By Jordan Cohen
The Rev. Jeff Baker of Christ Episcopal Church said the liturgy he was about to perform Saturday afternoon in the church parking lot off Atlantic Northeast required him to wear something other than his usual vestments.
So, in addition to his white clerical collar and a black stole with the shield of the Episcopal Church, the priest donned a Harley-Davidson sweat shirt, a Hells Angels pin beneath his left shoulder and a black bandanna adorned with Celtic crosses on his head — apparel closely associated with the motorcycle riders who showed up in the parking lot to receive Father Baker’s “Blessing of the Bikes and Riders.”
“They are all God’s children, and they’re not the people you typically see in the pews on Sundays,” Father Baker said. “We want to make them feel as comfortable and as welcome as we can.”
The priest pointed out, however, that he’s not a motorcyclist.
“I think it’s awesome and necessary,” said Brianna Sharp, 47, of Warren, who rode one of the 15 shining and colorful motorcycles parked in the lot and is not a member of the church. “You need a blessing in every aspect of life,” she said.
Father Baker said the idea for the first-ever bike blessing came from Brian Begg, 47, of Warren, whose parents belonged to the church.
“We do blessings for the animals, and I thought we should have them for safe riding,” Begg said, noting that May is Motorcycle Awareness Month.
Victor Scurry of Warren, at 73 was the oldest bike rider in attendance, said he appreciates Father Baker’s prayers because he feels riders are constantly at risk.
“We need to be blessed because all of those cars are out to get us,” said Scurry, a Vietnam veteran whose black vest was filled with military ribbons and medals, and who owns a deep-red Classic Deluxe Harley-Davidson.
Not all of the cycle owners were older adults.
Thomas Webber, 18, a welding student at Trumbull Career and Technical Center, said he just wanted to see what was going on. “I didn’t know what to make of this, but I’m glad I came,” he said. “This is a good gathering.”
While conducting the liturgy, Father Baker read a passage from the Book of Ezekiel, chapter 3, verse 13 that he noted was particularly appropriate: “…[A]nd the wheels rose along with them for the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels.”
“Bet you didn’t know wheels were mentioned in the Bible,” Father Baker said to his congregation of motorcycle enthusiasts. “Bless all of you, and may you always arrive safe and sound at your destination.”
After the liturgy, the priest offered to bless each cycle with holy water and pray for any individual rider who was interested. “That’s up to each of you, and I’ll try not to get your motorcycles dirty,” he said.
No one in the two-wheeled congregation turned him down.