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Pridgen plans 'drive-in' Easter service, despite Poloncarz's concerns

The Rev. Darius Pridgen is moving ahead with a planned Easter drive-in service at True Bethel Baptist Church over the objections of Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz.

Pridgen, who was infected by the novel coronavirus along with three of his adult children, said the church will hold two "abbreviated" services Sunday morning from a stage in its East Ferry Street parking lot and will follow appropriate social distancing.

"People are not being put in danger," he said in an interview Saturday.

He said parishioners are urged to stay home to watch the services live on the church's Facebook page or listen along on 1080 AM or 96.5 FM. But people who want to can park in the lot and listen over the church's shortwave radio network.

Vehicles will be spaced at least 6 feet apart, he said, and people must remain inside with the windows rolled up.

"You cannot get out of the car," he said, even to use the church bathroom. "The parking lot will be the only thing open tomorrow."

Once vehicles are parked, a "safely bagged" palm and a cross will be handed to each car through the window, and the window will be closed, Pridgen explained.

Poloncarz at his Saturday news briefing, in response to a question, said he wasn't aware of Pridgen's plans but it didn't sound like a good idea.

He praised the Catholic Church for canceling all masses for the foreseeable future and urged people of all faiths to watch religious services online from the safety of their homes.

"I do not recommend, and we are not recommending, drive-up masses of any type," Poloncarz said.

Poloncarz talked to Pridgen, the president of the Buffalo Common Council, later on Saturday.

Pridgen said Poloncarz told him he objected to services allowing person-to-person contact but the drive-in service featuring attendees who remained in their vehicles was acceptable.

Poloncarz spokesman Peter Anderson said the county executive repeated to Pridgen his preference that the church not hold the service and reiterated his fear that people wouldn't stay in their vehicles.

"Rev. Pridgen understood the county executive’s concerns," Anderson said in an email.

Pridgen's daughter off ventilator, recovering as family battles Covid-19

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