BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - For the last few weeks, you’ve heard and read countless stories about how people and businesses all along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and across the nation, have had to change the way they do just about everything.
Restaurants converting to carry-out, boutiques offering curbside delivery, and household items being sold by ice cream shops are a few of the ways South Mississippians are making this “new normal” work for them.
After two weekends of forced online service for all, Pentecostals of the Gulf Coast pastor Chadwick Craft felt it was time to get his service back to the church. Every fifth Sunday, Craft’s congregation has a service that is usually filled with food trucks, fellowship and worship. This Sunday, that long-awaited service was limited to guests and members enjoying the service from the comfort of their cars, on the church lawn.
“We wanted to be able to gather and at least be able to wave through our windshields and wave through our rolled up windows and be able to gather together today," said Pastor Craft.
Where they would normally feel moved to shout an “Amen,” the congregation was encouraged to honk their horns, wipe their windshields and wave their hands.
“We’re trying to follow all of the guidelines that are expected from us. We wanted to see one another. We wanted to be able to gather and at least be able to wave through our windshields and wave through our rolled-up windows and be able to gather together today," Craft said.
The Pentecostals of the Gulf Coast have had an online presence for almost ten years, but this time it’s different.
“This is a unique opportunity for us to see one another. It is a chance for our elders to be able to just kind of wave, to interrupt their home schedule and get out of the house. Many of them are not online. This is a great chance for them to gather together and really feel like there’s some sort of semblance of normal life," Craft said.
In this season of uncertainty, Craft said that his church is built for this kind of interruption.
“We kind of feel like the church is equipped for this. This is a Book of Acts church. A Book of Acts church was never intended to be inside the walls. You’ll look around and you’ll notice that the church buildings may be empty. Really it’s not an empty building as much as it is the church deployed," Craft told WLOX.
The message that was shared Sunday was one that Craft’s church has adopted as the theme for the year: His. Even though it was a theme selected many months ago, Craft said it’s meaning resonates loud and clear, especially now.
“We thrive because we are His. We are protected because we are His. We succeed because we are His, not only as an individual but as a church and as America,” Craft said. “We belong to God and we’ve dedicated ourselves to the work of His Kingdom. Because of that, we feel like God has taken great care of the church in these times."
The message at Pentecostals of the Gulf Coast, Craft said, is for everyone, even though it’s in a digital format.
“You can be a part of what’s going on. It’s a good chance for people to view Pentecost from a distance. If they’ve been nervous about attending if they’ve been nervous about being a part of a local church, they can view us online and be able to see exactly what’s going on and exactly what we believe in and we would look forward to them joining us there," Craft said.