We have drive-thru restaurants and drive-thru banks. And now, popping up around the country – from the red state of Florida, to the purple state of Arizona, to the blue state of Massachusetts – are drive-thru prayer services.?”This is an attempt to reach folks in our fast-paced culture…It can be spontaneous,” said a Minnesota pastor who recently experimented with this convenience, created to appeal to locals and commuters driving by.
You heard this right. On-the-spot spiritual guidance, comfort to worshippers in a hurry – a real drive-thru ministry. Drivers can warm their bodies as well as their souls by pulling over for a pit stop; some of the clergy and volunteers who are offering these unorthodox services also hand out free cups of coffee, along with the spiritual support.
Innovations are inevitably criticized as not being as powerful or authentic as the existing product.
Obviously, it’s very easy to critique this as “instant salvation,” or the dilution of religion. But I wonder. The idea behind drive-thru prayer is to offer spiritual support to members of the community who are not attached to a traditional faith congregation. This kind of service is designed for people who, for a wide variety of reasons, may be reluctant to walk into an official religious space.
The trend is a form of religious innovation, it’s clear. Innovation is often about providing a product (or service) that’s more accessible, usable and cheaper than an existing product; innovations are inevitably criticized as not being as powerful or authentic as the existing product, but it’s good enough to get the job done. Have a look at a recent cable news report covering a West Coast church as they welcome people for blessings through the driver’s side window:
Drive-thru prayer may not be for everyone. But it’s getting the job of prayer done, particularly for the faithful who, in the midst of the hustle-and-bustle fast pace of modern life, stop to share their concerns or seek solace – about a spouse who had a heart attack, family members facing financial stress, a child in trouble. They’re genuinely listened to, empathized with, blessed and prayed for. Certainly, some who pull up for a visit feel comfort and connection. This is the cathedral moving into the bazaar! And really, what’s healthier for us – stopping on the road for burgers, or for prayer?!
Image credit: 1000 Words/Shutterstock.com
Irwin Kula is the co-founder and co-executive editor of The Wisdom Daily. A rabbi, Irwin’s writing has been featured in The Huffington Post and the Washington Post. He is the author of Yearnings: Embracing the Sacred Messiness of Life and a co-editor of The Book of Jewish Sacred Practices. Irwin has appeared on NBC’s The Today Show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, The O’Reilly Factor and PBS Frontline. Irwin also serves as President Emeritus of Clal, The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, a leadership training institute, think tank and resource center in New York City.