Parking lot, car park, parking area. These are references to an area where cars or other vehicles may be temporarily left to go inside a nearby building to work, shop, attend a meeting, or conduct other business. Well, that’s what the typical definition used to be anyway. That is until the Coronavirus invaded our world. Parking lots became sparse as businesses, doctors’ offices, and churches closed or limited their staff and hours of operation.
Over the past few months, however, parking lots have begun to transform. They have become drive-through COVID-19 testing centers with cars parked in line waiting for their turn. They have become drop-off and pick-up points for food boxes and bags for school-age kids and needy families. Eager-to-serve restaurants have expanded their parking spaces for more take-out customers. But what I like most is how business and church parking lots are being converted into unique ministry outlets. For example, a truck-loading warehouse in Sylacauga offered their parking lot to ChristPoint Church for drive-in services. The loading bay gave protective cover and a raised platform on which to conduct the service. A local radio station provided audio of live music and the sermon. Offerings were collected through cracks in the window.
Birmingham’s MountainTop Community Church modified its drive-in by erecting a tent for outside services. They also created a prayer wall at the church entrance where homemade crosses dangled from the overhang. Members could drive up to the wall and pray at any time. Children enjoyed VBS kick off this summer in the parking lot with food trucks and ice cream. And Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church on Valleydale Road in Birmingham got creative with its Ash Wednesday service by hosting drive-through ashes.
Parking lots across the Birmingham area have seen numerous prayer gatherings – some to celebrate cultural diversity and social justice and others to pray for our nation and God’s guidance. People either remain in their cars or practice social-distancing with face masks.
The parking lot at Meadow Brook Baptist has hosted several Sunday School social gatherings where masked members brought their own snacks and lawn chairs. Fans blew as they laughed and talked with one another for an hour or two. A parking lot Bible study for men is currently being discussed.
There’s only one answer to the question in Psalm 30:9, “Can my dust praise you?” The answer is yes – even dust from the parking lot!
-Karen O. Allen