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ever said that a Drive-in Church would not work was wrong! Least to say they don’t know the affinity that the people of America have towards cars. Car production has been the backbone of America’s economic growth. The Drive-in Christian Church was started in 1953 by Glenn Murdoch (?) and Robert Schulberg. They both were college mates and dreamt of creating an outdoor church. « What better way to put it in a drive-in as the sound system is already there! » Schulberg (?) created a drive-in in California and reverend Murdoch the one in Daytona Beach in Florida. It was just a whim(?) on their part. « What better place to worship than in a warm place. We worship outdoors by the water (shores) like Jesus did. He did all his teachings by the sea… », says pastor Deitch.

Entrance of the Drive-in Christian Church.

The drive-in church is a member of the Christian Church disciples of the Christian denomination. It started just shortly after the American Revolutionary War.

It is the largest cross section of humanity that pastor Deitch has ever served in any church. It is the second largest church with an African American population in Florida. A third of our congregation has Canadian roots.

It started with the desire for independence. The church is set up

During the winter period there are an average of 800 people every Sunday and it drops off during the summer when the temperature rises over 95°F. There are two (2) services. One at 8: 30 am and the other at 10 :00 am. « You have to be very tough to come to the second service during the summer. Are you familiar with the saying: the few, the proud, the marines? » Easter and Christmas Eve hold up to 2600 people.

so that « there are no higher ups telling somebody below what to believe, do or act. We are congressionally driven. They make all the decisions in an annual meeting and the board takes care of the church’s business. » The first minister was Glenn Murdoch. He started holding services at the Neptune Drive-in Theater in Daytona Beach shores. Even though every one told him that the idea was the dumbest one they had ever heard, the drive-in church flourished. From 80 people on the first Sunday mess when it opened to 800 people, on average, every Sunday today. Paramount Pictures owned the Drive-in but they wanted to get out of the Drive-in business. For the first year and a half, the movie industry and the Church cohabitated. Paramount Pictures then sold the 12 acres of land to the church for $ 18 000. It is now worth 30 million dollars (Last year’s estimate).

The reasons for coming to a drive-in rather than a traditional church are various. The biggest single reason is because it’s different. Curiosity! Americans being pragmatic, parents that come to the drive-in don’t have to bother with getting their kids all dressed up.

When they bought the domain, for the following three years, they had to show movies at night over the weekend. The screen then came down. The first alter building was literally a trailer. The building on Atlantic Avenue held the original sign for the movie theater. On top was a 9-foot mermaid. The church top replaced it. There have only been three (3) reverends since it’s opening: Reverend Glen Murdoch (?), Wallace Pamplun (?) and Deitch. There are 11050 members and 380 associate members (snowbirds). Bread, Grape juice and a cup.

Reverend Deitch during the sermon

They can worship as a family and don’t have to worry about their kids running up and down the isles and bothering others. They are in an « isolated unit » by themselves. As they have a Sunday school, the family comes in and worship in the morning during the first service then they drop the kids at the school. Afterwards they are free to do what they want for the rest of the morning. Quiet a few come because they are naturalists. They love the outdoors. For the elderly people, they don’t have to make the extra effort of getting out of the car and back into it. Some of them can’t walk and don’t have the means to pay for assistance. Once in the car they don’t have to worry about getting out again. Others come because they are use to the concept of drive-ins. People can come as they wish, not necessarily in car. There are motorbikes, bicycles as well as horses. Remains 25 people from the first Sunday mess that still come today. Contributions are welcome and are varied. Nothing is enforced. Some are large donation others more modest. The church’s budget is around 1/2 a million dollars per year. They average 8 to 9000$ a Sunday. The drive-in is a continuous remodeling and redoing. The first thing they did was to install an automatic generator to make sure that the church always has electricity. Are there any extraordinary stories that happened in your church that you would like to tell us about?

Reverend Deitch during the sermon

« The funniest story I can tell you, only because it could have been so tragic but wasn’t, is the time when a lady during the first service was parked way back on the south side of the sanctuary. She was starting her car up; she was pumping the gas pedal because she was having trouble, then she must have pumped the peddlereal hard ‘cause it

stuck to the floor and the car kicked into drive. She weaved her way through the stationed cars and missed every car, polls and stalled the car right in front of the white cross in front of the alter. She didn’t wreck anything or killed anybody. She was sitting in her car saying Oh my God! Oh my God! She and her husband said that no one had touched the steering wheel because they were so afraid! Another one is the time when on the south side of the property, people came in on a motor home. The RV vehicle is rigged for it to allow chair to be put on the roof. They asked whether they could put their chairs on the roof underneath one of the palm trees. As they were sitting there, about 20 minutes into the second worship service, all of a sudden I heard screaming at the top of a lady’s voice. I thought that somebody got hurt.

To hear the ceremony, one has to tune in to an FM radio station

At the Daytona’s Beach Drive-in church, one is given grape juice and pamphlets

Mr and Mrs Benson from tenessee at the Daytona’s Beach Drive-in church

I looked at where the screaming was coming from. This lady jumped off the roof of the RV and ran into the friendship hall. She was sitting there, listening to the worship, minding her own business and, I found out later, a corn snake (not venomous) dropped out of the palm tree and was looking right into her face and her husband got into a little trouble. Instead of helping her he kept on laughing.”

being so deeply rooted in American culture helped in anyway the success of this drive-inn?

Do you think that the vision of god has changed?

Has the current crisis affected in any way the drive-in Church? If so, how?

« I don’t think so; it’s rather the society that has changed. Everywhere I have been, society has changed. Television came along and changed a lot in society but nothing has changed the world as much as Internet. The accessibility to anything is tremendous. So technology has changed, our society but not spirituality. » What about the “car civilization”? Does the fact that the car

« The genius of reverend Murdoch was to understand that car culture in America is enormous especially in Daytona Beach. You can’t live in Daytona without being exposed to racing and cars, beach driving… Some people want to take away beach driving. That’ll never happen.

«The current crisis has affected us a lot. We are waiting on how it has impacted our budget this year. We are a tourist driven town. This year’s bike week has never been so bad. We are down so far by 3% attendance and 8% financially but on the other hand our request for aid (i.e. food, help, shelter, transportation) has quadrupled since last October.

Fuzzy and his adopted mother Mrs Rudder at the Daytona’s Beach Drive-in church

We are a car culture but that is changing a lot because of oil prices and the situation of the world. I am surprise though on how many people are environmentally tuned in. I see more and more hybrid cars. It’s quiet rare to see a car turned on since car battery improvements as well as the rise in oil prices. Do cars and God get along? « We think they get along great. The god that I know and love has never looked at how we look at something. Transportation during Jesus’ time, when he was out at the seashore, people came on the transportation of the day (i.e. camels, donkeys, horses…). God is more interested in our hearts than in what we drive. I tell that to people all the time! »

Some cars don’t have a radio and thus need to bring their own portable radio.

An old mustang at the Daytona’s Beach Drive-in church.

Inside a car. Strangely enough, under the heat, no one uses their A/C unit.

The bible and teddy bears on a dashboard.

Reverend Deitch during the sermon.

The american flag and the cross.

People use their portable fans rather than using the A/C, most probably due to the crisis

A congregationnist in her car. On the dashboard, her bibble.

Donnations at the end of the ceremony.

Reverend Deitch says goodbye to his congregationnists.

Reverend Deitch says goodbye to his congregationnists.

Reverend Deitch says goodbye to his congregationnists.

dashboard bible  

drive-in church

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