Church buildings in Bishop Auckland may be closed due to the coronavirus; the drive-in however, is open.
Each Sunday afternoon in August, the Fellowship of Christian Churches in this County Durham town are putting on ecumenical services in a town centre car park.
“The inspiration came to me from the Irish Methodist tradition of ‘field meetings,’ said Rev John Purdy, a minister on the Bishop Auckland and Shildon Circuit. “Each summer, when I was in the West of Ireland, I would be preaching in the open air, from the back of a tractor.”
Rev John suggested the idea of an outdoor service to other church leaders in the town, who immediately responded positively. Support has also come from the Mayor and local politicians, who smoothed the way to getting the necessary permissions to use the car park. Local businesses have also joined in, such as the family-run haulage firm that supplies the lorry trailer, which acts as the platform for the service.
Seventy cars can join the service each Sunday. Places need to be booked in advance. If tickets are sold out, there is still the opportunity to listen to the service on the local independent radio station Bishop FM. You can also ‘listen again’ on the station’s website.
Four or five different churches are represented every week during the worship, which comprises of prayers, readings and an address. A different member of the clergy preaches each week and local Christian group Ichthus Music provides the music.
“These drive-in services were able to come about because we’ve built up great relationships amongst the ministers and key lay people in the community’s churches,” says Rev John. “We’ve been meeting regularly, praying and sharing food together over the last five years.”
Follow the Bishop Auckland Fellowship of Christian Churches on Facebook.
Listen to the drive in services on Bishop FM