25 February 2009

New Jersey's Soul Train

Does today's busy world offer Christians no time to observe the traditional forty days of penance leading up to Easter known as Lent? Are dietary prohibitions too strict? Is a six week period of fasting and humility too long to sustain? And what about people on the move, commuters unable to attend church services?

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 4 March 1965


Interesting questions. Today, and when they were first asked in a Time Magazine article in March of 1965!

Luckily for the harried sixties commuter, two New Jerseyans were ready with solutions. Rev. Craig Biddle of Morristown's St. Peter's Episcopal Church turned the last car of the Erie-Lackawanna's morning commuter train into a chapel on wheels. On Ash Wednesday, March 3, 1965, the 7:17 pulled out of the Morristown station with a full fledged church in place of a caboose! New Jersey's original Soul Train!

And what of Hillsborough's commuters? According to a New York Times article from 13 February 1965, there was help for them as well. Rev. Raymond C. Ortman, pastor of the Neshanic Reformed Church, revealed plans that same week for converting part of the parking lot on the eastern side of the church into a drive-in area where parishioners could park and attend services without getting out of their cars.

Slated to open on April 4, the drive-in church would have six parking spaces, sound speakers, and heaters. Hymn books and church bulletins would be placed in racks, presumably at car window height. No need to get out of your seat to be saved!

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