More churches moving toward drive-thru services

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Camden is offer a Drive In Church services on Palm Sunday April 5. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

CAMDEN — The coronavirus pandemic may have curtailed activity across the nation, but it won’t prevent Palm Sunday celebrations from taking place downstate.

Using a little creativity, area churches are planning drive-thru services in order to comply with the state ban on public gatherings of more than 10 people and other social distancing guidelines required by Delaware’s state of emergency.

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Camden is hosting a drive-through event Sunday to start Holy Week. The service begins at 10 a.m.

“The circumstances of the usual Palm Sunday Liturgy are not within our control, but it is our hope that this drive-through event will remind us of the fact that God sent his son into the world to restore the world to union with the Creator of the world and in that union Humankind was invited to return to the relationship which God offered in the beginning,” said Father Kevin VonGonten of St. Paul’s.

The church will remain closed during Sunday’s event and no one will be allowed to leave their cars. The event will follow the guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is recommended that anyone who is immunocompromised should not attend.

Father VonGonten received approval from Bishop Kevin Brown of the Episcopal Diocese in Delaware to stage the event.

“Let us pray that we are able to return to the beginning of our creation moment and live in the fullness of our relationship which God offered to us in the moment of our creation,” Father VonGonten said.

Three stations will be set up at the drive-through, located at 210 Old North Road in Camden.

At the first station, palms and prayer sheets will be given out by Father VonGonten, who will be masked and gloved. The second station includes coffee, handed out by church members, and the final station will have snacks and hand sanitizer.

The trays at the stations will be sanitized with Clorox wipes. Everything is prepackaged in bags and the volunteers also will be wearing masks and gloves.

Joyce Wade, one of the church’s parishioners, came up with the idea of a drive-through service.

“Many thanks to Joyce Wade, who is responsible for the idea of putting this all together,” St. Paul’s Episcopal Church said in a statement. “For all the volunteers (a very limited number allowed due to the circumstances) who jumped on board helping to get everything organized, and to Vic Zeno for getting the word out as Senior Warden.”

Another drive-in church, Trinity Wesleyan at 1564 S. State St. in Dover, has been offering two services on Sundays, at 8:15 a.m. and 10:30 a.m., according to the church’s Facebook page, with worshipers tuning their car radio to 91.5 FM for a drive-in style service.

In Sussex County, Long Neck United Methodist Church is hosting a Palm Sunday drive-in service in Georgetown. The service, from 9 a.m. to 9:45 a.m. will be aired on an FM station, at the Nutter Marvel Carriage Museum. The town of Georgetown last week got approval to offer its stage, normally used for its summer concert series, to area churches to host drive-in services during the pandemic.

There, participants also will be prevented from leaving their cars and must keep windows rolled up.

The coronavirus crisis and measures to stem its spread essentially closed churches last month and many congregations across the state have gone to social media and creative measures to reach their congregations.

Division of Public Health Director Dr. Karyl Rattay Friday in a press briefing urged the public to remain vigilant in the state’s restrictions on gathering and social distancing, especially as Holy Week approached. She said family traditions must look different this year to protect people from spreading the virus.


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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