Communion of Cars: La Jolla Christian Fellowship hosts Drive-in Good Friday

More than 100 cars participate in La Jolla Christian Fellowship’s ‘Drive-in Good Friday,’ 5-6 p.m. April 10 along Genter Street.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

La Jolla Christian Fellowship (LJCF), 627 Genter St., has responded to the coronavirus crisis like many area churches, moving its weekly sermons online so parishioners may view them during a live watch party, or later at their convenience.

“We are a neighborhood church,” said pastor Adam Stadtmiller. “We are focused on a corner of La Jolla, trying to bless a community and having our parishioners replicate what we do where they live.”

However, Stadtmiller said he quickly realized that followers in the 90-year-old parish, needed more than just an online sermon. With more than 3,000 “hits” since going online a few weeks ago, Stadtmiller said: “It’s been really interesting to see how important a church community is. There’s a big uptake in how many people we can reach. Normally, we have about 350 in our congregation, and this is a great response.”

Wanting to give his parishioners something meaningful preceding Easter Sunday, Stadtmiller said he came up with the idea of a “Drive-in Good Friday” for April 10.

“Normally,” Stadtmiller explained, “the Good Friday service includes prayer, worship and a teaching, and on Easter Sunday we usually decorate a giant cross made of chicken coop wire with flowers. For ‘Drive-in Good Friday,’ we wanted to incorporate those elements, but tailor them for our followers within current COVID-19 restrictions.”

Stadtmiller, along with church operations manager Andrea Gallegos, planned an event that aligned with health protocols gleaned from calls with the San Diego Department of Health and County chiefs, including the medical officer and deputy. These calls, Gallegos said, are held weekly for faith-based organizations to discuss how to provide safe community services in times of a pandemic.

So this year’s Good Friday service, invited parishioners to stay in their cars and drive through four stations along Genter Street, from La Jolla Boulevard to Draper Avenue.

The first canopy had a worship leader welcoming the car with music from several feet away.

Following current coronavirus safety protocols, church members prepare Easter bags for parishoners.

The second station had masked and gloved church staff distributing Easter bags prepared under “strict sanitary procedures,” said Stadtmiller. “We made sure everything was perfect. The bags contained sermon notes, cinnamon rolls, items for children and LJCF magnets.”

Gallegos added: “Each bag also held one of pastor’s books, a CD from one of the worship leaders, or a Bible, and came with a note not to open until Easter Sunday, when online participants were instructed to open the note as part of the service’s watch party.”

Attendees drove on to the third station, the offering table, where they could drop off donated supplies, such as toilet paper or hand sanitizer — or flowers that church staff would then add to the traditional cross.

At the final station, Stadtmiller greeted parishioners in mask and gloves with individual “sanitized communion packets with wafer and juice included,” he said. Congregants then prayed with Stadtmiller from inside their cars, broke open their sealed communion packets, and drove off.

Youth pastor Harry Wilson waits to pray with congregants under the La Jolla Christian Fellowship’s flower cross.
Youth pastor Harry Wilson waits to pray with congregants under the La Jolla Christian Fellowship’s flower cross.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

Drive-in Good Friday took place for an hour starting at 5 p.m. Friday, April 10, with some 100 cars in attendance, wrapped around the block. More than 200 parishioners took part, Stadtmiller reported, and many items were donated and then handed back out to those in need.

LJCF continues to offer special services, such as free and paid counseling, and distributing essential supplies to needy parishioners.

“We’re focused on expansion and enfolding,” Stadtmiller said of this time of crisis. “We’re more effective than we’ve ever been, and reaching more people than ever before. In 90 years, this may be the strongest period of community we’ve ever had.”

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