Jun 14

Beep Beep it is Time for Church in the Car

The official and unofficial start of summer have come and gone and we are now in the hey days of summer and I thought it was time for a summer post.Did you ever go to church in your car? Well if you traveled in the 1950’s you just might have. I recently read an article in The Atlantic by Megan Garber about the Rev. Robert Schuller beginning his ministry at a the Orange Drive-in, in Anaheim California. This Drive-in ministry eventually became the majestic Crystal Cathedral which for years was Schuller’s Pulpit of Fame. Now of course it has fallen from grace and into bankruptcy and has recently been purchased by a Roman Catholic Diocese. In the beginning however even the outdoor ministry thrived. Schuller started this ministry in 1955 and an early advertisement of the church read “The Orange Church meets in the Orange Drive-In Theater where even the handicapped, hard of hearing, aged and infirm can see and hear the entire service without leaving their family car.” It was the age of the car and people could drive to church and then drive off to their Sunday activities right away. Even before Schuller however a church in Central Florida claims to have been the first; “The Central Florida Drive-In Worship Service is the oldest continuing drive-in worship in the nation. First held on November 23, 1952, in the old Winter Park Drive-In Theater, the service continues today on the south parking lot of Central Christian Church, facing Lake Concord and is broadcast over 96.9FM.

All of this may sound strange and from a bygone era to you, but right here in Upstate New York we still have a least a couple of churches that do drive-in services. I say this because I know for sure of at least two, but there could easily be others and I hope you write in and tell me about them. One of the churches I am thinking about was built in 1967 in the suburbs of Albany as a satellite of a downtown church with a drive-in worship, and both drive-in services are active summer staples to this day.The congregations listen in on a preset radio station or a few brave souls gather in front of the makeshift pulpit with lawn chairs on the grass. I know this because until recently this was my church. The service is held at 8 am and is definitely come as you are. Just in case you think drive-in church is a rarity among Californians and Upstaters a simple Google search located drive-in Services at a Lutheran Church in Sioux City, Iowa and at a Presbyterian Church in Newark, New Jersey, and even a photograph of a welcome sign from a Methodist Church.

Let me know. Have you ever heard of a Drive in Church ?

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6 comments

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    • Miranda Rand on June 15, 2012 at 2:01 pm
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    Interesting! I know the pastors, for the most part, dislike this kind of worship, and feel a sense of disconnect with the “congregation” — especially on communion Sundays.

    1. Miranda even though I went to a church that offered this type of service I never happened to attend on a Communion Sunday. I always wondered how they worked that out?

        • Miranda Rand on June 15, 2012 at 9:06 pm
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        As I understand it the Elders go around to each car and offer the trays of bread and juice — not much corporeality in this is there?!

        1. True

    • Steve Butler on June 17, 2012 at 9:23 pm
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    Lutheran church in Glens Falls started with a drive-in service but eventually bought a building & moved inside. Never attended one myself though.

    1. I talked to a cousin in Florida today she said she had never seen one. I was a bit surprised thinking it was more of a southern thing.

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