TAYLORVILLE, Ill. — Yea, though Pastor Ted Marrinan and his wife, Jayna, drive through the valley of the shadow of outrageous gas prices, they will fear no evil: For GEM art with them.

GEM stands for Global Electric Motorcars LLC, and this striking American-made plug-in electric car — it looks like the bubble-shaped cockpit of a small helicopter without the rotors — has been with the Marrinans since they were living in Bay City, Mich., in 2005.

Afraid even back then of the terror of pump prices that rise upward by night and flieth heavenward by day, they spent $10,000 to buy the GEM when fuel hit $2 per gallon. "We said it was time to get something that didn't use gas," the Rev. Marrinan, 56, said.

Then came the call in 2007 to pastor the Bethel Baptist Church of Sharpsburg near Taylorville, and the couple promptly saddled up and brought the GEM with them. It had been legal to drive on Bay City streets, and they could do that happily in Taylorville until their Michigan registration ran out six months later.

It was at this point they discovered that the blessings of their going green quest for frugality had not yet rent the veil of suspicion among the city fathers of their new home: A request to drive the 35 mph GEM on the streets of Taylorville was denied. "They had several reasons, but none of them were any good," said Marrinan. "They just said 'no.'"

That was a kind of "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" moment, and the couple licked their gas pump wounds and Christian soldiered on. But they knew they had seen the Promised Land in Bay City and never did quite give up hope. Manna from heaven finally fell when Illinois law was changed in 2010 to permit the use of "low-speed" vehicles on Land of Lincoln roads: Taylorville raised no objections and let its people go forth in such vehicles as long as they did not lead themselves into temptation and travel roads with speed limits above 35 mph.

The law promptly heralded a grateful exodus back to major fuel savings for the Marrinans. They both have regular gas vehicles they use for out-of-town travel — Jayna Marrinan commutes to a job in Springfield — but for parish work such as visiting the sick and running errands and shopping, the GEM is the ideal choice.

"You can probably get the equivalent of 10 sacks of groceries in it," she said, pointing to the spacious vehicle, which seats two comfortably and has a big pickup-truck style back holding a locking trunk. "And all the savings," she adds. "It's insane; it's like, 'Are you joking?'"

Her husband proceeds to preach from the gospel according to frugality: "The equivalency in cost, if I was putting gas into the GEM, is that I would be getting almost 2,800 miles a gallon," he said proudly. Which means that if you compare the costs of charging the vehicle with juice to the $4-a-gallon price of fuel, that's how many miles you get for $4 worth of electricity.

The GEM is equipped with a heater, windshield wipers and washers, a tiny electronic dashboard and, from a dead flat battery, takes about four hours to charge plugged into a standard 110-volt outlet. The maximum range is 35 miles or so and, with a 50-foot extension cord carried on board and the modern preponderance of outside outlets, you're never far from a top-up.

"It's kind of like women who are pregnant," Jayna Marrinan said of the couple's memorized knowledge of geographical outlet distribution. "You know where all the restrooms are."

God helps those who help themselves, and so being bold doesn't hurt, either. Once, when he was low on power, the pastor persuaded his local bank to let him plug into their power system for a little pick-me-up. It must rank as the first time in history a customer said an "Amen" after getting a bank charge.

Information from: Herald & Review, http://www.herald-review.com