Georgetown worshipers to congregate drive-in style

The Nutter Marvel Carriage Museum grounds on South Bedford Street in Georgetown will be the venue for a drive-in style worship service on Palm Sunday, April 5. Due to restrictions during the coronavirus crisis, all attendees must remain in their cars and keep vehicle windows rolled up at all times. The service will take place on a stage and will be broadcast on an FM station accessible on car radios.

GEORGETOWN — Welcoming doors to churches and places of worship are closed under Gov. John Carney’s ban on large gatherings during the coronavirus crisis.

Many congregations have found creative ways to worship in the meantime, taking sermons to social media and online streaming.

And COVID-19 won’t stop worshipers in the heart of Sussex from congregating on Palm Sunday — and possibly Sundays to follow until the state of emergency is lifted in Delaware.

The spacious grounds of the Nutter Marvel Carriage Museum in Georgetown stand as the outdoor venue for an innovative drive-in-style church where worshipers in vehicles will tune to a local FM frequency to hear the service delivered from a stage.

“It’s a go,” said Georgetown Mayor Bill West.

“The mayor presented the idea. We have the land and we thought it was a worthwhile venture. So, we decided to work with them,” said Jim Bowden, president of the Georgetown Historical Society, which owns and operates the Marvel Museum. “It’s kind of an innovative thing.”

The first service is April 5 – Palm Sunday. Pastor Bruce Rodgers of Long Neck United Methodist Church will lead the worship service from the stage the town utilizes for its summer concert series.

Church will run from 9 a.m. to 9:45 a.m. The FM station is 96.9.

Mayor West made this specific request to Gov. Carney during a statewide conference call Thursday.

“I was on a conference call with the governor, and after everybody was done asking their questions and all, I said, ‘Governor, one last thing before you go … and if you tell me ‘no,’ I understand,’” said Mayor West. “I’d like to have a drive-in church service where the people will stay in their cars. They don’t get out and they don’t roll their windows down. We’re going to broadcast the message by FM, on an FM channel in their car.”

The mayor emphasized that he would advertise and mandate that people must remain in their cars and their vehicle windows must be rolled up.

“If we see these things happening, we will have to disperse,” said Mayor West.

After checking with Delaware Health and Social Services staff during the conference call, Gov. Carney gave the proposal his blessing, on conditions that everyone but stage personnel must remain in their vehicles; and vehicle windows must always be rolled up, Mayor West said.

“So, people can sit there, hear a little bit of gospel music, hear some prayer, hear a sermon, maybe another prayer, a song and then we go about our business,” Mayor West said.

The Marvel Carriage Museum, owned and operated by the Georgetown Historical Society, is located at 510 S. Bedford St. in Georgetown.

Signs and cones will be used to direct people where to park in the “north field” of the museum grounds. The entrance is just north of the gift shop/farmhouse.

This initiative came together mid-week in less than one day. Mayor West thanked “the Marvel Museum, Jim Bowden and the Georgetown Historical Society for letting us use this facility.”

Assuming there are no full quarantine restrictions in the future, the plan is to have drive-in worship services every Sunday up until the large gathering restriction in the state of emergency is lifted.

Mayor West said the church service idea stemmed from initial discussion several weeks back with State Sen. Brian Pettyjohn about holding a drive-in type concert with a band to rekindle community spirit during these challenging and stressful times. However, band members together on stage doesn’t fit the current social distancing/physical space practice strongly recommended by health officials to curb the spread of the virus.

“Then I got to thinking, Easter is coming, and we need to do something for church, something for the religious people,” said Mayor West. “I just sat here last night and said, ‘I’m going to see what people think.’ And they have head over heels gone for it.”

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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