A Presbyterian minister in Co Antrim has called a decision to allow drive-in church services "an empty gesture" due to confusion over broadcasting laws.
Rev Mark Neilly from First Presbyterian in Ahoghill is hoping to hold drive-in services in his church car park, using a transmitter to allow church-goers to listen on their car radio.
But he claimed that under broadcasting regulator Ofcom's rules, only a frequency strong enough to reach "the front bumper of the first car" would be permitted.
With the church in a residential area, he said using loudspeakers would not be practical.
"We're really frustrated. We've been looking at the legislation and it doesn't seem to allow for the FM transmitter we would need to put it into people's cars," he continued.
"All it seems to allow for is 50 nanowatts to be transmitted which would only broadcast from the church to the front bumper of the first car. That's not enough for people in the car park to hear it. I've contacted Ofcom about this a week ago but we've had no response. So we still don't know if this is even viable.
"The Executive has said fire ahead with these drive-in services, but they haven't given us the wherewithal to do them so it's really a bit of an empty gesture."
An Ofcom spokesperson said: "Understandably, the church community is exploring alternative ways of reaching their congregations. To broadcast as you describe, however, churches would require a Broadcasting Act licence to stay within the law.
"Ofcom would consider applications made for a restricted service licence, and information on the different types of licences is available on our website.
"When considering any application, Ofcom would carry out the work necessary to establish if a suitable frequency can be identified for use at a power level appropriate for the proposed coverage area."
DUP MLA Gordon Lyons said: "I'm sorry that churches are not able to be exempt from licences on this occasion. Churches will understand the need to follow the law, but I would hope application processes will be as quick as possible."
Elsewhere, a drive-in service is planned for this Sunday near the Giant's Causeway at Dunseverick Baptist Church. Far from being a novelty, the outdoor services have been a popular fixture for years. Rev Billy Jones last held a service in March just before lockdown measures were introduced.
"Everyone needs hope at the moment, this isn't about just going through the ritual of a service. If this achieves nothing else, it will give people a lift just from seeing their family and friends across the car park."
Rev Trevor McCormick is also aiming to hold outdoor services from next Sunday in both First Kilrea Presbyterian and the nearby Boveedy Church.