published Thursday, April 25th, 2013

Drive-Thru Pews: Lookout Valley Presbyterian launches drive-in Sunday services

Lookout Valley Presbyterian Church senior pastor Grady Davidson works with volunteers to put the finishing touches on a new outdoor worship structure on church property at 435 Patten Chapel Road.
Lookout Valley Presbyterian Church senior pastor Grady Davidson works with volunteers to put the finishing touches on a new outdoor worship structure on church property at 435 Patten Chapel Road.
Photo by Dan Henry.
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    Senior pastor Grady Davidson, left, and church elder Steve Evans put the finishing touches on a new outdoor worship structure at Lookout Valley Presbyterian Church.
    Photo by Dan Henry.
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To learn more about the new service at Lookout Valley Presbyterian Church, 435 Patten Chapel Road, visit the website driveinworship.com or call 423-821-3419

If your second home is the car, if you like the idea of staying in your pajamas, if you feel most comfortable with your dog beside you — and you know church is some place you ought to be — Lookout Valley Presbyterian Church has something new for you.

The Patten Chapel Road congregation will launch the area's first drive-in worship service on Sunday, May 5, at 8:45 a.m.

Visitors will be able to stay in their car, tune in their FM radio and hear the 45-minute service going on under the newly constructed pavilion in front of them.

"We're trying to create a venue where we will catch some people who are falling through the cracks otherwise," says senior pastor Grady Davidson. "People have so many reasons they might not go to a traditional bricks and mortar sanctuary. We want to say, 'You can do this.' It's accessible, not intimidating. It's open and inviting for you."

Lookout Valley Presbyterian member Patsy Evans says the service is designed for folks who may feel intimidated coming into the sanctuary of a church.

"It will be a comfortable, relaxed atmosphere to come to," says Evans. "There will be no elder dressed in a suit and tie to make you feel, 'What am I doing here?' You are not going to feel like you have to give an offering. It's going to be easy to go to church."

She says the service was inspired by the Daytona Beach Drive In Christian Church in Florida, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary.

"I know it was there for years and years. A couple of years ago, we visited," she says.

Evans says it was a bit of a challenge getting Davidson on board. He became a supporter "once he thought about it, once he realized it was not a totally crazy idea," she says.

"It was mind-stretching for all of us," Davidson says. "Steve [Evans] and Patsy presented the concept to church leadership. They're spiritual people whose opinions go a long way with me. The [congregational] leadership took a month, but they came back and said they believe this is a concept the Lord is pointing us to. So we stepped into it with confidence.

"It's kind of out there," he says. "It's a very different concept for our city and our area. But because it's different, it might be a factor that allows ... people to meet Christ."

The 12-by-16-foot Pavilion of Praise was built "basically by church people" but with some outside help, according to Evans.

Davidson was one of the hands-on laborers.

"As God's providence would have it," he says, "when I had a 15- or 16-month period in-between jobs [many years ago], I, part-time, built porches and decks -- exactly this kind of construction. I enjoy it."

The project, including electrical connections and landscaping, will cost $9,000 or $10,000, Evans says. None of the money came from the church budget but from extra donations from church members, she says.

The drive-in service will feature contemporary music and less liturgy than Lookout Valley Presbyterian's traditional 10 a.m. service. Instead of a choir, there will be several singers leading praise music. The messages will come primarily from the New Testament and specifically from the Gospel of Mark this summer.

"We hope to reach people who may not have much of a Bible background," Davidson says, "so the Gospel stories are the most important place to begin with people."

The first two rows of the parking lot facing the adjacent pavilion will be reserved for about 30 cars. If attendees exceed those spaces, there are plenty of additional spaces to accommodate them.

Services will happen rain or shine, Evans says, and they'll continue into late summer or early fall, though no cutoff date has been set.

Although the service is geared toward people in their cars, attendees will be welcome to bring lawn chairs and blankets and sit outside.

Eventually, she says, "we hope they're comfortable enough to get out of their car and join the regular congregation. If they don't, they can come back next summer.

"The most important thing is they hear the Gospel. If sitting in their car is going to make that possible, that is what we are going to do."

Contact staff writer Clint Cooper at ccooper@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6497.

about Clint Cooper...

Clint Cooper is the faith editor and a staff writer for the Times Free Press Life section. He also has been an assistant sports editor and Metro staff writer for the newspaper. Prior to the merger between the Chattanooga Free Press and Chattanooga Times in 1999, he was sports news editor for the Chattanooga Free Press, where he was in charge of the day-to-day content of the section and the section’s design. Before becoming sports ...

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