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Some churches prepare to try drive-in worship

Mayor Victorino eyeing in-person services as soon as next week

The Citizen Church in Kahana is pictured with its parishioners before the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the new allowances from Maui County that begin today for drive-in services, the church will hold reservation-only drive-in services Sunday. Photo courtesy Citizen Church

As some churches plan to hold drive-in services this week, the county indicated it’s already looking to possibly resume in-person services as early as May 29.

Maui County Managing Director Sandy Baz noted the possibility during Mayor Michael Victorino’s daily news conference Thursday afternoon, though county spokesman Chris Sugidono said afterwards that a request to open in-person services has not yet been formerly sent to Gov. David Ige’s office.

Honolulu County is allowing in-person church services with restrictions beginning Saturday.

Nevertheless, some Maui churches began preparing last week for the opening of drive-in services in the county today.

As soon as they heard the news May 15 that drive-in services would be allowed, Pastor Sarah Beckman and members of Citizen Church in Kahana went to work, communicating with the county, sectioning off parking stalls, assembling loud speakers and ensuring they had gloves and masks for volunteers.

“It’s hard work, (but) we obviously believe this is not a time for us to stand down,” Beckman said Thursday in meeting her congregation’s needs.

So far their services have been limited to online only, which includes services from their founding church in New Mexico.

Beckman said their first drive-in service on Maui will be Sunday.

She was told that no heads or hands are allowed outside of vehicles and that an offering box could be left in a place where cars pass through.

Vehicles will be spaced apart so windows can be rolled down to hear the service over speakers.

Because of the distancing required, Beckman said they are taking reservations for their Sunday services. Reservations for the 9:30 a.m. English service can be found at www.citizen.church/maui, while reservations for the 11:30 a.m. Spanish service are at www.citizen.church/espanol.

Only 40 cars are being allowed per service.

Normally around 150 to 200 parishioners show up for weekend services, Beckman said.

While some churches are moving forward with the changes allowed, others are continuing with virtual services and food distributions.

One of Maui’s largest churches, King’s Cathedral in Kahului, will not be deviating from its plans with the new rules today. Paulette Perkins, assistant to Senior Pastor James Marocco, said there will be no drive-in service this weekend, but parishioners can still listen and see services remotely.

The church will continue its food distribution as well.

Perkins said the system they have works, and that for now, under the regulations given, the church would not be able to hold a drive-in service. Prior to COVID-19, up to 1,500 parishioners could show up for weekend services.

The church previously held drive-in services back in March.

However, there is a longing to return to in-person services, Perkins said.

“People are waiting, they want to get back together. They miss the fellowship with each other,” she said.

At Christ the King Church, Father Augustine Uthuppu said they will also continue with services on Facebook and through the radio.

He referenced comments from Honolulu Bishop Larry Silva earlier this month, who said that having people “attend” service from their vehicles when they are prohibited from receiving Communion is of little value to the church. He said people would be much more comfortable viewing a livestream from home if they could not receive Communion.

“We are working on responsibly getting people back into church, so that they can receive Communion during the celebration of the Eucharist,” Silva said on the Diocese of Honolulu’s website.

Plans for seating arrangements once in-person services resume are already being made at Christ the King, which prior to the pandemic had hundreds of parishioners show up to the Kahului church on weekends.

But now, seats will be limited due to social distancing measures, Uthuppu said.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.

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