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‘A block party for Jesus’: Churches take worship to the parking lot

Chesterfield Observer- MAY 05, 2020 BY RICH GRISET

Victor and Carmen Torres began their ministry on the rough streets of Richmond, spreading the good news and conducting outreach outside the strip clubs and biker bars of Grace Street in 1971. Nearly 50 years later, they’re back to preaching on the pavement.

Standing on a raised platform above a sea of cars in the parking lot of New Life Outreach Church on Turner Road, Victor Torres addresses the ongoing hardships of the pandemic and offers a message of hope in his Sunday sermon.

“It’s so good to get out and be here. The Bible says where two or more are gathered in [God’s] name, we are in his presence,” says the pastor as his congregation pounds their car horns in lieu of the usual “Amen.” “The lord is with us this morning.”

In response to the coronavirus pandemic and the social distancing measures intended to keep everyone safe, churches and other houses of worship across the country have turned to livestreaming and drive-in services as a way to connect with followers while still socially distancing. And for many people of faith, the teachings and sense of community these institutions offer have become even more important during this time of fear, hardship and isolation.

At New Life, attending service means churchgoers worship with their windows rolled down as Torres and the nondenominational church’s worship band run the day’s services through loudspeakers. To help attendees follow along, Marcus Yates, a volunteer with the church, passes out plastic bags that contain liturgical information and the words to the day’s songs. To minimize the risk of spreading germs, the 29-year-old wears a mask and gloves, and dangles the bags at the end of a long stick for congregants to grab. Yates says he loves New Life’s efforts to continue services during this stressful time.

“I think the drive-in services are way better than the actual services,” says Yates from behind his red mask. “When people get into it, they honk their horns. It’s like a block party for Jesus.”


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