Honk if You Love Jesus!



--By Barb Hilty--

After three weeks of COVID-19 lockdown, the people of Faith United Methodist Church in Delmont were more than ready to come together to worship God. 

On April 5, 2020, church members and friends drove to the church and parked as usual for a Palm Sunday service with a twist.  They remained in their cars as the Rev. Dr. Ronald W. Raptosh conducted the outdoor time of worship and praise.  Hallelujah, indeed!

Since March 15, this closely knit family of believers were like so many other congregations across Pennsylvania:  staying safe by being apart.  To minister to his sequestered church, the Rev. Dr. Ronald W. Raptosh has been videoing a daily devotional visit and prayer time that is shared on the church’s website. 

With Holy Week approaching, the pastor wanted to offer Faith Church a corporate worship experience in these troubled times.  The idea to hold a service in the church parking lot seemed ideal. Faith's safety and security team checked with the Delmont Police Dept. and received permission to hold the parking lot service if they maintained social distancing and people remained in their cars.

Faith member Bev Fensch utilized existing A/V equipment for a mobile speaker system for the pastor and keyboardist Christine Hankins to be heard by everyone.  Cammy Young led the hymn singing, and Sarah Raptosh and Lisa Popovich set up and manned the video equipment. 

Potted palms flanked Rev. Raptosh as he addressed the crowd from the elevated entrance of the church fellowship hall. Often throughout the 30-minute service, a chorus of car horns sounded in lieu of “amens” or applause. 

The honking proved to be an effective means to connect with people inside their cars; there was community worship!  Persons waived their phones with palm images or raised printed palm photos.  “This is just what we needed,” said some long-time church members.

The service was streamed live, as well as offered for viewing later on the church website. 

A number of neighboring residents stood on the street and in their yards to take in the service and asked if the church would have an Easter service.

Ron Raptosh hopes to continue with the parking lot services for the duration of the coronavirus separation, noting that the message of Christ can’t be deterred.

Staying Safe

NOTE: It is important to check with local authorities before planning a parking lot service or any other outdoor public worship service. In another area of Western PA, a similar service was halted.  It was led by a pastor from another denomination in a Washington, PA, area park. A local government official told the Observer-Reporter newspaper that they had not granted permission because the pavilion area that was used was closed to prevent public gatherings to reduce the spread of COVID-19. 

Raptosh said he continually emphasized the need for people to remain in their cars. He said a local police officer stopped by to ensure that people were maintain safe distances. "We are trying to comply to keep our people safe," he explained.