In an age in which time is of the essence, the drive-through can prove a blessing. Literally. A Bucks County church is taking its cue from a handful of others around the country as it offers drive-through prayer, once a week, for anyone who feels like stopping by.
Almshouse Road in Ivyland, Pennsylvania, is a busy place during the afternoon rush hour. A steady stream of traffic rushes past St. John’s Methodist Church. But every Wednesday , beginning at 4:30, a few cars slip out of the mad dash to pull over for prayer.
“When someone drives into the driveway, two people, a prayer team of two, goes up to the car,” said Ruth Portzline, a pastoral associate at St. John’s. “We introduce ourselves to them by our first names, and ask for their first name and then we ask for them what they would like for us to pray with them about.”
On this Wednesday about a half-dozen other volunteers, have set up a canopy in the horseshoe drive-way. The volunteers pray among themselves to get ready.
Some people honk or just wave. Susan Paulsworth, who is holding a sign saying “drive-through prayer” by the roadside said “probably 90 percent-plus wave, smile, thumbs up, yell out the window.”
“A man rolled his window down and waved at me and said, ‘that stuff really works, doesn’t it?’ and I said ‘yes it does!'” recalled Portzline. The volunteers sometimes have to quickly leave behind laughs and a light-hearted approach.
“We’ve had situations where a teenager is a cutter, and the parents very worried about that,” said Portzline. “We’ve had people going through divorce, and are very upset about that.”
Before the drive-through opened in July, volunteers prepared by meeting and talking over different situations they might encounter, engaging a psychologist for feedback. They’ve compiled a brochure listing resources they can offer to those dealing with abuse and other trauma.
The volunteers say people who stop by to pray come from all walks of life.
“I’ve been having a run of back luck,” said one woman who asked not to be identified. “Hopefully my little pull-in here is — she thinks it might have a happy change for me, and I’m looking forward to it. I hope that it works.”
Another visitor, who identifies herself only as Ellen, says the drive-through has been on her mind.
“I’ve seen the signs for a couple of weeks, and today was a day that I could swing through,” she said. “I’m doing so, especially because of my nephew, who needs to have surgery at children’s hospital tomorrow.”
In case you were wondering, the volunteers do not pass the basket. Appreciative drivers have dropped off chocolate chip cookies and even a dozen roses.
There has been some debate as to whether the ministry might continue through the ice and snow ahead. Pastor Janice Puliti says volunteers will likely continue to their work on Wednesdays, despite the upcoming winter.
Ellen, the woman worried about her nephew’s surgery, is a fan.
“I think the power of prayer works. And I’ve seen it work in my own family, and I think it can’t hurt to have a couple more on board,” she said.