18 May 2022

Derry's first drive-in religious service during the pandemic is held in a city centre car park

Vehicles gathered yesterday at Bishop Street facility

Derry's first drive-in religious service during the pandemic is held in a city centre car park

The clergymen and cars pictured at yesterday's service.

A special drive-in religious service was held in a Derry car park yesterday.

The Church of Ireland Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Rt Rev Andrew Forster, joined scores of parishioners from the Parish of St Augustine’s and further afield for the service at Bishop Street car park in the city centre on Sunday morning to mark Pentecost Day.

The service, which took place in glorious sunshine, was led by the Rector of St Augustine's - ‘The Wee Church on the Walls’ - Rev Nigel Cairns. 

The car park adjoins St Augustine’s Parish Hall and is opposite the city’s courthouse.

A team of volunteers, dressed in ‘high-vis’ vests and PPE gear, oversaw a one-way, ‘car ferry’ type system, that meant cars were directed in one entrance and out by a different route after the service.

Social-distancing guidelines required all those present to remain in their cars during worship, and parish volunteers ensured that none of the worshippers fell victim to the soaring temperature.

Bishop Andrew, who preached the sermon, welcomed the congregation to what he called his ‘back garden’ (the car park occupies what would previously have been the back garden of the old Bishop’s Palace).

He said: "St Augustine’s was known as ‘the Wee Church on the Walls’. Today, we’re the wee church without walls.

"I always think about St Augustine’s as the wee Church with a big heart and today we’re showing our big heart because we’re together, worshipping God on this Pentecost Sunday.

“This is definitely a first for me,” the Bishop said, “and I would imagine it’s a first for many of you as well, but God is here and we worship him in spirit and in truth.”

Rev Cairns echoed Bishop Forster’s welcome to the first ‘Drive-through Church’ in the inner city, and thanked all those who had helped make the service possible.

He said the St Augustine’s parishioners would be gathering for worship in the same location again next Sunday.

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