CHURCH IN THE PARK:

Harvest Bible Church moved Sunday services to Rotary Park last weekend as a novel way to worship and still maintain social distancing. It was so popular, services are planned again for the park at 10 a.m. Sunday.

BULLHEAD CITY — One step forward, two steps back isn’t necessarily a bad thing especially when a situation calls for looking into the past for ways to cope with the present. 

Drive-in movies used to be a popular and inexpensive way for families and teenagers to hang out, yet have personal time, all while being entertained.

Last weekend, one area pastor took that nostalgic concept a slightly different direction.

Instead of a movie, Pastor Randy Castillo, of Harvest Bible Church, moved services from the sanctuary in Mohave Valley to Rotary Park in Bullhead City. Cars gathered in the parking lot. People remained in or around their cars while Castillo delivered worship services and church musicians and vocalists performed uplifting spiritual music.

To respect social distancing mandates, yet meet the needs of his congregation, his creativity was met with more positive energy than he would have imagined.

“That old drive-in theater thing, that was our concept,” Castillo said. “Like the old movie drive-ins, people could bring a lunch. Everybody loved it. They were singing in their cars and joining in — how awesome is that.

“We were sticking to social distancing by making sure cars were 10-feet apart — we actually did measure,” he added. “We didn’t want anyone to feel unsafe, and there were about 120 cars there. Often there were groups of family members who traveled in the same car, but it was a great turn-out.”

He said it was a little weird being on a stage outside with church-goers in their cars, but the response was overwhelmingly positive.

“We’re excited,” he added. “We got a lot of positive feedback and we want to do it again. As long as the governor allows this, we will do it. We don’t want to violate any orders or endanger any one, but we’re expecting bigger crowds next week.”

He said the crowd really got into the service.

“The band and everyone just loved it,” Castillo said. “People were honking ‘amen’ and ‘hallelujah.’ It was very cool.

“Our worship team is very talented,” he added. “We have a bout 15 people who rotate between this singer and that singer, this guitarist and that guitarist, from our own church of between 500 and 600 members.

“They also set up the stage and the sound system, and easily got it going, so now they are ready for next week. Right after last week’s service they were already excited to do it again — unless something changes.”

He said the one “down side” was not to embrace each other to show their love.

“A lot of them said it was hard not to go up and hug each other, but when they’d pull up and park with a car space between them, they let their friends know they were not being rude,” he said with a laugh. “It was really neat to hear that because it is so hard for us. We’re a very ‘huggy’ church, but everyone did keep our distance. We did ‘air hugs.’

The service returns Sunday at 10 a.m. in Rotary Park.

“We’ll be using that large parking lot on the left,” Castillo said. “After turning into the park from Balboa, the lot is on the left hand side, by the pickleball courts.

“We flew a drone around and got great footage, which we put on Facebook,” he added. “The excitement level for something we’ve never done — wow! It was great. We’re so glad people were excited about church, they were honking and at least 30 people said, ‘we gotta do this next weekend.’ God was there, the message was there, we had fantastic weather — he could not have given us a better day. One guy said he had to decide which of his cars in his driveway he should bring to the service. He chose is red convertible with the top down for himself and his wife. A couple of other people showed up in vintage cars, so it was almost a car show, too.”

For more information, contact the church by calling, 928-788-2225.

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