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Area churches ‘gather’ in creative ways

Drive up, pull in and watch from the safety of your car. Or from your home?

Bethany Wesleyan Church Bethany adapted to the closure of its three Lehigh Valley campuses this weekend with a change in venue: Becky’s Drive-In on Route 248. The live service asked participants to stay in their cars and tune their radios while a worship service and sermon took place.

“It was awesome,” Casey Spencer, campus pastor at Bethany Wesleyan Church in Lehighton, said. “We’re already making plans for next Sunday.”

The past weekend’s sermon, which Spencer said saw about 350 cars attend, began around 10:45 a.m.

So many cars lined up that there was a temporary traffic jam on Route 248 and the service started a few minutes later than planned.

The church will repeat the gathering next Sunday at the same time.

Inspired by drive-ins, the Rev. Jody Neifert and his wife, Kim Neifert, led St. John’s Lutheran Towamensing church through their first drive-in worship service on Sunday.

The service was constructed similar to a regular service with hymns, Scripture, message and prayers, only it was located outdoors, across the street from the church.

Neifert began the service with words of encouragement regarding the current pandemic.

“God will triumph over all,” Neifert said. “For the difficult times that we are facing, know that we’ll get through it together.”

He regularly plays guitar during his services and is known as the “singing pastor.” He saw no reason not to be himself during his outdoors service and brought along his guitar and his singing partner, his wife, an active member in the children’s music ministry.

Salvatore LoPiccolo of Nesquehoning, who attended the event, commented on the beauty of having the mountain scenery to accompany the service. Other attendees left their cars to enjoy the fresh air, while still keeping safety in mind and remaining a few feet away from each other.

Neifert posted about the event on Facebook and on the church’s website to incite response and attendance, but even he was surprised at the outcome.

He said the service went well with about 40 cars showing up. He said as long as he’s able to ensure the safety of his congregation, he would like to have another drive-in church service.

“Even if it’s through a car window, or from 10 feet away, I think people have a need to bind together as a community,” he said.

Neifert said he will continue to pray for God’s inspiration and guidance from leaders, scientists, health-care professionals, and all others who work serving the needs of people.

Many are churches streamed their services of Facebook for the first time.

Danielle Derrickson contributed to this report.

The Rev. Jody Neifert and his wife, Kim, sing during St. John's first outdoors service. MARIA REHRIG/TIMES NEWS