Parishioners in Poland relish drive-in service

POLAND — The Poland United Methodist Church has caught the attention of churchgoers and church leaders from other area churches with a unique new style of Sunday morning worship.

The church has started a drive-in service where the Rev. Kenneth Gifford stands under a carport by the church entrance, speaking into a microphone. Church members and guests from other churches stay in their cars in the parking lot to hear the sermon, prayers, news and music.

A large sign –“Be Safe. Stay in Your Car” — is placed near where Gifford is speaking.

With the onset of the coronavirus outbreak, churches have been looking at different ways to have worship and to maintain social distancing.

Gifford said people can stay in their cars and be safe while listening to him on 88.1 FM radio.

Gifford said church office manager Connie Arnoto sits in her car nearby and records the outdoor sermon for the church’s Facebook page for those people who want to watch at home.

“There are a lot of our members who will stay at home and watch it live … but for those who want to come here and stay in their cars is another option we wanted to provide,” he said.

Arnoto said many members appreciate the live feed as well since some may not have transportation or don’t want to leave their homes.,

“I like being here not only to help but to be together with others,” she said.


Poland resident Linda Resch said she was thrilled with the drive-in concept.

“This is awesome. This gives us a chance to see our church family this way, which is a boost we all needed. This is the second time we have been here. The first time made me and others I talked to feel better to be connected in some way with those in our church,” she said.

Resch said with everyone being kept isolated inside their homes day after day, “this was just what we needed” to be able to come and listen to the sermon. “This is a time when we need our church the most and this helps us,” she said.

Her husband, Jeff Resch, was helping others in the parking lot get to the specific channel on their radio.

Cal Gungle of Poland, one of the older members of the church, was one of those Resch was helping.

“This is my church. I want to be here. There is a little bit of togetherness being here today,” Gungle said.

“Having this is great because so many people are feeling lonesome and some may be depressed since the church members are in some way their family. We get to see each other even though we can’t be as close as we should be,” Jeff Resch said.

Jim and Robalee Dinopoulos of Struthers said being able to attend church this way helps them to get out of the house and at least see their pastor and fellow church members.

“We enjoy being here,” said Jim Dinopoulos.


Gifford said he has had calls from more than 10 pastors and ministers from other church denominations that are getting the FM transmitters ready for Palm Sunday and Easter.

“I hope that other churches also do this. We are all in this together,” he said.

The first week the church had the drive-in there were 30 cars and the second week, about 50.

Gifford said each week he gives announcements about the church and what is happening with its members.

“I tell people if they can’t hear me on the radio to blink their car lights or honk the horn. Someone will help them with their radio,’ he said.

Gifford said for Palm Sunday this weekend plans are for communion with those in their cars, or for those at home, to bring their own bread or wafer and liquid of some type while he does communion in the parking lot.

“This is the way we will be able to have communion together and to feel and share God’s love here.” Gifford said.

He said prayers are said for the safety of our country and its people.

“This is a new concept that is catching. It’s a drive-in without the movie,” he said.



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