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‘Truly a miracle’: Catholic school comes to Methodist church’s aid to make Christmas Eve service possible

Published: Dec. 23, 2020 at 11:21 PM CST
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EPWORTH, Iowa (KCRG) - While Christmas decorations are in place outside , inside the church, it looks the same as it would any time of year.

Pastor Mike Jones said he had no reason to decorate: Churches belonging to the Iowa Conference of the United Methodist Church are currently prohibited from holding in-person, indoor services through Jan. 10.

“The first week of November was the last time,” Jones said of the duration since Epworth UMC’s last in-person service. “Holy cow, that’s been a really long time since we’ve all gotten to be together, at least even see one another.”

While Epworth UMC has been teaming up with other Methodist churches in the area to stream virtual Sunday services, Jones hoped to hold a drive-in service on Christmas Eve, which would allow people to have the space to worship while listening to the service from the safety of their cars.

“We’ve been beaten down by this pandemic, and people are tired, and they want some semblance of hope,” he said.

Jones said one of his church’s congregants lent them an FM radio transmitter to allow for the parking-lot broadcast.

But a big idea required a bigger space.

“Our parking lot is obviously too small. I think we might be able to fit 10 or 15 cars in the parking lot, maybe, and it’s Christmas, so there’s going to be extra people,” Jones said.

He reached out to businesses and schools with larger parking lots, but he said no one could accommodate them.

“It really was getting kind of beat down and hurting,” Jones said.

So he made one more call to Beckman Catholic High School in Dyersville, which has a sizable parking lot and a clear schedule for Christmas Eve.

“To be able to offer a place for fellow Christians to worship so that they can continue to empower their ministry is a great blessing for all of us,” Fr. Dennis Quint, pastor coordinator at Beckman Catholic, said.

Quint said the Beckman Catholic parking lot can fit about 200 cars, so it will host Epworth United Methodist’s drive-in Christmas Eve service, which begins Thursday at 6:30 p.m.

“Particularly as we celebrate Christmas as Christians, and we were called that God, who is eternal becomes flesh, important for us to be able to come together in the flesh to worship, even if it’s in a parking lot via a radio signal,” Quint said.

Jones said for some members of his church, it may be their first time worshipping in person for several months.

It’ll also be Jones’ first Christmas Eve service as Epworth UMC’s pastor, a job he started this summer.

“The amount of people that have just opened up their hearts and said, ‘Yeah, we get it. We want you to have this service,’ is really touching, and it’s been the best welcome to this area that I could’ve ever asked for,” he said.

So maybe next year, Jones will get to put those decorations up inside the church.

But for 2020, an open parking lot is more than enough.

“The amount of people that had to come together to make this work,” he said, “is truly a miracle.”

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