Easter Sunday service April 12 back at the Marvel Museum at 510 South Bedford St. The Rev. Harold Carmean of Cokesbury Church will be on stage Easter Sunday morning, with music at 8:30 a.m. and the service at 9 a.m.

Church services will be held subsequent Sundays during the coronavirus crisis, as long as permitted during the state of emergency declaration.

Drive-in worshipers continue to roll in as Pastor Bruce Rogers of Long Neck United Methodist Church is about to enter the stage area where he delivered the Palm Sunday church service at the Marvel Museum in Georgetown. The service was transmitted to an estimated 200 or more people in vehicles on an FM radio frequency.

Pastor Rogers, in his message, asked the tuned-in congregation to remember family and friends during this time, as well as “those who continue to suffer … and those in fear.”

“We have come out of our houses,” Pastor Rogers said. “Here’s the question: What happens tomorrow, or maybe even a little bit later today? We are going to drag ourselves back to our homes. We are going to be quarantined. We’re going to stay within the confines of our house … back to the same old problems, the same old issues and a whole bunch brand of new ones.

“Will I have a job? Will I have enough food? Will I be able to put up with my husband, or my wife, or my partner or even myself,” said Pastor Rogers, noting Jesus spent his last days showing “all of us the way to eternal life.”

“When the going gets tough and the virus locks us in our house and we’re afraid and we are uncertain, do we still shout, ‘Hosanna’? Or do we join that other crowd? Do we join that other crowd that says, ‘Crucify him’?” Pastor Rogers said. “What will you do with your 40 days, the 40 days that COVID-19 has brought to all of us? Where are you going to come out? Are you going to come out on the path of those that deserted and abandoned Christ, or on a path of those that have accepted Christ?”

During a song, Mayor West thanked everyone for attending. “We’ll get through this, and we’ll be a stronger and a better country, a strong and better state and a stronger and a better Georgetown,” Mayor West said. “They just laid on the horns. It was great.”

Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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