Cornwall pastor launches drive-in church service after council U-turn

Rev Matt Tims said the U-turn was a "miracle".

A drive-in church service that was nearly cancelled because of objections from the local council's health and safety team has gone ahead in Cornwall.

The drive-in church is the idea of Rev Matt Timms, pastor of Wave House Church in Newquay.  It was launched as a way for Christians in the area to attend collective worship in person while church buildings remain closed for larger gatherings due to coronavirus. 

The service, held in a local car park, was nearly called off when Cornwall County Council's health and safety team contacted him to tell him it could not go ahead. 

Rev Timms said he was told that the drive-in church service did not fall within the Government's regulations and that "worship is not a specified activity". 

"I was stunned and felt like I was being discriminated against. Drive-in cinemas are allowed, why not a drive-in church?" he said. 

Following appeals from the Christian Legal Centre and local MP Steve Double, the council agreed to grant permission for the service. 

Rev Timms said the turn-around was a "miracle and an act of God". 

"Now that we can go ahead with this service we have a real opportunity to bring some hope to the people of Newquay and to inspire other church leaders across the country to hold their own drive-in service and to get out into the community and reach people with the gospel," he said. 

"Worship is a very powerful thing and Jesus' ministry was very public. Christian faith is not something that happens in private. Sharing the gospel and public worship are essential to what it means to live out your Christian faith."

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said common sense had prevailed.

"It cannot be right that drive-in cinemas are allowed, shopping centres are open, but an outdoor church service that is offering real hope to a community in need is banned," she said. 

"The Government is dictating to church leaders what church is and how it should function, which is unprecedented.

"It is also incredible that the Government is liberalising and extending Sunday trading at the same time as restricting church services and criminalising even informal prayer meetings.

"This church in Cornwall demonstrates what is possible when social action is combined with the life-changing message of the gospel.

"It is time for church leaders across the UK to show the same courage and determination to reach people with the gospel despite continuing government restrictions."