Jerry Allen believes in the power of blessings.
So, over the last six years since he started riding a motorcycle regularly, he’s made it a point to attend the annual bike blessing at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church with the Lake Shore Chapter of Harley Owners Group.
Allen was was one of more than 600 to 700 motorcycle owners and upward of 1,000 people who participated in the 29th annual event on Sunday. Most of the riders began their ride at the Lake Shore Harley Davidson in Libertyville, Ill., and made the 26.4-mile trek to the church, 8760 37th Ave.
“Why do I come? Because the one year I missed it, I was in a couple of accidents,” said Allen, who parked his green 1200 Sportster amid the other colorful motorcycles that shone in the brilliant springtime sunlight.
In 2016, he suffered a broken arm and neck in the first motorcycle accident. In another minor accident that same year, he broke his pinky.
“You could call it superstitious, but that’s pretty much what it is. That’s why I come,” he said.
Joe Crago of Grayslake, Ill., echoed his friend’s sentiments.
“The one year I didn’t come out, I got hit by a car,” said Crago, who had an accident in 2016 as well. “We just want to be safe.”
The Rev. Carl Johnson, a retired pastor with Spirit Alive! Church, which teamed with St. Paul’s on the event, officiated the service from atop a ladder.
While he read the familiar Psalm 23, which many of the riders take with them, he also read from John:
“Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health. Just as it is well with your soul,” he said.
He then added his own twist, indicating that John was overjoyed when some of his “biking friends” testified to their faith.
“Namely how they biked in the truth,” he said. “I have no greater joy than this, says John, to hear that my biking friends are biking in Jesus.”
Drawing from the Hebrew word “ruach,” or the wind, Johnson told the group they knew the wind well.
“And, better than many of us, you know what it’s like to feel the wind blow on you. And, that’s what God wants for you,” he said. “God wants you to just celebrate the freedom on your hog, to celebrate that you are God’s child and when we hear you, we say, ‘Yes, there goes a kid of our God.’”
Also administering blessings were the Rev. Stacey Seger of Lord of Life Church, the Rev. Jonathan Barker of Grace Lutheran Church, and Debbie Hartfield, seminiarian at Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago.
Committed to the road
Diane Taber of Kenosha said she began riding motorcycles about 20 years ago and has been coming to the annual bike blessing for 13 years now.
“I think it’s a good thing to do because it’s getting harder to ride nowadays. It’s a lot more dangerous.”
But the appeal of the open road is what keeps Taber riding.
“Riding for me is like a second childhood,” said Taber.
Gary Smith of Kenosha, holding his 4-month-old grandson Harrison Robbins, said he’s been riding motorcycles since he was a teenager.
“My first bike was a Suzuki 550,” he said. “But a Harley has its own feel. It’s like you’re riding in the bike rather than on top of it. ... You’re part of the bike.”
He passed his love of riding to his son Jake, who has been coming to the blessing every year since he was a kid.
“It’s a great way to start the riding season,” Jake said.