Coronavirus: Dayton church launching ‘Worship on Wheels’ effort Sunday

Even as most churches across the area have canceled in-person services to slow the spread of coronavirus, one Dayton church Sunday morning will begin offering a new way to get the congregation together without ever leaving their cars.

St. Luke Missionary Baptist Church will launch its Worship on Wheels initiative, asking the public to come to the campus at 2262 N. Gettysburg Ave. and stay in their vehicles in the parking lot.

A one-hour service will be presented live from 10:45 to 11:45 a.m. in the parking lot. For those who cannot attend, a portion of the service will be aired on WDAO 1210 AM and 102.3 FM at 10:45 a.m.

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Drivers are encouraged to have their vehicles in the parking lot about 10:15 a.m. to be in place for the service. The event is designed for those in vehicles to roll down their windows and listen.

“It requires no physical contact, yet it brings our members together,” the Rev. Renard D. Allen said.

It is important for people to see each other, safely, and to know that they are OK, the pastor said.

He and the church band will practice social distancing while they present the service. They will be under an awning in front of the church.

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Allen said the awning would protect him and the band, if inclement weather hits. The awning is symbolic, too.

“The church is the awning for the world in a time like this,” he said. “We can cover people and shelter them.”

Allen said the pandemic presents a challenge to all churches, especially after Gov. Mike DeWine said the church is a place of “essential business.”

“The fact that the governor has enough respect for the role of religion in society to consider churches essential,” Allen said, “church leadership must see this as an opportunity to step forward and provide the services that make us an essential business.”

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Allen said he initially had the idea in January 2019 for an evangelism outreach service on Saturday evenings throughout the summer.

Then, the Memorial Day tornadoes hit, and the Oregon District mass shooting followed. St. Luke focused on more immediate aid to the community and to its congregation.

The pastor said he then planned to try Worship on Wheels this summer, “not knowing that the best opportunity for it would come at the end of winter” instead.

Allen said the church shared the idea with the police department to make sure it would be safe for those attending and not violate the state’s rules on gatherings. He said the department approved of it as a creative solution.

The pastor said many people think a cure is the biggest challenge facing society.

“The greatest need in the world right now is the need for meaning,” Allen said. “There are many people who have been laid off their jobs … many people who have lost loved ones due to a virus … people are not just looking for a cure and answers from our politicians and our scientists. They are looking for meaning. Why are we going through this, what are we to make of this?”

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