Trevor Clark Speaking During Graduation Sunday

Trevor Clark, associate pastor of youth and families at Eastern Hills Baptist Church, Albuquerque, preaches a sermon for the church’s 2020 graduates during a drive-in service, May 31. Graduates, donning their caps and gowns, received gifts and drove decorated vehicles through the crowd in the parking lot, receiving honks, waves and good wishes.

ALBUQUERQUE (BNM) - On May 31, members of Eastern Hills Baptist Church, Albuquerque, returned to holding services in the church’s parking lot to honor their graduates. The church had just resumed worshipping inside its building the previous week.

In COVID-19 public health orders issued during May, New Mexico's governor allowed churches to resume meeting together with some restrictions. Many churches started gathering in their buildings again on May 24. Eastern Hills Baptist Church, Albuquerque, met in its sanctuary on May 24, too. But, it had initially planned to hold a May 31 drive-in service to honor graduates in the congregation.

When public health orders required churches to cease in-person worship services, EHBC realized that it needed new plans to honor its 2020 graduates. A drive-in service became the ideal approach for that event. The church decided to stay with that plan. Church members delivered gifts and cards to the church before May 31. Then, that day, the gifts were given to the graduates.

Typically for the church, the youth pastor oversees the graduate recognition service. He normally introduces graduates and gives them a gift from the church. He also would preach a message focused on the graduates and show a video presentation of each student. Also typically, graduates would participate in a reception in their honor with tables decorated in school colors. Members would attend the reception, giving graduates cards, gifts and useful advice. COVID-19 guidelines and restrictions prevented those activities for 2020 spring graduates.

On May 31, cars filled EHBC’s south and southeast parking lots. Graduate's cars sat, decorated and ready to parade through the church members in attendance. The 2020 graduates included Collin Evans, Sebastian Martin, Salena Portillos, Alyssa Sandoval and Riley Swann. 

Associate Pastor of Youth and Families Trevor Clark preached the message. After challenging graduates to fight the good fight and keep the faith, Clark asked the graduates to don their caps and gowns for recognition. Clark presented each student a Bible from the church and the gifts from church members. Car horns honked in honor of their accomplishment. Students started their cars, and - to the song "Pomp and Circumstance" - drove through their vehicles through the lot, receiving honks, clapping and good wishes from the crowd.

Since the senior videos would not be visible on a large screen during daylight. At 8:45 p.m., after the sun had set, members watched the videos from the church parking lot, similar to a drive-in movie. COVID-19 might have caused the church to stop meeting in person, but it did not stop the appreciation and pride the church had for its graduating students.

Joy Pittman is circulation assistant for the Baptist New Mexican news journal and GoBNM.com, news and information outlets for the Baptist Convention of New Mexico.

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