Drive-in church sermon broadcasts from Blue Heron parking lot

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Almost 40 vehicles took advantage of the loosening of coronavirus pandemic restrictions enacted by the state to attend church services May 17 — in the parking lot of Blue Heron Middle School in Port Townsend.

Trinity United Methodist pastor Tony Brown has been holding services online for two years, but his church gatherings were shuttered when the COVID-19 pandemic struck and Gov. Jay Inslee enacted his “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order.

Brown was not to be deterred. He and church member John Miller developed a plan whereby Miller, with his FM radio transmitter, would broadcast the sermon and its live music to people in their cars.

Miller said he tested the limits of the equipment, all of which is registered with the FCC, to determine how far the broadcast would reach, and thus how many people might be able to attend. He obtained permission from the middle school, printed up bulletins and put out the call to his flock.

Sunday morning, a line of cars snaked into the parking lot on San Juan Avenue, where Miller — dressed in hazmat protective gear — directed drivers to every other parking spot (to provide for social distancing) and listen on their radios.

“I couldn’t have done this without John,” Brown said.

Some families sat on tailgates or in hatchbacks to watch and listen, and many honked their horns in lieu of ‘amens.’

Jefferson County is in Phase 1 of the “Safe Start” program to reopen businesses and in-person church services.

“There’s something about gathering in person that has its own vibe to it — seeing each other, being in the same presence,” Brown said last week. “It’s a different feeling.”

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