This article originally ran in the Sioux City Journal Aug. 5, 1956.
The time seems to be fast approaching when man will be able to satisfy many of his material wants without stepping out of his automobile. Already food, furniture, cleaning and laundry service, banking facilities and entertainment are among the more common offerings.
The list isn't confined entirely to the realm of the material, for now one can take part in organized worship in many places without leaving his modern-day chariot. During the summer months, at one drive-in theater in Sioux City and at another in South Sioux City, church services are held at 8:30 a.m. every Sunday, and, in both places the clergy who conduct them say their objectives have peen attained.
Report Good Attendance
Services at both theaters have had an average attendance of well over 100 autos this summer, and, according to Rev. Homer Clements, pastor of the Boals Methodist Church in South Sioux City, cosponsor of the drive-in service in that community, total attendance in his church and at the outdoor service now equals that at the peak of the winter season.
Co-operating with the Methodist group in South Sioux City this year is the First Presbyterian Church, led by Rev. Earl G. Anderson. Services there are held at the 7-T-7 Drive-in theater. On this side of the river, Rev. Lawrence Carlton of the Riverside Methodist Church conducts services weekly at the Gordon Twin Drive-in theater. This is the second year of outdoor worship at South Sioux City and the third at the Gordon drive-in.
Music Is Recorded
With slight mechanical differences, services at both theaters run along similar spiritual lines. Churchgoers are directed to parking areas by ushers, who also distribute church bulletins and, later, take the offering. The sound system used for motion pictures is utilized during the service.
Special music is tape recorded at the previous week's service in church,while the pastor gives a sermon and there is congregational worship.
At South Sioux City, the theater management supplies coffee for a fellowship hour in the concession house immediately, following the service. According to Rev. Mr. Clements, "We try to give as much fellowship as possible in a service of this type."
Another difference is that at South Sioux City a "live" singer or trio give selections along with the tape recorded music.
While in both instances, the attendance is made up almost entirely of regular churchgoers, both clergymen said they attract small numbers of transients and of persons who either had broken away from the churchgoing habit or had not attended previously. "I have interested at least five new families in attending church regularly," Rev. Mr. Carlton said.
Rev. Mr. Clements, on the other hand, said his outdoor worship had reclaimed some persons,whose interest in churchgoing had waned. He also added that the drive-in service had attracted an occasional group of Indians or Negroes, who did not care to attend regular church services.
While a large number of persons attending dress conservatively, Rev. Mr. Clements said he'd had persons attend wearing bathing suits, pedalpushers or slacks, and one group even in pajamas. Neither the bathing suit nor the pajama wearers left their cars for the fellowship periods, however. There also had been men present in T-shirts.
Rev. Mr. Clements mentioned two other classes benefitted by the outdoor service -- elderly persons unable to climb steps, and parents of small children. Nursery service is provided at the church during the winter but not in the summer.
Rev. Mr. Carlton said he saw three advantages in the drive-in worship. "It's an early morning service for those with other plans for the day. There is the beauty of God's out-of-doors, a real sanctuary. Also, it provides the means for the nominal person to fall into the churchgoing habit."
Both ministers agree that drive-in services have been sufficiently successful to assure their continuance indefinitely.