PARISHIONERS congregated outside a Meath church today to celebrate the parish's first ever drive-in service.
Under the third phase of the Government's road-map to reopening society, churches can hold ceremonies indoors provided the congregation is limited at 50 people.
But at the Church of St Colmcille, Skryne, in Co Meath, parishioners have found a new format for weekend masses that will allow larger congregations attend services outdoors.
Fr Thomas O'Mahony said the open-air masses are the only way the church could accommodate a larger crowd while still adhering to the Government's social distancing guidelines.
Parishioners are welcome to tune into the service on the radio from their cars, or sit outside on the lawn.
"We purchased two gazebos, and we upgraded the sound system in both Skyrne and Rathfeigh churches," Fr O'Mahony said.
"The system enables us to broadcast mass in wet weather and parishioners can tune in on the car radios in the church car parks. Alternatively, outdoor speakers allow parishioners to attend mass by sitting on deck chairs on the lawn.
"We're trying to recreate the same atmosphere that's inside the church outside."
"It wouldn't have been possible only for the hard work and dedication of our parishioners here in the parish. I was never fond of having Mass inside because say, in Skyrne, all we could do was 40, so you wouldn't want to say to 41, 'hey, you can't come in.'"
However, the service is slightly different to what church-goers are used to as there are no readers, alter services or choir, and communion is handed out with the help of tweezers.
"We provided hand sanitisers, provided masks, gloves and little tweezers, and that was important because with giving communion we're nervous of touching the hands of the people. We don't have any alter services, we don't have any choir and we don't have any readers."
Fr O'Mahony said the first run-through of the outdoor service went down well with locals.
"I'm getting texts from locals and the first thing they've said is, 'It's it was lovely to see you again Fr Thomas, thank you so much for accommodating us and for giving us communion but we weren't sure if we were going to get communion," he said.
The next drive-in mass will take place in Rathfeigh on Saturday evening at 6pm, and in Skryne at 9am and 11am on Sunday.