Church hosts 'drive-up prayer' to keep members connected

MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -- Sunday marked the start of Holy Week for Christians, beginning with Palm Sunday, but with coronavirus restrictions, churches have been unable to hold normal Sunday services. One Madison church is not letting that stop them from keeping its members connected.

For Donna and Duwayne Hummel, going to church on Sundays has been a long-standing tradition.

"We have belonged to Bashford United Methodist Church for 50 years," Donna said.

However, Holy Week in 2020 looks completely different.

"Monday, Thursday, I would have been singing. We would have been here," Donna explained.

With coronavirus spreading, it has been weeks since Bashford UMC held Sunday services. Donna said it just does not feel right staying at home on Sunday mornings.

"Sitting, eating, talking, gathering together is one of our holy acts and so not being able to do that is very difficult right now," said Amanda Stein, pastor at Bashford UMC.

Stein wanted to find a different way to bring her church community together, so she started a drive-up prayer.

"It was just really nice to see parishioners' faces, and people hadn't seen one another for a couple of weeks," Stein said.

People could pull up to the church and stay safe in their cars, but they still had a chance to celebrate Palm Sunday and Holy Week with members of their church. They also received sanitized palm fronds and had a chance to pray with Stein.

"It's just a way to connect, stay connected with the church," Donna said.

While things look different right now, Stein wants everyone to remember this time of year is about hope.

"Even after the darkness, even after the hardship, that light will come, that hope will come," she said.

Bashford UMC is also working on other ways to keep neighbors connected. They are accepting donations for their Blessing Box, a little free pantry they set up for the neighborhood. The church will also be hosting a blood drive with the Red Cross on Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Stein said she plans to post services on YouTube during Holy Week, and she is considering holding another drive-up prayer on Easter Sunday.

Earlier in the week, Republican legislative leaders sent a letter to Governor Tony Evers, asking him to allow Wisconsin churches and temples to hold Easter and Passover services, even if those services have to take place outside. Evers said while he understands the importance of faith, he will not back any provisions during the 'Safer at Home' order.