'Boat Church' returns for another year at First Landing State Park

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Posted at 8:24 AM, May 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-30 20:11:09-04

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - On Sundays, picking between going out on the water or going to church may now be easier.

That's because “Boat Church” is back for a second year after its first launch in 2020. Boat Church combines Sunday mass and the joys of being on the water, whether on a boat or on the shore.

The first service, held Sunday, May 30, featured a special kind of ceremony – its organizers commemorated the victims of the May 31, 2019 Virginia Beach Municipal Building mass shooting.

Organizer Bob McDonnell told News 3 the victims’ families were invited to the first service. He added he remembers hearing the tragic news of the shooting when he was in Europe to commemorate D-Day.

"This was the city I lived for 35 years. I've been a prosecutor here, I raised my kids here, and like a lot of things in life, you see these things and think this is not something that could in our quiet little-big City of Virginia Beach," McDonnell said.

McDonnell said he was unsure if the families will attend. The first Boat Church service also paid homage to the victims.

The concept of Boat Church was something he had seen at Smith Mountain Lake near Roanoke. He said he was impressed with the idea and decided to start something similar in Virginia Beach. Boat Church was also started with the help of several local churches, McDonnell said.

Something McDonnell noted is regardless of the name, you do not need a boat to join the worship services.

“Maybe instead of dressing up in your Sunday finest on a particular day, if you plan activities on this beautiful, God-given water and resources we have to offer in Hampton Roads, you can get in your boat, your jet ski, your bicycle, get on your hiking shoes and just spend an hour at First Landing State Park and then you can go on to your activities," McDonnell said. "You don't have to go back home and change."

Boat Church will meet at the First Landing State Park boat launch off 64th St. Services begin at 10 a.m. and will run every Sunday until September.

McDonnell urges congregants to follow Boat Church’s Facebook page, as notices and advisories – such as cancellations – will be posted there.