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Drive-in Easter service ‘a huge boost in hope’

Photo submitted to Times Observer Praise! Fellowship Church in Russell held a drive-in Easter service at the Warren Mall parking lot on Sunday. “We pulled up with a huge sound system and a motor home and went from there,” said Rick Rohlin, pastor.

There were a lot of vehicles parked at the Warren Mall on Easter Sunday.

“I felt like we were in the Pixar Cars movie,” said Rick Rohlin, pastor of Praise! Fellowship Church in Russell.

“We have wanted to do drive-in church since the restrictive orders came,” he said. “However, our parking lot is not big enough. So, we had to think outside the box. There are only three parking lots in Warren County big enough and the mall was the best option. We got permission from our County Public Safety and the State Police. Ollie’s allowed us to use their electricity. They all just asked that we adhere to all the social distancing orders, which we did.

“We pulled up with a huge sound system and a motor home and went from there,” he said.

Rohlin has preached like this all over the world, as well as the other preacher in the parking lot on Sunday, Sidique Fofana from West Africa.

Photo submitted to Times Observer Praise! Fellowship Church in Russell held a drive-in Easter service at the Warren Mall parking lot on Sunday. “We pulled up with a huge sound system and a motor home and went from there,” said Rick Rohlin, pastor.

“We really felt like people needed a ‘win,'” said Rohlin. “They need hope. People are willing to make huge sacrifices, but they will only do it if they have hope. With hope, you can endure anything. Without it, it’s hard to make it past lunch. Coming together and praising God is a huge boost in hope. Plus, what better message than Easter to give hope?”

Rohlin said there were other churches represented.

“I am really impressed with how all the churches in the county are being part of the solution in this time,” he said. “Every entity has a role. Whether it’s the law enforcement, the politicians, the media, or the church. If we each play our role, we will get through this quicker and better.

“During any tragedy, the first thing people always do is huddle together, cry, and pray,” said Rohlin. “Unfortunately, during this one, we can’t. So, we have to get creative to meet those needs. Almost all churches in the county have really beefed up their online presence and Zoom meetings are our new classrooms… But, it sure does good to see another person. Even if they are in another car.”

While it hasn’t worked out up to Easter Sunday, Rohlin would like to hold more drive-through services.

“I will let you know when we do something like this again,” he said. “I would love to preach to the entire county. I get huge crowds in India!

“We will plan future services like this,” he said. “Whether they be on our land or other places. It was such a blessing for the community to come together. I know people were very encouraged. We were not built to handle a crisis in isolation… And we can’t just bury our heads and hope it just goes away.

“AJ Maze is our worship pastor; he organized all the music and sound system. I just jumped on the motor home and preached like an African! People are really struggling with fear and despair. As a church, we feel we really need to help people by bringing hope and peace. As well as a little sanity.”

Steve Younger, director of The HUB at Praise! Fellowship, usually opens the services with announcements.

“He said the only announcement we have to make (on Sunday) is that ‘Jesus is alive!,'” said Rohlin.

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