At the Drive-In… Church? Florida Congregants Pray from Their Cars

A unique setup highlighted in a beautiful short film.

YouTube | The New York Times

In a world where you can purchase both alcohol and ammunition from the comfort of your car, it only makes sense that you can find a little salvation as well. A beautiful short documentary produced for The New York Times highlights the Daytona Beach Drive In Christian Church in Florida, where congregants join together each Sunday and worship from the air-conditioned comfort of their cars.

Filmmaker and Florida native Lauren DeFilippo acknowledges she thought the idea was a little odd when she first happened upon the outdoor church, built on the site of an old drive-in movie theater. After all, she writes, how much further can you get from the communal nature of church than sitting in your car and listening to the pastor's voice crackle over the radio?

But after spending three Sundays watching car after car pull up to the grassy lot and filming the congregants as they attended the service, DeFillipo realized the benefits of the unusual setup. For some, disabilities make this the most convenient option to regularly attend church. Others appreciate the chance to mourn for a loved one or process the pastor's words in private. And as you'll see in the video, a few even like the ability to bring their pets along.

While it undoubtedly fills a role, DeFillipo also believes that a drive-in church represents the growing divide between our desire to connect with each other as people and the reality of our "technology-fueled isolation," a point driven home by the pastor's sermon laid over the shots of congregants listening in their cars. A sort of religious Bowling Alone, if you will. But on the other hand, this drive-in church has been running since 1953, so it's not quite a new phenomenon.

Either way, the beautifully-shot film is stark and evocative, leaving you wondering about the lives you only glimpse on screen.