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.”