“It was beyond anything we could have imagined,” said Ryan Pedde, pastor of Bridge Church, a Christian Reformed Church plant in Fort Saskatchewan, a small city 25 km (16 miles) northeast of Edmonton, Alta. He spoke these words the morning after the church hosted a historic, well-attended drive-in Easter Sunday worship service. “There’s a lot of hopelessness out there, and Easter is all about hope,” Pedde said. “We wanted to—in a safe way—gather together and be able to celebrate this big day.”
It was a cold April morning—even by Alberta’s standards—with large snowflakes falling and nearby flags blowing in the wind as about 800 people in 242 vehicles arrived at the Dow Centennial Centre parking lot. Instead of sitting in church pews, worshipers sat in their cars and watched the service unfold on a large screen while tuning in to the audio on an FM radio channel.
“The honking (of the cars) as a way of saying AMEN or YES was pretty cool,” exclaimed Bruce Gritter, pastor of Edmonton’s River CRC, who was also involved in the service. “We must have had a few charismatics in the crowd, because Ryan got some loud AMEN beeps whenever he made a good point in the sermon.”
The service was also livestreamed, and it is estimated that 3,000 people tuned in online. There was an opportunity during the service for individuals to text the word HOPE to a specific number “if today you’ve decided to follow Jesus.” Twenty-five people did so. Pedde will be following up with each of them in the days ahead.
This front-page-newsworthy event didn’t happen without a lot of work and financial and prayerful support. Just two weeks ago Pedde was still trying to get permission from the province, Alberta Health Services, and the City of Fort Saskatchewan to allow the event. When he finally did, they had strict guidelines. Cars had to be parked two meters apart, car windows shut, no getting out of vehicles, and there had to be no more than 15 people running the event at a time, including handling parking, playing instruments, speaking, or operating equipment.
As for Resonate, the agency’s Western Canada Regional Leader Rich Braaksma had this to say: “The mandate of Resonate includes encouraging missional innovation. This is about as innovative and missional as it gets, and we're happy to be a partner. This event was great and a big deal,” he continued, “but an even bigger deal is the ongoing desire of Bridge Church to share the love of Jesus and build community. This event is just one expression of that ongoing desire.”
Alberta Churches Celebrate Growing Family Tree (Nov. 2018)