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Hosannas and honks

During drive-in worship, two churches proclaim Palm Sunday is ‘a day to dance’

by Emily Enders Odom | Special to Presbyterian News Service

Two churches in the Presbytery of Mid-Kentucky, Beulah Presbyterian Church and Hopewell Presbyterian Church, combined for drive-in Worship on Palm Sunday. (Photo by John Odom)

LOUISVILLE — Where there’s a will, there’s a driveway.

And although this year’s Palm Sunday festival procession into an “upper parking lot” more closely resembled a line at a carwash than a celebration of worship, exigent circumstances call for extreme creativity, imagination and grace.

And honks over Hosannas.

Ever since March 11, when congregations throughout the Commonwealth of Kentucky were first encouraged — and later mandated — by Gov. Andy Beshear to cancel all in-person services of worship, church leaders have been mining their liturgical, theological and pastoral expertise to be church and to reimagine community in the midst of the COVID-19 global pandemic.

Taking up a recommendation that was first proposed by the Rev. John Odom, the author’s husband and general presbyter for the Presbytery of Mid-Kentucky, two of Mid-Kentucky’s Louisville-based congregations, Beulah and Hopewell Presbyterian Churches, united for Palm Sunday “Drive-In Worship,” described on Beulah’s website as “a unique service — of coming together after weeks of separation, of practicing social distancing, and of celebrating Jesus Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem and the commencement of Holy Week.”

Jane Poole, a ruling elder at Beulah Presbyterian Church, directs traffic during drive-in worship on Palm Sunday. Beulah and Hopewell Presbyterian churches plan to repeat drive-in worship on Easter Sunday. (Photo by John Odom)

Beulah and Hopewell’s jointly-sponsored drive-in worship — which they will repeat on Easter Sunday, April 12, at 10:45 a.m. — was planned and conducted in full compliance with the guidelines issued on March 31 by the Kentucky governor, namely that: “no more than a single family that lives together be in a car; cars must be parked more than six feet apart; no one can get out of their car; and nothing can be passed between the cars.”

In addition, upon entering the parking lot on Palm Sunday morning, each driver was handed a worship bag containing a bulletin, palm frond and offering envelope — all prepared and distributed in accordance with the guidelines released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Each service bulletin also included an insert on The One Great Hour of Sharing special offering, which supports vital ministries during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In lieu of a single sermon, the service offered two separate meditations by the sponsoring churches’ pastors, the Rev. Diane Baldwin, Beulah, and the Rev. Andrew Hartmans, Hopewell. Baldwin opened her reflection on Matthew 21:1-11 by recalling a story told by her seminary preaching professor, whose own Sunday school teacher had given him Sam Keen’s book, To a Dancing God,” during his college years. Rather than reading the book, Baldwin’s professor told their class that he had read only a negative review, which he later used as a response to his teacher upon being asked how he had liked the book.

“‘The world is too filled with tragedy to do what Keen suggests and simply dance,’ he remembered telling his teacher, repeating the cantankerous reviewer,” Baldwin preached. “He admitted that if he thought she had remembered that, he would have called to say, ‘I’m trying to be better than that. The world is too filled with tragedy not to dance.’ That’s never been clearer than in our current circumstances. Palm Sunday is a day to dance … Today we celebrate the hope of a better day.”

COVID-19 Resources for Congregations and Members are available here.

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