Church celebrates 30 years of #039;driving#039; home a message

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 6, 2002

The cars rumble down the gravel lane known as Eclipse Avenue.

You would be hard-pressed to fit two cars along the narrow drive. But it's a familiar journey for many, some for the past 30 years.

Through the years, Iowa and Minnesota residents have made the weekly Sunday night pilgrimage to Mona, Iowa to hear old-time gospel music, with some bluegrass thrown in on occasion.

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But it's not your traditional concert.

The Mona Lutheran Church has been hosting the weekly Sunday night outdoor drive-in concerts every summer since 1972. Wayne Hanson, a church member and treasurer of the drive-in services, said the idea started when the church pastor figured a Sunday night void needed to be filled at the building located about a mile south of Lyle.

Church members converted an old chicken coop into a stage where musicians could perform for the audience. The cars would drive in and park in front of the stage in the parking lot and also in a grassy lot adjacent to the church.

Needless to say, the idea was a hit.

"It isn't as many as it used to be, but we had 175 cars at one point," Hanson said.

That happened about three years after the services began. Now, "we average about 25 cars a night," Hanson said.

And at the end of each outdoor show, the crowd lets the performers know if they've done well.

"They honk their horns instead of clapping for applause," Hanson said.

Church Pastor Lydia Mittag said an array of singers is brought in for those in attendance, some of whom travel 50 miles weekly to hear the sounds and renew acquaintances. Different types of Christian music are presented at the concerts, but there's still some favorite ones that return.

"We're trying to invite in new music, while trying to keep some of what we've had for the past seven years," she said.

A few years ago, however, there was an important addition to the concerts that's helped everyone cope with those muggy, summer nights.

Air conditioning.

"That has made a huge difference for the people here," Mittag said.

Hanson agreed.

"It makes quite a difference when it's hot and humid out like tonight," said Hanson on a recent Sunday night. In fact, there's only been a few outdoor services this year, although the church hopes to move the concerts back outside if the temperatures cool down.

The concerts start at 7 p.m. and last for about an hour. A time for fellowship takes place immediately after. The latter usually involves coffee and ice cream and a free-will offering is taken both for the refreshments and the concert to help defray expenses.

Dan Fields can be reached at 434-2230 or by e-mail at