A little before the 9 am Sunday Mass, cars began filing into the Temple of God ground, a 3-acre open parking area of the Bethel AG Church International Worship Centre (BAGCIWC) in Hebbal, North Bengaluru. Each of the cars drove into slots marked on the ground, after which their engines were turned off, the windows rolled down. It was time for the Sunday Mass.
For its first prayer service since the lockdown, the Protestant church came up with a concept of ‘Worship on Wheels (WOW)’, a drive-in Mass where people could take part in the service while in their cars or on their bikes.
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Rev Johnson V, pastor-in-charge of BAGCIWC, said that while the church live-streamed daily prayers and the Sunday Mass throughout the lockdown period, they decided to come up with an alternative arrangement once the church reopened its doors.
While the Karnataka government had allowed places of worship to open starting June 8, most churches waited for almost a week before opening.
“Starting this Sunday, we will host six services — two each for those in their vehicles and two inside the church for those using public transport or those without personal vehicles,” said Rev Johnson.
Hundreds attend ‘Worship on Wheels’, a drive-in Sunday prayer service that took place in Bethel AG Church International Worship Centre, Hebbal, Bengaluru. pic.twitter.com/H94PlJdygX
On Sunday, worshippers who came in cars attended the services at 9 am and 7 pm; those on bikes at 7 am and 5 pm; while two services were held inside the church — at 11 am and 1 pm. Church authorities said 260 cars turned up for the 9 am session and 85 bikes for the 7 am prayers.
Johnson said the church put in place several measures ahead of the Sunday Mass to ensure social distancing and the safety of the devout. “Common touchpoints such as seating facilities, toilets, canteens, and resource centres were not made available. The church also issued an advisory for the elderly and young children to stay at home and attend the service online,” Johnson said.
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As the service began, volunteers ensured that the worshippers maintained a distance of “six feet” — both between the vehicles or among those inside the church. Those inside cars were instructed to keep their phones switched off.
“We also made it mandatory for all to wear masks and undergo thermal scanning. Sanitisers were provided at the church entrance to all,” Johnson added.
The church had arranged for volunteers to distribute packets with items used for the Holy Communion (a ritual where bread and wine are shared to worshippers).
Matthew Alex, among those who attended the Mass in his car, said, “All of us gathering together symbolically in our vehicles made us feel blessed. With the weather pleasant, the experience was comfortable though we sat with the car AC switched off.”
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