It’s a tradition at Northridge Presbyterian Church to send outgoing pastors off to their next post with bread for the journey. This year, church members have altered the journey because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“The theme for us lately has been flexibility, with a lot of faith that we’re going to be back together,” member Sarah Nicholson said. “This is an opportunity for us to do two things that are really important to us.”

On Saturday, congregants will park, mask up and sit in lawn chairs as they say goodbye to Tom Gibbons, who has served as the interim pastor since January.

Gibbons and his wife, Judy, will traverse the parking lot in a golf cart. The new pastor Betsy Swetenburg and her husband, Owen, will follow in their own vehicle so members can say hello. Swetenburg comes from a church in Atlanta and will start July 20.

“[The Swetenburgs] visited us in secret in January, but this will be the first time the congregation has experienced them in person,” Nicholson said. “We’ll be able to express how excited we are and our gratitude to [the Gibbons]. They’ve led us with such grace and patience and wisdom.”

Parishioners are welcome to bring cards for the families and to decorate their cars with signs introducing themselves to the Swetenburgs. There will be prizes for the best decorated car and the best mask.

Every other parking spot will be kept empty, and attendees should stay within the confines of their spot. Anyone who leaves their vehicle should wear a mask.

During the event, the music director will play “Amazing Grace” on the trumpet, and Swetenburg will give the benediction.

The church’s first in-person gathering since March will take place from 7:15-8:30 p.m. Saturday at 6920 Bab-O-Link Drive. The event will be recorded and posted on the Northridge website for anyone who can’t attend.


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