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St. John holds drive-thru communion service

  • St. John Lutheran Church held a drive-thru holy communion service Sunday morning in the church parking lot. (Press photo James Grob.)

By James Grob,

Holy Communion can be just as sacred in a parking lot as it is inside the sanctuary.

Pastor Russ Leeper at St. John Lutheran Church in Charles City helped perform the sacrament to congregation members Sunday morning at a drive-thru ceremony.

“Jesus has always met us in the messy, earthy places of life to bring God’s unconditional love in the midst of them,” Leeper said. “So, I think in a parking lot during a pandemic is a very appropriate place for Jesus to show up and bring us some of that much-needed grace, hope and forgiveness.”

Since the shutdowns related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the church’s Sunday services have been limited. Congregation members have been able to tune in on the radio and view services online each week, and the church even held a parking lot gathering a few Sundays ago.

Individuals have not been able to take communion, however, because the risk of virus spread was considered too high.

Leeper said he had heard of other churches doing drive-thru communion and thought it was a great way to be able to share communion with people who aren’t able to come to worship safely.

Participating in communion Saturday was very similar to getting a burger and fries at a fast food restaurant. Signs directed people to volunteers, who wore masks and gloves. The volunteers distributed prepackaged, sealed communion packets that contained a communion wafer and a small cup of grape juice.

The cars then could drive forward under a canopy, where a properly-masked Leeper repeated the words of institution. He also was able to offer a blessing and greetings and kind words to some church members who he hadn’t been able to see in person for quite some time.

“As Lutherans, we believe that what makes Holy Communion meaningful is the bread and wine together with remembering Jesus’s promise of forgiveness in God’s word,” Leeper said. “We believe that in that moment, as we eat the bread and drink the wine, Jesus is truly present with us, even in a car in a parking lot.”

If things go as planned, St. John hopes to begin holding limited, in-house church services later this month, with several precautions taken.