TOPEKA, Kan. – An outdoor stage and a packed parking lot are all it took for Fellowship Bible Church to hold a pandemic-safe Christmas Eve service.
Lead Pastor Joe Hishmeh said it was important to find a way to continue church rituals.
“We thought we’d do this and invite anyone who wanted to come to celebrate the birth of Jesus together with us and do it in a creative and fun way while also being safe,” he said.
“A church is a center for hope in a community and we think the birth of Jesus is the greatest reason for hope and we want to celebrate that and no virus can keep us from celebrating that.
He said the drive-in service helps him feel connected to church members.
“It fills the heart of a pastor to see people come together and celebrate Jesus,” he said.
“It’s been great seeing everyone come out, I felt so disconnected from the in-person gatherings and meeting face to face and at least I can greet people through a windshield and that’s been really encouraging to me and the rest of our staff during this time.”
Behind those windshields are attendees who said they would not miss a chance to worship on Christmas Eve.
“We traditionally go out to celebrate Jesus Christ’s birth and listen to a good sermon and enjoy some good music so we didn’t want to miss a season strictly because of the conditions so it’s a great opportunity to come in and enjoy the fun,” Kevin Beck said.
“I think it’s special what the different churches around the city have done to try and create an atmosphere that’s close to what we’re used to again the reason for the season is to celebrate and it gives us that chance.”
Terra Prescott echoed the sentiment.
“With everything the way it is it would be easy to stop doing the things we are usually doing until it’s over,” she said.
“Instead we want to keep our traditions and keep ourselves involved and stay connected to the community the best that we can because despite the pandemic there’s still ways to be the people that we are.”
Hishmeh said while untraditional, he has a strong belief this will be a Christmas season worshippers will never forget.
“It was a time for us to continue gathering together to draw into the good news of Jesus Christ and to worship him during this time and to create the ‘remember when we’ kind of in our celebrations for Christmas,” he said.
“We hope this will be the last time we do one of these but we also wanted to build a memory with our church family.”