The Rise in Beach Worship Experiences

Foley United Methodist Church worship service being held at Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores, AL. Source: UM News

More congregations are embracing outdoor worship services that require social distancing in response to the pandemic.

For Foley United Methodist Church in Foley, Alabama this is nothing new.  Since 1951, the congregation has held worship services at Galilean Beach for members and vacationers during the months of May thru September.

The pastor, Rev. Nolan Donald, referred to the beach as “God’s greatest sanctuary.

“This is one of the most evangelistic things we get to do. You get people who aren’t regulars or who have moved away from church and you get a chance to help them hear a message.”

Because of this tradition at Foley UMC, one of the few differences between this year and last year according to associate pastor, Rev. John Simonson, is instead of the full choir there is a smaller praise band and online giving has replaced the traditional offering basket.

Rev. Simonson said, “We can still spread out since it’s a big beach…Everyone brings their own chairs, so there’s not any cleanup. It’s not like we have to clean the sand.” 

Another United Methodist congregation taking advantage of being near the water is Lake Palestine United Methodist Church in Chandler, Texas.  They built an amphitheater in 2007 to accommodate their iconic backdrop of the lake. Often used by local scout troops, neighborhood associations, and members of the community, the congregation has recently been using the amphitheater for worship services since Pentecost.

Rev. Ingrid Beguinistain Akers, Lake Palestine UMC’s pastor remarked, “People can come; they can be casual. They can pull their boat up to attend if they want. It’s meeting people where they are, which is exactly what Jesus does for us.”

As congregations continue to wrestle with the question of regathering safely, UMC church officials are encouraging congregations to remain connected, remain creative, and remain engaged.

Source: Good News Network