“I like preaching to (cars) and I am not in a hurry to move services inside until late October, that’s when it gets cold and I don’t like the cold,” Brash said. “I been out here in rain, sun and wind. I think the biggest difference for me is that I have to set up and tear down."
Brash does enjoy being able to see his congregation in person and he is missing interpersonal reactions.
“I can watch people’s faces and see if they are nodding off inside church,” Brash said. “The horn honking is what people like the most and that makes up for the in-person interactions. This was a pretty easy transition for most and I am settled with doing it like this."
The church also offers the readings in Spanish by Sonia Carrica and in English by Karen Brash. Every song and reading is welcomed with horns honking and Amens.
Also during the service on Sunday, Brash took some time out to interact with some kids in cars and had them come sit in chairs and talk to them about religion and being superheros for God.
Randy Rice and his wife heard about the drive-in church from the pastor’s wife Karen at a gas station and have been showing up to services ever since.
“It was so great and so fulfilling when we didn’t have anything else, we love it and have been here every week,” Rice said. “It is different but you are here to praise the Lord, doesn’t matter where you are at. This is better than virtually, you can get out of bed and come out to see people."
This isn’t Rice’s usual church but after this pandemic is over they plan to still come to the church and visit.
“Everyone is so friendly and it is very uplifting,” Rice said.
Danny Bowyer has been going to the Church of Nazarene for over 30 years and he is glad they are still able to receive the messages.
“I seen (Pastor Brash) preaching in a rainstorm, you don’t see that often. We love him here,” Bowyer said. “We love what we’re doing because we are still going to church. I am satisfied with what we got. We can still feel the spirit of the Lord and the fellowship is still the same."
Not all churches feel the same. One church in Davidsonville congregated indoors Sunday despite Anne Arundel County restrictions limiting in-person gatherings to 10 people or less. Drive-in gatherings are allowed according to the county health department but in-person gatherings of more than 10 people are against the orders.
“We are not opening up our children ministry until it is safe to do so and a lot of the congregation have children,” Sheetenhelm said. “I think that is why we were underwhelmed today. Some of our congregation was disappointed because they have children and it is unsafe at this time. Children don’t understand social distancing.”
Sheetenhelm believed the church was the safest essential business open on Sunday. The church took temperatures of everyone who entered the church. And it had 7 feet measured out between seats in the pews, which is an extra foot above county guidelines. Also, They taped off every other row to separate the congregation.
Chesapeake Christian Fellowship decided to open up its doors because they feel it is their First Amendment right.
“We can have church and assemble peacefully, we feel the church has been discriminated against by some of our government and the president said we could,” Sheetenhelm said. “Those who could come safely were excited to be back.”
Anne Arundel County police said the county executive and health department were taking the lead on the situation.
“The county executive has been making decisions to keep people safe, so if we have a bunch of people get sick in this church then we will be duty bound to take some enforcement actions,” said Chief of Police Timothy Altomare. “The county executive made health department lead on this situation and didn’t think police needed to be on site.”
County Health Officer Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman provided a statement in regard to the gathering at Chesapeake Christian fellowship.
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“Our county is in a very early phase of recovery and we rely on every person and every organization in the community to safeguard the health of themselves and others. Bringing people together is a core strength of our religious organizations but physically bringing people together, to congregate, still poses significant risks at this time. This is why gatherings of any type with over 10 people are still not allowed. We are continuing to monitor the health of our county and as conditions improve we will be in a better position to relax these requirements. We are stronger when we stand together.”
County police have not made any arrests regarding people having parties and the executive orders of 10 people or less, Altomare said. They have received over 900 calls for complaints about it though, according to Altomare.
“We tell people the consequences of violating the order and not the legal ones. Everyone has a grandma, or little sibling or cousin who is vulnerable to this virus and people have been listening,” Altomare said. “We haven’t had to be forceful of dispersing a gathering.”
County Executive Steuart Pittman said that he is asking the county’s office of law for an opinion about the liability of an institution that knowingly violates state or county orders and is later shown through contact tracing to have facilitated through that action the spread of the virus.
Altomare calls the church holding indoor services a “tough situation" as he wants people to have their rights and stay healthy.
“So I certainly hope no one gets sick and I realize that the three levels of government have given different messages on this topic and it’s a tough spot to be in," he said. “I don’t think they should be having huge services at churches. It could make people sick. But, I understand the conflict of duty that the county executive feels and the pastors to gather in worship."