By Noah Haglund Herald Writer
ARLINGTON — Jesus never rode a motorcycle, at least not in a literal sense.
But at Arlington Assembly of God, they’ll tell you the Saviour knew a thing or two about staying on the road, about keeping focused and forging ahead, no matter what storm clouds loom.
The Arlington church took these lessons to heart Sunday, as they geared up for their third annual group motorcycle ride, an event that’s equal parts good fun and serious Christian ministry.
“This is just a great opportunity for bikers to get together in fellowship and worship under one roof,” Pastor Bill Hartman said. “A lot of churches are doing it.”
During Sunday’s service, it was impossible not to notice three motorcycles parked prominently in the church sanctuary, gleaming with chrome and metallic-flecked paint. One, a blood-red Honda Fury, belonged to Hartman, 52.
Another, a navy-blue Honda Valkerie, belonged to his son, Nate Hartman, 27, the church’s youth pastor.
The bikes aren’t there normally, they were there for the special occasion.
The younger Hartman told the congregation a humorous story from his own life, about being ill-prepared for his first long road trip on a motorcycle and persevering, despite getting drenched in the rain. Then his sermon took a reflective turn, to talk about Jesus Christ leading them through storms of the financial, emotional and spiritual variety.
“If you don’t have anybody to help you through the storm, I just want you to know that Jesus will be there, right with you,” he said.
As the service drew to a close, about three dozen bikers walked to the front of the church to receive a pre-ride blessing from a visiting minister sporting a black leather vest covered in motorcycle patches.
“We ask that we continue straight and not veer from the road has we head down your road,” prayed Tim Greeley of HonorBound Motorcycle Ministries.
Greeley remembers attracting stares in the early 1980s when he would show up at his Auburn church astride a bike. Now, it’s become normal. Greeley has ministered at South Dakota’s annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, where he said hundreds of faith-based groups are active.
“Not only has our culture changed, but our church has changed with it,” said Greeley, who is 58 and said he started riding when he was 15. “We need to be relevant. Jesus was relevant.”
On Sunday, members of the Arlington church formed their own chapter of HonorBound Motorcycle Ministries.
Outside the church, a dozen bikes lined the parking lot on North Stillaguamish Avenue, most destined to go on the afternoon group ride to Bellingham, via Chuckanut Drive and Highway 9.
Allen Wesson of Oso beamed at his 1976 Gold Wing, an early example of Honda’s classic touring motorcycle.
The 49-year-old arborist, who attends Arlington Assembly of God, said he owns four different Gold Wings in different stages of restoration. His ‘76, however, gives him special pride, even though he planned to ride a newer model Sunday afternoon.
He spoke of rescuing it from a Machias barn where it had long sat unused. You might say that by restoring it, he brought the bike its salvation.
“That’s the reason I love this bike,” he said. “I knew I could make something out of something that was neglected.”
Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465, firstname.lastname@example.org.