Cars started to form a line in front of Cumming First United Methodist Church Wednesday night as families and other churchgoers waited to be ushered into the parking lot for the church’s first drive-in service.
John Hutchinson, the church’s director of music, worship and arts, planned the drive-in service with other church leaders to give members a people to come together and see each other in person for the first time in months. Hutchinson said that he had seen that other churches had seen success in holding similar services, so he took a chance and planned the service out to try to keep everyone both safe and happy.
As cars started arriving for the 6:30 p.m. service, church members led them into the spacious church parking lot alongside Canton Highway, making sure that there was enough space between cars to ensure everyone followed social distancing guidelines.
Before the service started, those in the parking lot started to honk their horns, making some noise and celebrating their first time seeing everyone again and having the opportunity to worship at their church. Even though they had to stay in their cars, many said that the service was a refreshing change from the new stay-at-home norm.
Hutchinson said that he is not sure yet if the church will continue with drive-in services, but he hopes that, with the positivity and success they found in it, the church will plan another one soon.
Before last night, the CFUMC community had not gathered for worship since early March when many schools, churches and businesses started closing their doors to help protect community members at the start of the novel coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. Like many, these closures forced CFUMC members to turn to online resources.
Hutchinson said that the church’s online presence has increased significantly, especially on social media platforms such as their Facebook page and various Instagram accounts where church members can connect with one another regularly. As the church started to move more online, Hutchinson said they also started to see more and more members joining in for digital Sunday services.
To keep up with their community, the church is not only providing Sunday worship services online each week, but it also offers Sunday school through Zoom calls and daily devotionals on its social media pages. Hutchinson himself also uploads music videos to YouTube every day for people to share and enjoy.
Hutchinson said that the transition from in-person services to online has been a huge change for CFUMC, but he knows that people appreciate the work and devotion they put into making the church accessible during this time.
“I think they are very well aware that we may not be working in the same way, but that we are working just as hard,” Hutchinson said.
CFUMC announced that it plans to officially open back up to the public on June 28 under some restrictions. When it opens again, guests will be required to wear a face mask while in the building, a team of ushers will guide visitors to their seats in an effort to ensure social distancing guidelines, members will have to pre-register for church services, and some church rituals, including baptisms and communion, will be put on hold.
In the meantime, Hutchinson hopes that community members can find happiness in their worship through the church’s online services and devotions.
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