DEFIANT OR ESSENTIAL? Church of God members gather in parking lot for services during COVID-19 pandemic
CHURCH DUBBED – “DEFIANT” BY SOME MEDIA FOR GATHERING IN PARKING LOT
Beer, wine, liquor stores, marijuana dispensaries, and golf courses preparing to re-open are allowed – why not churches that take precautions? We are not defiant in the sense of being rude or reckless, but this is a firm stand for God’s cause.” – Pastor Henry Hildebrandt.
It feels like months now – even years – but going to church to congregate with God’s people ended – at least for now – about seven weeks ago.
It’s been difficult dealing with the fallout of a modern-day plague that presents more confusion every day than clarity.
Blame is all around us – but nobody really knows.
As terror spread through every sector of societies all around the world – some people – are still choosing to congregate – safely – and unsafely.
Some of these gatherings made short-term headlines in the U.S. and here in Canada.
Many people “disgusted” with the church goers, beach revelers, and hikers tempting fate, and flying in the face of top doctors.
For one “non-denominational” Christian church in Aylmer, Ontario – The Church of God parishioners got together drive-in movie style for the fourth straight week – In the parking lot.
Media today are still ‘up in arms,’ claiming today, “no police in sight,” and Aylmer pastor lashes out as legal battle looms over drive-in church services.”
Of course, gathering together for the purposes of shared values in community – and worshipping God is an ancient tradition. As the world shelters in place, people still need each other.
I spoke with pastor Henry Hildebrandt of the Church of God in Aylmer who says they’re keeping the services going despite what media is reporting.
SP: PASTOR HILDEBRANDT, WHY ARE YOU CONVENING CHURCH SERVICES OUTSIDE OF THE CHURCH IN THE PARKING LOT DURING COVID-19?
PHH: Drive-in services have become a popular way of keeping a sense of community in worship times while maintaining public health precautions.
SP: WHAT PRECAUTIONS ARE YOU TAKING?
PHH: Windows are rolled up, everyone stays in their cars, building is closed to all attendees, security team in place to enforce and provide parking direction.
SP: WHY DO YOU THINK SOME OF THE PUBLIC IS UPSET ABOUT THIS? ARE NEARBY HOMES AFFECTED BY THE SOUND OF CAR HORNS HONKING?
PHH: There are no nearby homes, people are upset because they do not understand the need for Christians to maintain community and be together to strengthen our faith.
SP: CHURCH BEGAN OUTDOORS – AND IS NOT CONTAINED IN A BUILDING – OF COURSE – BUT WORSHIPPING TOGETHER DURING A PANDEMIC IS DIFFICULT – WE’VE NEVER EXPEREINCED THIS BEFORE IN OUR TIME – HOW IS WORSHIPPING IN THE PARKING LOT HELPING YOU AND YOUR PARISHIONERS?
PHH: It allows us to maintain a semblance of normalcy during a difficult crisis. The church is the people – not the building – but the Bible teaches us not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together on the Lord’s Day whenever possible.
SP: YOU’RE BEING LABELLED AS “DEFIANT” IN SOME MEDIA REPORTS – WHAT DO YOU WANT THE PUBLIC TO KNOW?
PHH: If beer, wine, liquor stores, marijuana dispensaries, and golf courses are deemed essential, what happened to churches? How did we ever let this happen? David defied Goliath in the name of the Lord and sometimes it is necessary for us to stand for what we believe, no matter the consequences. We are not defiant in the sense of being rude or reckless, but this is a firm stand for God’s cause.
SP: WILL YOU STOP THE SERVICES IF PUSHED TO BY POLICE/AUTHORITIES?
PHH: We expect to be able to continue services and have them deemed essential.
SP: WHAT ARE YOUR PARISHONERS SAYING?
PHH: The whole drive-in service idea started with our congregants. They pushed for it and asked us to do it after we were shut out of our buildings. This is an initiative driven by our grassroots and they are fully engaged in moving forward with them.
SP: HOW DO YOU SEE THIS PANDEMIC IN BIBLICAL TERMS?
PHH: We see throughout history that there have been times of famine and plenty, sickness and health, poverty and wealth. We have grown comfortable and complacent as the Church in the Western Hemisphere and this should serve as a wake-up call. It’s time to unify, rise to the occasion, and prepare for whatever might be ahead.
This is not about our church or me as a Pastor, this is about all Christians standing together, heeding the call, and rising up for our faith, the life-changing Gospel of Jesus Christ our Saviour.
31 And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.