As Churches around Northern Ireland prepare for a Christmas-season like no other, one group based in the North Coast are continuing to host their own successful ‘Drive-in Sermons’.
The services are being ran by the Dhu Varren-based Portrush Gospel Hall and have been running every Sunday, since the start of the first lockdown, in the racing pits for the North West 200 Motorcycle Races, on the Ballyreagh Road.
At the last service, on 8th December, over forty cars made the journey out to the late afternoon gathering, on a day when temperatures in the North Coast never went above minus numbers. Visitors were organised by a team of around ten volunteers into a semicircle of cars around the stage where the preaching took place, with all engines then being turned off so they wouldn’t drown out any of the sermon.
One of the organisers started of the proceedings by highlighting the goals and intentions behind these services is to be “open to everyone” and simply had the “one goal to see souls raised in prayer”. The next speaker gave to the crowd a message of perseverance, and further spoke of the importance of not losing that spiritual connection during these tough and awkward times.
Religious services, like many parts of life, have been greatly limited by COVID-19 restrictions, with all churches only being allowed to open for individual acts of worship, and funerals and weddings that can have no more than twenty-five in attendance, until this Friday 11th December. It is currently unclear if any special attendance allowances will be made for religious services over the Christmas period.
These restrictions on churches, brought about by the two-week lockdown in Northern Ireland that started on 27th November, have been met with varying levels of compliance, with police being called out to a church service being held in Tandragee Baptist church with more than fifty people in attendance, on the same day as the Portrush Gospel Hall’s sermon.
Though it is clear this won’t be a Christmas like any other, and there won’t be any of those big reunions of family, friends, or neighbours, initiatives like these drive-in sermons will continue to try and give people some extra comfort over the festive-season.