Drive-Thru Worship | Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church (Johnstown, Pa.)

The Rev. Julia Sprenkle, Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church pastor, offers a blessing to parishioners during a drive-thru worship service held at the church on Elknud Lane in the Westmont section of Johnstown, Pa. on Sunday, March 22, 2020.

Churches have had to make adjustments as the coronavirus pandemic spreads across the country.

We commend our churches for finding creative ways to stay connected to parishioners as we continue to navigate through these uncertain times.

With state Department of Health guidelines that include staying home as much as you can, avoiding public spaces, keeping at least 6 feet between you and others if you must go out and not attending or hosting large gatherings, area churches have turned to technology and creativity to connect with their congregations.

While many churches are live-streaming their services through their websites and Facebook, at least two area churches offered unique services on Sunday.

At Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church in Westmont, three stations were set up in the parking lot, where parishioners received a bulletin and communion and then met with the Rev. Julie Sprenkle for confession, forgiveness and prayer.

“Christianity is an in-body faith, and church is a physical, community thing,” Sprenkle told reporter David Hurst. “At least this way, we can come together in a safe way and still worship together.”

Doug Hughes, of Westmont, handed out bulletins at one of the stations.

“A few weeks ago, I never would’ve thought I’d be standing out here,” he said.

“But hey, whatever it takes to reach people, we’ll do it. Because this is something we all need right now.”

In addition to live-streaming its service on Sunday, Faith Chapel in Johnstown had a drive-in option in which parishioners parked in the church lot, tuned in to a radio station and heard the sermon by Pastor Andrew Taylor.

“Some of our parishioners just need to get out of the house because of cabin fever,” church secretary Melissa Lushko said. “This way they can come to church and still be safe in the car and we can all be together.”

Bishop Mark Bartchak announced the suspension of all public Masses and other liturgical celebrations in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown until further notice. But in the meantime, the diocese will continue to broadcast Mass at 11 a.m. Sundays on WATM ABC 23 in addition to the diocese’s website and social media platforms.

“The decision to suspend all public Masses is not a decision that I take lightly,” Bartchak said. “I realize that the faithful will deeply miss participating in Mass and receiving Jesus Christ, present in the Holy Eucharist. However, I cannot ignore the very important recommendations from public health officials during this unprecedented health emergency. All of us have an obligation to take the necessary steps to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, and that includes the Church.”

The Rev. Mark Begly, pastor of Our Mother of Sorrows Roman Catholic Church in Westmont, even heard drive-thru confessions on Monday for parishioners.

Oakland United Methodist Church is one of many in the area live-streaming services and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

The church is utilizing its website as well as Facebook and YouTube.

“We want to continue to do ministry and we’re going to try and offer daily devotionals on the same platforms,” Pastor Randy Bain said.

Sadie Carney, of Westmont, who took part in the Christ Evangelical Church drive-thru service, said: “Church is still happening even though this pandemic is occurring. With everything that’s happening, we just have to adapt and adjust the best we can.”

Amen to that.

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