Bill Staats has been a member of the First Church in Albany since 1955. He attends the Sunday service every week, but during the summer months he enjoys the sermon from the comfort of his car.
From May through Labor Day, the church offers drive-up sermons every Sunday, at which worshippers gather in their cars in a parking lot instead of in the church pews.
“It’s great and it’s super-convenient,” Staats said. “You don’t have to dress up and you can enjoy the sermon from your car.”
About 15 cars gathered in the parking lot off of North Pearl Street early Sunday morning to listen to the Rev. Susan Cox.
Cox, who delivers her sermon atop a brick pulpit, said she enjoys the drive-in service on beautiful summer days.
“It’s a great way to enjoy time outside, especially on a gorgeous day like today,” she said.
After the outdoor service, Cox moves inside the church for another service, which generally draws more worshippers. But the outdoor service has been going strong for decades.
Bill Cameron, an associate pastor at the church, proposed drive-in sermons in 1975. A plaque bearing his name and the year the outdoor service began sits at the foot of the pulpit.
The drive-in service is great for people with disabilities or those who have trouble getting around, Cox said. She added that the drive-in service, which lasts around 30 minutes, is very conducive to people with small children.
“They don’t have to walk from the parking lot to the church and then around the church,” she said. “This really makes it a lot easier for them.”
Carl Hiemstra and his wife Lynne, of North Greenbush, both have minor disabilities and have difficulty walking. Hiemstra said the ability to praise the Lord while sitting in his car is very appealing.
“Both of us really enjoy it,” he said.” It is really a great idea.”
Cox said that a lot of churches offer outdoor drive-in sermons in the western part of the United States, where the weather is warmer and more predictable. But she speculated that the First Church may be one of a few churches to offer outdoor services on the East Coast.
Charles Welge, a deacon at the church, said that people can often be intimidated by walking into a large church.
“This is just a different way for people to worship and oftentimes people are more comfortable out here,” he said.