Wilmington Drive-In Worship Services

Jun 15, 2020

When the pandemic hit New Castle County, life changed considerably at The Salvation Army Wilmington Citadel Corps. One of the biggest changes involved the closing of the chapel doors.

Captains Kevin and Kelley Polito, Corps Commanding Officers, were able to stay connected with their congregation by doing different types of pastoral service, such as hosting some services online and sharing narratives on social media. They passed out flowers on Easter, not an easy task considering some church members live in Philadelphia and South Jersey. The Captains didn’t mind putting in the extra travel time.

“That’s what we are called to do,” explained Captain Kevin. “The more you can try to maintain some sort of normalcy when you are going through these types of circumstances, it’s better for everybody’s collective mental health. That’s why we were intentional about doing it.”

Captain Kevin described the drive-in worship service which took place last Sunday. “It was the first attempt for us to gather as a body of believers since the second Sunday in March. It was good to take that concrete step in the right direction. We took the cross from the chapel, a podium, and flags, and set it all up in the far-right corner of the parking lot. We put up about 15 chairs, appropriately socially distanced from one another, for those who walked. Those who drove were welcome to park their vehicle up as close as possible. For the first Sunday back, it went pretty smoothly. We were very pleased.”

There has been a definite increase in the need for emotional and spiritual care since the pandemic began. “We’ve all suffered a loss. Whether or not you know someone who has been directly impacted by COVID-19, just the way the carpet has been pulled out from under our feet - everything happened so fast,” remarked Captain Kevin.

He went on to share insight into how people have been impacted by the pandemic. “Sports is such a huge outlet for so many people. All those leagues just ending left a lot of people feeling kind of rudderless. On top of that, you didn’t have the ability to go out to eat. A lot of our entertainment and different things we used to distract ourselves, like going to the movies - all these things just ended. Add to that the trying economic circumstances of 40 million people unemployed. We are all going through a shared collective trauma.”

Both Captains are aware of the importance of acknowledging how the pandemic has affected them, to make sure they are doing the proper things to take care of themselves. This enables them to better support their congregation. “We tell them, ‘It’s okay to feel like your world is crumbling in on you.’

That is exactly what it feels like for a lot of people. We do a Tuesday Zoom prayer meeting and a Wednesday Zoom Bible study, and that has helped us to maintain some sense of community throughout this ordeal.”

There are lessons to be learned from this crisis. “I can’t help but think God has really been teaching His church that we are so much more than a building,” Captain Kevin commented. “It’s not so much that we go to church. We are the church, and just because we don’t have a place to go and worship on a Sunday doesn’t mean worship isn’t a huge part of who we are and what we do daily as believers.”

Reflecting on the positives which have come out of this situation, Captain Kevin said, “I completely took for granted every Sunday I would be in my building conducting services. Who among us saw this on the radar - a three-month period when we would not be able to gather together on a Sunday morning in person and worship? I really do think there are going to be a lot of people who have a greater sense of appreciation and gratitude for this amazing and awesome privilege we have in this nation - to be able to come together and worship according to the dictates of our conscience. I think people will appreciate this blessing we always took for granted.”

As the community begins the road to recovery, they can be assured The Salvation Army will walk with them every step of the way. The Salvation Army is praying for peace, comfort, and healing for all our communities during this very unsettling time. To give to The Salvation Army, please go to The Salvation Army Virtual Food Pantry.

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