At 11 a.m. sharp Sunday, pastor Jeremy Risner rolled an automatic hand sanitizer dispenser into the middle of the C2 Church lobby. 

"No leaning into cars!" facilities director Matt Copeland reminded the small group of church staff and volunteers. "Only two people praying at each car."

C2 Church is offering drive-thru prayers as part of its response to the coronavirus pandemic and social distancing.

On March 17, the church canceled all gatherings until April 6. Now, instead of regular Sunday morning services, the church is holding a single service online.

"As a staff, we were talking about, 'What does this look like now that we're not going to be meeting with our people?'" said Darci Risner, who is a lead pastor alongside her husband, Jeremy. "Especially during this time, a lot of people have fears, so it's to offer that comfort, that peace, and knowing there's a place that they can go to that's safe."

Churchgoers drive up to the front of the church, where they pray with one or two of the the Risners or other church staff from inside their car.

On Sunday, between five and ten cars drove through the entrance loop and prayed. The Sunday before, on the first day of drive-thru prayers, Darci Risner estimates around 20 cars showed up. She attributes the decline to the stay-at-home order issued Tuesday. 

She hopes the church will be able to hold Easter services, and the staff is brainstorming ways to celebrate the holiday safely. 

Church member Lorrie Ney said the need to connect is more important than ever.

"Being a people person, I miss gathering together with my friends and I miss human contact outside of my family," Ney said. "I'm praying not only for my church community, but for Columbia, Boone County, Missouri, the nation and the world."

In addition to the drive-thru prayers, the church provided meals to children in the Demaret neighborhood in the time between Columbia Public Schools closing and when the district began delivering food to students. 

C2 also distributed "bags of hope" to families in the neighborhood, with supplies like toilet paper and soap. 

"For years, we've been saying that the church is not just within the four walls of the building, and now people are like, 'Oh, I see it,'" Jeremy said. 

For more COVID-19 related news, see our section dedicated to COVID-19 updates.
  • State government reporter, spring 2020. I am a senior studying investigative journalism and international studies. You can reach me at mgmcvan@mail.missouri.edu.

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