Emmanuel Community Park hosts drive-in church in Golden Gate Estates

Emmanuel Lutheran Church of Naples combined worship with drive-in movie theaters at Emmanuel Community Park Sunday, a site the church recently purchased in Golden Gate Estates.

Churchgoers sat in their cars with the radio dialed to 99.7 to join together in worship with Emmanuel Lutheran in its new drive-in church venture.

“It was different, but we knew it was going to be different,” David Smith said. “And I just loved it.”

People congregated with the at least six feet away in the comfort of their own cars. Worshipers received a pamphlet to help them participate in the service from their vehicle.

Examples included turning parking lights on, which indicated “I am ready to worship.” Headlights on meant “I am singing along,” and flashing lights meant “Amen!” / Preach it,” among other signals in the worship guide.

“With all this crisis, innovative way to have church and get people back together in a safe way,” Lee Smith said. “So we’re really honored to be here.”

The park served as an outreach ministry for the church, as it looks to enhance community. There will also be a future service center at the park site. For now, church leaders are only seeing the positives of their current space of worship.

“You know, the church never closed,” Pastor Will Kittinger said. “It was just deployed. You know, the church is not a building. It’s a people.”

Emmanuel Lutheran Church plans to host weekly drive-in masses like this even after the pandemic is over. The park is at 2770 Oil Well Road.

The church continues worked toward its goal to keep faith alive while also protecting one another during the pandemic.

“Despite not being able to physically touch one another, they could see one another,” Pastor Kittinger said. “They could see their friends and loved ones, and they were so thankful and appreciative to come together today and worship God.”

Reporter:Andryanna Sheppard
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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