Mt. Tirzah UMC shares the gospel in a socially distant world

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A Person County church congregation found a novel way to gather in the wake of social distancing and restrictions on mass gatherings as the state battles the onslaught of the coronavirus.
Mt. Tirzah United Methodist Church held a drive in communion service on Sunday morning that brought out nearly half of the church’s normal number of Sunday morning congregants.
Josh Tester, the pastor at Mt. Tirzah, had been asked by a congregation member if he would bring the elements of communion to the person’s home.
But Tester said he wanted to give all the congregation members an opportunity to be together, even if they were several feet apart.
On Sunday morning about seven cars parked in the parking lot at Mt. Tirzah and Tester stood in the grass in front of them. Church members remained in their cars and tuned in to a Zoom meeting to hear the pastor speak.
Hosting the unique service was an effort to give people some form of socialization.
“I feel like we are all social beings. Even the introverts need to see people.. We were made to be in communities. Whenever we are isolated from each other, we lose a little bit of who we are,” Tester said.
Tester said he heard about the idea of a drive-in communion service from his mother, who is also a Methodist minister in western North Carolina.
“A lot of churches do that at Christmas, instead of having a certain time for communion on Christmas Eve,” Tester said. “It was an awesome blessing just to be able to do something with them.”
The short service wasn’t like a normal worship service. Tester didn’t deliver a sermon. Instead, church members read the liturgy and prayers were made before the service moved to communion, with Tester bringing the elements to each congregation member in their vehicle.
And, what about that other tried and true part of church – where the pastor tells you to greet your neighbor? In the Methodist Church, that’s called Passing the Peace. On Sunday at Mt. Tirzah UMC, it meant cars honking their horns at each other.
Congregation member Susan Jacques said that was the most meaningful part of the service to her. “It was just unbelievable to sit there and hear all these horns honking their greetings to each other,” Jacques said.
Jacques and Tester both said the communion service was unsual for this time of year. Normally, the church gives up communion for lent. But Tester said he thought it was important to bring back. “I thought something that would bring us together was gathering at the community table,” Tester said.
There are no plans to repeat the drive-in communion service right now, but Tester said church leaders all over the state are looking for creative ways to spread the gospel among their flock until the coronavirus scare passes.
“As we continue to think creatively, we may turn to it again,” Tester said.

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