Two Advance churches in Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa are pioneering a creative solution to the current COVID-19 restrictions on gathering. Hope Church (Gregory Cassim), and One City (Steve Rothquel) have hosted a couple of Drive-In Sundays in the last month. South African restrictions limit gatherings to 50 people or less and look set to be in place through the end of 2020.
How long have you guys been on a break from gathering during the lockdown?
Steve: Sadly it has been just over 5 months. As much as we have tried to enjoy and encourage the scattered reality of being church, and even the spiritual nature of the church in our homes, it really has felt like a poor substitute for being together in one place worshiping and hearing the Word of God preached.
Greg: Hope Church officially launched on the March 1st. The hard lockdown started on March 21st! So it’s been a long 6 months!
Of the options available – 50 or less people, online-only or the drive-in option, what factored into your decision to do the drive in option and are you still providing an online alternative?
Steve: We have endeavored to manage all of our decisions with both wisdom and faith. The 50 or less option was simply too restrictive and there was a concern in the beginning that should there be infections it would not be a good testimony for the Gospel. However now that some time has past, with schools, commercial and recreational activities opening up, we have felt that Faith should now lead the way. The Drive-in service has been a great way to break the awkwardness of gathering with restrictions. It also has enabled even those who are still cautious to join in.
Greg: There was a great desire from the congregation to come together but we needed to ensure that it was done in a safe way where people felt comfortable to meet. The drive-in option was best suited for us. The other challenge was our target audience and community we are planted in. There are not many people who have access to the internet. While we do have the online alternative it’s mostly for those who support us but don’t live in the area.
Drive-in was best suited for us… there are not many people who have access to the internet [in our community] – Greg
What has worked well?
Steve: Without a shadow of a doubt, the ability to sing and see others, even if it is through the car window has been a huge blessing. Let’s face it no one wants to go to church in their car and stay in their car, but for the moment it’s working and every week there are more people coming. Additionally we have had visitors every week, that was something that surprised us.
Greg: The drive-in services have really helped in that we get to see our people on a weekly basis and this has inspired some hope. Being outdoors has also raised the awareness that there is a new church in the area. We also get visitors from other churches on a weekly basis as their doors are still closed.
Being outdoors has also raised the awareness that there is a new church in the area – Greg
In brief technical terms, how are you handling sound for such a large area?
Steve: For us, we were fortunate to have a member of our church with a low level radio transmitter. This has enabled us to transmit the worship and preaching directly into peoples cars without having to blast a large sound system.
Greg: A word of encouragement for those who might be in a similar situation as ours. God’s timing is perfect. We’ve seen the hand of God during this pandemic. In the past month we’ve managed to take a group of 10 people through a discipleship course. It’s been a great joy to see transformation taking place.
Steve: We have settled that for the next little while we will have to have a multi-pronged approach, online, Drive-in and in person meetings. Pastorally, we have seen the need for re-engagement and are attempting to moving forward in faith.