Three Kankakee County churches will be holding drive-in services on Easter Sunday — Countryside Community Church and Real Life Church in Kankakee and First Presbyterian Church of St. Anne.
Countryside Community Church pastor Jeff Evans was searching for a way his small congregation could continue to worship while also abiding by social distancing guidelines outlined by state and federal government.
They tried doing a conference call, but that didn’t work out very well. As for livestreaming, “We’re not that tech-savvy and not exactly sure how to do it,” Evans said. “I know some other churches have done Facebook live. Not all of our members have Facebook, so we can’t do that. We wanted to do something for everyone.”
Evans saw on Facebook that other churches had conducted a drive-in church service. So he decided the church at 3042 W. Illinois Route 17 in Kankakee would have its first drive-in service this past Sunday.
That way, he said, his church members could worship together while still being in compliance with federal regulations.
“We thought if we stay in our cars and keep social distancing, it could work,” Evans said.
It did work. Twenty-two people sat among 11 cars and watched and listened to the service broadcast over a sound system in the backyard of the church. The cars lined up in a horseshoe configuration, and the worshipers remained in their cars.
“I preached from the porch,” Evans said. “We used the sound system, and it worked out well. We kept the sound low so we weren’t so loud that we disrupted the neighbors. The cars kind of buffered the sound. There’s a neighborhood behind us.
“We didn’t hear from any of the neighbors, and we want to be respectful of that.”
The church will meet again at 10:30 a.m. Easter Sunday in the same fashion. Services will be held rain or shine, as the porch is covered so the sound system remains dry, but a significant storm could present a problem, Evans said.
“We’re going to continue to do it until we can get back inside the sanctuary,” Evans said.
Scott Graham, pastor of Real Life Church at 2095 W. Station St. in Kankakee, also saw some videos online what other churches, mainly down south, were doing.
“We felt it was another way of connecting with our community,” said Graham of holding a drive-in service at 10:30 a.m. Sunday.
Graham said the drive-in service is scheduled for just one Sunday — on Easter. Cars will pull into the parking lot and can listen to services on the radio at 97.9 FM.
“We have a radio frequency that will be transmitting with a range of 200 feet,” he said. “… We’ll have speakers, too. We’ll have musicians and singers as well. Graham said he’s looking forward to his small church, which has been around six years, getting together.
“We are starting from scratch still,” he said. “We’re renting the space from Netherton’s. … We don’t have a big congregation, probably around 50 people.”
It has been several weeks since Real Life Church has worshiped together, and Graham is hopeful this will help members connect until they can come back inside the church.
“If this [stay-at-home] continues for God knows how long, we might do this again,” Graham said. “Right now, we’re just playing it by ear.”
The Rev. Mike Seed, pastor of First Presbyterian Church at 334 S. St. Louis Ave. in St. Anne, sent this message to his members:
“We are planning on having a ‘drive-in’ Easter morning service on Easter Sunday complete with communion at 10:15 a.m. Please plan to come and share this special moment with us. Plans now are to stay in our cars at a safe distance away.”
At Countryside Community Church, the drive-in service is a way the congregation of approximately 30 can continue to, sort of, worship together. It will continue with the drive-in service every Sunday until further notice.
“Yes, until the president or the governor says we can meet together again,” Evans said.” We’re looking forward to that day.”
SPRINGFIELD — Another 82 people have died from complications of novel coronavirus disease in Illinois and the state announced more than 1,529 new cases Wednesday as Gov. JB Pritzker said testing still lags behind public health officials’ goal.
Both cases and deaths once again saw their largest single-day spikes, but Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said at the daily COVID-19 briefing in Chicago that the rate of increase in cases from day to day is beginning to decline.
“You’re not seeing the exponential growth that we were seeing before,” she said. “But even as there may be some glimmers of hope, I say that physical distancing has to — must — continue to be the way that we reduce the spread of this virus. Please stay home.”
She said a decrease in the rate of rise, which now looks more linear than exponential, was promising, but she could not predict how many days the state is away from a peak in cases, which could last several days once it is hit.
“So we’re, with guarded optimism, we’re hoping that we’re getting close to either the peak or the plateau. It’s not clear yet how long that would be,” she said.
The latest deaths came in 11 counties, with 61 of them in Cook County. The deaths came in people from their 30s to their 90s.
There are now 15,078 total confirmed cases in the state in 78 counties, including 462 deaths. The state tested 75,066 persons for the virus as of Wednesday, an increase of about 6,300 from Tuesday.
Pritzker said testing capabilities just reached the 6,000-daily threshold in Illinois, which is still short of the 10,000 target set by health officials. According to medical and scientific experts, he said, processing 10,000 tests per day will give officials the clearest picture of how many confirmed COVID-19 cases are in the state and how it is spreading.
The hold-up, Pritzker said, is due to “new laboratory automation machines” manufactured by Thermo Fisher Scientific, which originally promised to process a “multi-thousand daily unit increase” of tests, or about 200 hourly. But those five machines — distributed to Illinois’ three state-run labs — are not giving technicians “the level of output that we want to see,” the governor said.
“More importantly, these tests are not producing valid results in a way that meets our exacting standards,” Pritzker added. “I am as impatient as the rest of you are, wanting to increase testing, but I will not sacrifice accuracy for the sake of speed. The tests and results they will provide are too important.”
Until those machines are operating correctly, the governor said, they will not be used to examine Illinois tests.
He also said the state could increase testing output through privatized labs used by the federal government, but those labs turn around test results in 7-10 days, as opposed to state labs and local hospitals which can produce results in two days.
“People can end up on a ventilator before they ever get their testing result. That’s just not a timeline that I want to bet on,” he said of privatized tests.
Pritzker said the state is working with “the scientists and technicians, the academics and innovators here in Illinois, to expand our test results.”
He said state labs are running three shifts to increase results, and 96 locations across the state are now collecting specimens.
Kankakee Community College and Olivet Nazarene University both plan to host virtual graduation ceremonies for the spring 2020 graduating class with in-person reunions a possibility later on.
The institutions announced in late March that campuses would close and instruction would continue online for the rest of the semester to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
KCC President Michael Boyd said Monday in a letter to students and staff that the May 2020 commencement would be celebrated with an online event. More details will be shared in the coming weeks, according to the letter.
“Though it will be a different kind of commencement than we’ve ever done, I assure you that it will be special,” Boyd said in the letter.
Boyd went on to say that inviting May 2020 graduates to the May 2021 commencement ceremony may be a possibility so that all graduates’ accomplishments can be recognized in a traditional setting.
“I realize that this isn’t the way we planned to host commencement this year,” Boyd continued. “Perhaps now more than ever, we need to celebrate our successes and achievements at the end of a very difficult academic year.”
The traditional 2020 commencement ceremony was scheduled for May 16. The semester ends May 8 for both institutions.
Updates on KCC’s response to coronavirus can be found on the college’s website at coronavirus.kcc.edu.
ONU President John Bowling addressed students and staff in a video message April 2 stating that the university is planning an online commencement celebration for graduates and their families May 9, with details to follow in the coming weeks.
“We want you to be able to move that tassel once you graduate,” he said in the video.
Graduates typically gather in the Centennial Chapel during commencement, but unfortunately that will not be possible this year, Bowling said.
Bowling went on to say that the university is planning to host a first reunion for the class of 2020 in November during its annual Homecoming festivities.
He also encouraged students to “stay strong.”
“We never could have anticipated this is how we would spend these last few weeks together,” Bowling said in the video. “But I’ve been immensely impressed with your tenacity and your positive spirit through it all.”
More information and updates on ONU’s response to coronavirus can be found on the university’s website at olivet.edu/coronavirus.