PLAISTOW — From the roof of the First Baptist Church, the Rev. Aaron Goodro took note of the sounds resulting from human silence.
“If you listen, you can hear the birds, you can hear the peepers,” he said. The church was closed to the public Sunday due to the coronavirus pandemic, but services continued regardless in a most nontraditional way.
Flanked by a keyboardist on the roof, Goodro held a “drive-by” service for congregants parked in the church’s back parking lot.
“If you are anxious about world events, all we have to do is invite God into our spirals and our free falls,” Goodro said during the service. “First Baptist Church of Plaistow, don’t you dare honk at this. That’s probably the shortest sermon I’ve ever preached.”
The church’s drive-by service started at 10 a.m. and lasted 30 minutes. Yet, despite its brevity, it was moving for members of the church who honked their horns and sang along in unison with the pastor’s songs from their minivans and Subarus.
“I think it’s amazing, simply amazing, that they could come up with this so we could all get together,” said Jessica Francis, who stood in the back of the parking lot during the service.
Meanwhile, Deborah Cuevas drove from Hampstead to take part in this unique service, the creativity of which she attributed to Goodro.
“Only he would do something like this,” Cuevas said from her car. “He’s so amazing. I wish more people would come and see this service.”
And although Cuevas said she’s been “staying put” to prevent contracting the coronavirus, she had no choice but to attend the service Sunday.
“I love it, it’s so powerful to see this today,” she said.
Following the service, Goodro said it has been hard for his church to practice social distancing.
“I was just glad our church community could try to come together and see each other. We miss seeing each other,” he said. “We are a church that really likes to be connected and it’s really hard with the physical distance that we have to do.”
Goodro said the idea to hold a drive-by service came to him a week ago as a joke, but when he mentioned it to a couple of people, they took the idea seriously.
“This is a response, it’s a way to get together safely, I hope,” he said.
As to whether he thinks this is a “post-apocalyptic” service, he said, “I don’t know if this is post-apocalyptic, this is a group of people that love God and love each other, so here we are.”
Goodro added that even as a God-fearing man, he has his own reservations about the coronavirus.
“I feel like a person who doesn’t believe in God, too,” he said. “It’s an uncertain time and I kind of liken it to listening to a weather forecaster for three weeks saying, ‘A big snowstorm is coming!’ and we are all ready for something and we don’t know how bad it’s going to be and we don’t know how responsible we are going to be for the snow even, you know?”
He added that as Americans, people have “taken a lot for granted” and when a lot of that “stuff” has been taken away, everyone has to go back to what defines them.
And for one little church in Plaistow, that’s a traditional service held in a most unconventional way.