On first thought, the idea of a “Holy Spirit Car-wash” may have a crude and unsettling aftertaste to it. But could this concept actually generate an open and receptive audience at La Sierra University or would it be dismissed as a distasteful manifestation of drive-through culture mentality gone overboard?
The “Holy Spirit Car-wash” was a project designed by LSU's Spiritual Life office. It coincided with the Spiritual Emphasis Week program from Oct. 9-11. The “Holy Spirit Car-wash” consisted of a white tent structure that was open on all sides. Around the edges of the tent were attached makeshift signs made out of brown construction paper which boldly announced “Holy Spirit Car-wash” or slogans like “Prayer is Power” in large black letters. Though it may have looked like a strange work of guerilla performance-art was underway as the tent stood in the middle of the campus in front of La Sierra Hall, the “Holy Spirit Car-wash” was actually there to facilitate prayer.
The present day drive-through culture allows the consumer to simply drive up to purchase anything from fast-food, coffee, pharmacy services, bank services, and even dry-cleaning services. There are even drive-through liquor stores in some states. But the scope of drive-through culture seems to have expanded beyond everyday errands as places like Las Vegas even offer drive-through wedding services. There are even drive-through church services and drive-through prayer booths in some places.
Though the “Holy Spirit Car-wash” didn't involve cars in any way, one might guess based on it's catchy title that it attempted to tap into the same mode of thinking that has made it possible for consumers to buy breakfast, pick up the dry cleaning, and get married all in a single drive around the block. But upon further examination, there may be reason reconsider.
Adam Hicks, a first year graduate student at LSU, volunteered to work as one of the main coordinators of the “Holy Spirit Car-wash.” Each day of Spiritual Emphasis Week, Hicks volunteered his time from 1-4 p.m. Hicks explained, “It [the prayer-booth] catches your attention. People come up and they're like, 'What is this'? Sometimes they stand there and stare for a long time until they decide to come up and sometimes they just keep walking.”
For Hicks, the “Holy Spirit Car-wash” represented something powerful and being that the object wasn't simply to push people through a service line to maximize profits as efficiently as possible, Hicks was able to really connect with people. “I had a couple of people I spent 30 minutes with. All I say is I'm willing to listen and God's willing to listen. When you're open with people and you allow yourself to be vulnerable they respond and they're willing to open up,” Hicks explained.
Hicks had a sense of mission in his work at the “Holy Spirit Car-wash.” “A lot of us are scared to open up. A lot of people say, 'I don't know how to pray'. But wherever two or more come together in worship there will you find God. God wants to know our wishes and desires,” said Hicks. Hicks has encountered all kinds of different prayer requests. “It's run the whole gamut from small things such as tests and one guy had a broken zipper, to big things like ill family members and loved ones. And there's often stress. A lot of stress! People forget about prayer and they don't have that release. They keep it bottled up inside. Then finally in a moment of prayer they just let go of the stress and they feel so much better.”
Rather than tastelessly reducing prayer to a drive-through activity, perhaps the “Holy Spirit Car-wash” was much more revolutionary in its essence. “It's amazing. You get to hear peoples' stories and you give them the opportunity to take a few minutes out of their busy schedules to approach the throne of God...I don' try to push people. It's more of an oasis. I'm hoping there'll be a positive response,” said Hicks. Perhaps, ironically, the spirit of this project runs counter to the drive-through mentality altogether in that it is in many ways a community builder that brings people together. Hicks hopes that the “Holy Spirit Car-wash” might even be resurrected sometime in the future.