Hampton Roads Kroc Center Corps reaches out with ‘drive-up’ church
By: Brad Rowland
Though some shelter-in-place measures are softening across the country, restrictions still exist in many jurisdictions, prompting Salvation Army corps to be creative in reaching out to their congregations. The emergence of virtual church services has been key in this outreach but, on Mother’s Day in mid-May, the Hampton Roads Kroc Corps Community Center in Norfolk, Virginia, utilitized its resources to put on a “drive-up” church service on its property.
The Kroc Center remains closed to the public during this time, as fitness centers were not included in Phase One of Virginia’s statewide reopening plan. That reality, coupled with restrictions on church gatherings and the enduring desire for public safety, led the corps body to explore other avenues for worship in previous weeks.
“Typically during this time, we’ve been sharing some of the other virtual services and joining together with others in worship online,” said Lieutenant Nathan Bridges, senior Kroc Center officer. “We’ve also been following up and corresponding with our congregation, sending weekly packets and the ‘Church in the Box’ type of thing. That helps in terms of individual outreach but, without a chance to really gather, we all miss being together.”
In advance of Mother’s Day, the corps held a similar drive-up service for Easter, enjoying success and hearing feedback from soldiers and attendees on the value of the gathering. That continued for the Mother’s Day service, as a powerful audio system was deployed to assist in ensuring all that arrived would be able to hear the service through the rolled-down windows of cars and trucks.
During the service, soldiers and staff distributed children’s activity packets to keep young people occupied, and materials were also included to allow for youth to construct homemade crafts to give to their own mothers in honor of the holiday. Roses were also disseminated to each mother in attendance, with a tribute built into the service that involved a special poem and prayer time.
“This is obviously a socially distant way to come together,” Lieutenant Bridges said. “Even if you can only see each other and talk or listen through a car window, it’s still an awesome opportunity. It was a great time to see everyone.”
The remainder of the service closely mirrored a typical Sunday morning gathering for Hampton Roads, with the corps praise and worship band leading the congregation in singing and a devotional message from Lieutenant Crystal Radi, officer for program development. When the service concluded, additional creativity was needed in order to collect the offertory, with cars encouraged to follow a one-way line to the exit and kettles, with the lids removed, utilized to gather monies in a socially distanced manner.
While the timetable for reopening is essentially dictated by the state, the center finds ways to make contact with its members and soldiers on a regular basis amid the chaos created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Live fitness classes and “workout of the day” posts via social media help members to stay fit, with a homework help hotline and online arts lessons in place to provide a creative outlet. Food service also continues, with The Salvation Army delivering approximately 850 meals per week to senior housing facilities in the region and a drive-thru food pantry service, averaging approximately 500 food boxes per distribution, in operation each Thursday.
The current landscape is challenging in myriad ways but, while other factors exist to force physical distance between individuals, the drive-up church service stands as an initiative that provided a much-needed oasis for many.
“One of the big takeaways, both for us and the congregation, was how good it felt to be together again, even under these circumstances,” said Lieutenant Bridges. “People were able to sing along and worship together, getting that sense of community again, and that was truly a blessing.”