The word, not the place: Metro Detroit pastors lead drive-in Easter services

Ariana Taylor
The Detroit News

Hazel Park — “Do you love Jesus?” the Rev. Chris Blankenship asked on Easter Sunday morning. 

In response, people in cars gathered in the parking lot at Hazel Park Junior High School cheered out their windows and honked their horns.

Power and Praise Worship Center church was holding a drive-in Resurrection Sunday service at the high school, with neighbors watching from their porches and lawns and others perched on the fences surrounding the school. 

The choir was reduced to one person playing keyboard, and two singers, all six feet apart, on a stage. 

“I never thought in my day I’d be preaching to a bunch of cars,” Blankenship said of the service, which also was livestreamed.

Rosie Hardenburgh listens to the sermon from her car during the Easter Sunday drive-in service in the parking lot of Hazel Park Junior High School by Power and Praise Worship Center by Pastor Chris Blankenship.

Power and Praise Worship Center’s original plan was for Easter service to be held inside of the high school’s auditorium. But because of the COVID-19 outbreak and because the church’s parking lot only holds a dozen cars, Blankenship made calls to school and city officials for permission to use the parking lot. 

“I will preach it till I die. We need to come together and gather together. ... We can’t give up on that,” Blankenship said. “But we also can’t dismiss these applications, because they’re great tools for reaching people we might not otherwise reach.”

Though the conditions were different from previous Easter Sunday services, the spirit was just the same. Worshipers could be heard in the background of the livestream shouting out praises. 

Those at the drive-in even participated in communion. The church’s staff handed communion cups to each car while wearing gloves and masks. 

Danielle Ellis waits for the sermon from atop 
her vehicle in the parking lot of Hazel Park Junior High School.

Over in Roseville, All God’s People Church also held a drive-in service with people sitting on their cars and standing in their sunroofs to worship.

Right before the service, the senior pastor, the Rev. W.J. Rideout and his wife passed out Easter baskets for kids, which they’ve done for about 28 years. 

“Our church is a giving church, so this is not just something out of the norm for us,” Rideout said.

Parents drove up to the church, and the two, while wearing gloves and masks, placed sanitized baskets in the trunks of each person’s car. Rideout and his wife passed out about 50 baskets. 

A week ago, the church had two members who died due to coronavirus complications. 

“It’s only befitting to continue to celebrate Jesus in a hardship like now,” Rideout said.