HOLLEY — Churches across the mid-valley will be silent on Easter Sunday due to a government edict forbidding gatherings of more than 25 people due to the coronavirus pandemic.
But one of the oldest churches in the area has come up with a unique way to obey the law of the land and remain faithful as well: Holley Christian Church south of Sweet Home is going to host an old-fashioned drive-in movie Sunday service.
Pastor Kevin Hill and his worship team will hold two — possibly three — services on the morning of Easter Sunday, April 12, outside the church and broadcast them via low-frequency radio to cars and trucks in the church parking lot.
“We talked about this early on,” Hill said. “We began deep-cleaning the church weeks ago, and we held our regular services on Sunday, then washed everything.”
For younger folks who don't remember drive-ins, here's how they worked: People would park in rows at the theater and watch movies on large outdoor screens from inside their vehicles. Speakers mounted on metal poles would be placed on the driver’s window, carrying the movie soundtrack to everyone in the car.
Popcorn, sodas and other treats could be purchased at a concession building, which usually also housed the movie projector and sound equipment.
Drive-in movies died out over the years, with only about four left in Oregon — La Grande, Milton-Freewater, Newberg and Sutherlin — from a high of about 70 in the 1950s. There are believed to be about 325 still operating in the United States.
“A lot of people are interested,” Hill said, though he added that earlier plans to serve Communion wafers and grape juice have had to be dropped.
The good news is that the church was already in the process of increasing the size of its parking lot. There are currently 67 parking spaces, and another 40 are being constructed. Not all will be useable due to line-of-sight issues.
“We have two large tents if the weather turns bad,” Hill said. “This is definitely a work in progress. We haven’t chosen a radio frequency yet, but people can check our website for that information as we get closer to Easter.”
Information will also be posted at Holley Church on Facebook.
Hill said the broadcast can be made from a smartphone or an iPad or similar device.
“We have already received a call from a pastor in Texas who is considering doing something like this,” Hill said. “We may the first church in Oregon to try it.”
The church was founded in 1871, with services held in the Splawn Schoolhouse. In 1887, the church moved into a small building on Fern Ridge outside of Sweet Home, and on Thanksgiving Day 1897, the first service was held in the current church building, although only portions of the original building remain.
In a time when many churches are seeing congregations decline, Holley Christian Church continues to grow. The Sunday services have about 100 people each, and there are numerous activities held during the week as well.
In the mid-valley and statewide, some churches are posting services or sermons to their websites. Roman Catholic Masses have been canceled, but there are Masses that can be viewed online or on television.