Senior pastor Clint Lange is beginning to reopen the Hillside Chruch to parishioners and intends to host drive-in services when he receives an FM radio. (Patrick Davies - 100 Mile Free Press)

Hillside Church preparing to offer drive-in service this summer

‘We’re really looking forward to it’

With drive-in movie theatres making a comeback in the Cariboo this summer it seems only natural that the Hillside Community Church is introducing drive-in church services this summer.

When the COVID-19 shutdown was put into effect, places of worship were closed down the same as businesses with priests, pastors, rabbis, imams, temple leaders and preachers having to find different ways to reach their congregations. Many turned to live streaming services and with restrictions now being lifted, they are looking to reopen for their faith communities.

Up above 100 Mile House at Hillside Community Church senior pastor Clint Lange is looking to re-open, in a safe manner, to as many people as possible. Lange has been a pastor for the last four and a half years after retiring from the RCMP and manages a community of around 100 to 125 regular attendees.

“The COVID-19 crisis has been a very difficult time for everyone just because we’ve all had to lockdown and stay home and now with the changes that have come they are permitting us to have, with the size of our building, 50 people in a meeting at one time,” Lange said.

So far they’ve just had small study groups with social distancing in their hall and just last week held their first service in the building on Sunday. Those looking to attend are asked to sign up before Sunday online via a signup sheet that automatically caps the number of worshippers at 50, to ensure they’re in compliance.

While COVID-19 has not hit the Cariboo hard yet, Lange said he does not want to take his guard down and does not want to put his faith community or the town at risk. His church’s message is an important one, however, one of light, hope and peace and he wants to get that message out, while keeping them safe, he says. This question has been something both he and his board have been debating over the last few weeks.

One thing they realized, Lange said, was that on the eight acres of property the church is built upon they have a large soccer field with packed dirt that is perfect for driving on. This led them to consider and then look into beginning a drive-in service which they soon found they could do by running a low-power FM radio frequency that will cover the field.

They then partnered with the Rotary Club of 100 Mile House, who Lange wished to extend his gratitude towards for renting out their stage to the Church at a reduced price for the rest of the snow-free months. It will be set up on the soccer field this month and once the FM broadcaster arrives, they’ll be able to start allowing cars to drive in and attend their service.

As FM broadcasters are in high demand right now, Lange said it will take a while for the one they’ve secured to reach 100 Mile House but he is hoping they’ll be able to start holding drive-in service by late June or early July. Like drive-in movie theatres, the services will be limited to 50 cars and like the services inside the church a sign-up sheet will be posted. There will be live music broadcasted over the FM radio, washrooms on hand with an attendant cleaning them after each use and ushers to direct the flow of traffic, in addition to Lange preaching, he said.

“We’re really looking forward to it, it’s kind of novel and the new normal for us,” Lange said. “We really believe our message is important and we want people to hear it and the people that come here are missing being together.”

This summer Lange said that he is telling people to be mindful of other people and to take the ongoing threat of COVID-19 seriously but to be reasonable and to simply follow the protocols that have been put in place on society. He encourages everyone to be an example of positivity and love while respecting the government.

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The sign welcoming parishioners of Hillside Community Church to the drive-in services that will be offered as soon as the church secures an FM radio broadcaster. (Patrick Davies - 100 Mile Free Press)

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