Port Arthur church’s “drive-in” service works to connect people

Published 12:20 am Saturday, March 21, 2020

Many churches across the nation are taking to live streaming for praise and worship in light of the recent COVID-19 outbreak.

Fellow pastors in the area are suspending their church services and switching to online streaming.

This poses a challenge for Pastor Bill Brazell of Memorial Baptist Church, who will be using live streaming for the first time in church history.

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The message is “Moving From Fear to Faith.”

Pastor Phil Chamberlin practices his sermon Friday for The Temple’s upcoming “drive-in” experience Sunday. (Cassandra Jenkins/The News) 3-20-20

“Whoever thought we’d be in a situation in this country that we cannot worship?” he said. “My generation has never seen anything like the coronavirus and quarantines we are facing. As a result, there is so much fear in our country and around the world. You know you are in a crisis when people are afraid and feeling powerless.

“I want to encourage everyone to go to God in prayer for strength and to his word for encouragement, because that is what we will be doing this Sunday morning, whatever means possible.”

The Temple in Port Arthur is also changing to live streaming, but is adding something a little extra to Sunday worship.

Pastor Phil Chamberlin practices his Sunday sermon Friday in The Temple, which will provide a “drive-in” experience for church members. (Cassandra Jenkins/The News) 3-20-20

“We know that the virus effects about five percent of the people in terms of the actual illness, but it effects 100 percent in terms of the lasting results of being disconnected, isolated and apart from community,” Pastor Phil Chamberlin said. “One of the worst things that can happen is that someone gets so isolated that they begin to despair.”

In an effort to quell the fear and desperation, this Sunday at 10 a.m., The Temple is offering a one-of-a-kind “drive-in” experience.

Chamberlin said church staff decided this was the best way to connect people while still practicing safe social distancing.

“We didn’t want to do what everyone else was doing,” he said. “We wanted to be different and creative, because it’s important for people to come out, even if they can’t shake hands or hug, to see each other in cars and wave, and know they are not alone. It’s an opportunity to bring people together to hear the message, hear the music and be together.”

Members of the church will drive into the parking lot, park their vehicles, tune into the instructed FM radio and witness the service live from a large stage within the safety of their own vehicles.

Chamberlin said the response to the idea has been remarkable.

“People need hope, they don’t need hope in isolation, but in community,” he said. “The problem is when you have that kind of alone time on your hands, it really can be terrifying watching how bad things are. There needs to be a voice, a light breaking through that.”

During his sermon, Chamberlin’s message is that of Matthew Chapter 14 — “but straightaway Jesus spoke unto them, saying, ‘be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.’”

“In World War II folks in Britain were worried about there being an attack from the sky,” he said. “They were just waiting in anticipation of immediate disaster. In that tragedy, there was a voice. That voice was Churchill. He told them not only were they going to live through it, but be victorious. People need that voice right now and that’s what we are seeking to give them on Sunday.”

The Temple will also offer 8:45 a.m. and 11:15 a.m. services online through Facebook Live.

“It’s really about getting through what you’re going through,” Chamberlin said of Sunday’s sermon. “It’s based on the disciples going across the lake and Jesus saying, ‘Do not be afraid, we are here.’ The message is that He is here in the midst of our struggle, our fear and our uncertainty. He is here.”