The Atlantic: Drive-in church services keep parishioners safe

The Atlantic: Drive-in church services keep parishioners safe

Taking a cue from drive-in theaters, one Va. church has moved its pulpit to the parking lot. Photo by Nicholas Erwin on Flickr.

“If I thought I did something and maybe one of my church members perhaps caught the COVID-19 and died from that, I don't know how I could live with myself.”

— Dr. Kendell Smith, Sandy Level Baptist Church

On Sunday morning in Sandy Level, Virginia, about an hour southeast of Roanoke, upbeat gospel music blares from speakers as cars pull past the sign that advertisesthe drive-in church. Churchgoers tune into 87.9 FM and honk their horns in greeting.

This isn’t a usual weekend, but Sandy Level Baptist Church is no stranger to unconventional forms of worship. Every summer Sunday, from May until September, the clergy holds “boat church”: Pastor Kendell Smith ministers to a floating congregation from a dock on a nearby lake. When Virginia went into lockdown because of the coronavirus pandemic, the pastor didn’t skip a beat; the next Sunday, the drive-in service was up and running.


Story by Annalise Pasztor