Motorcycle riders gather to bless their bikes04/24/2023 10:35PM ● By Steven Hoffman
Motorcycle riders realize more than most people how dangerous it is to travel the highways. Still, when the warm breezes of spring start to blow and the temperatures rise, there’s no stopping diehard bikers from climbing aboard and taking to the streets.
The promise of the wind in their faces and the lure of the road challenges likewise prompt them to seek the company of like-minded bike devotees at what is called locally “The Blessing of the Bikes.”
For 13 years now, several hundred riders and their bikes have joined in Kennett Township at The Power Place Church parking lot in the early spring to renew old friendships and invoke the oversight of God with prayers for the next summer of travel.
Honor Bound Motor Ministry makes its home at that building on Rosedale Road and attracts a large congregation of motorcycle riders. Jeff Smack is the chaplain of the group, and he served as master of ceremonies at the get-together last Sunday morning.
“Would you consider this opening day for riding?” Smack was asked.
“Absolutely!” he replied.
The bikes started arriving shortly after 9 a.m., but they kept coming in singles and in groups for the next two hours.
The bikes were predominately Harley-Davidsons, with their signature “potato-potato” rumblings booming out. But in total there were all models lined up, including a row of dirt bikes and even child-size cycles. The overall fashion statement of riders was black leather with club patches and slogans sewn on.
As the clock moved toward the 11:30 a.m. hour of the blessing ceremony, the crowds and the vehicle numbers grew. A large increase came when the congregation from the church service spilled out.
The visitors came from many locations – some locally in southern Chester County, but others from as far away as North Carolina and New Jersey. They talked among themselves about the winter just passed. Some said they rode through the cold: “We like bikes more than we hate the cold,” said Chris, who is from Philadelphia.
Dot Smrke added, “As long as there’s not snow and ice, we’re out there.”
The riders uniformly detested the residual ice on the streets.
Others said they cleaned and polished their bikes for opening day, while others just climbed up on them and made the trip. “I wonder what that green pollen stuff is,” one rider said.
Smack called the crowd to order at about 11:30, and they played the “Star Spangled Banner” and recited the Pledge of Allegiance. The ceremony then moved on to the actual blessing of the bikes, which consisted of several members of Honor Bound circulating among the vehicles and their owners to pray with each individually.
The prayers appeared to be affirmations of their resolve to keep faith in their higher power deities throughout the coming season rather than an invocation requesting protection by God from highway accidents and injuries.
The prayers were followed by refreshments including hot dogs from Kennett Square’s Taylor Oil Company and pulled pork from a company called Glory Barbecue and Catering. Glory’s owner, Chuck Powell, provided the food and service gratis with the hope of growing his new company.
Also present staffing a table at the event were representatives of ABATE. The acronym stands for American Bikers Aimed Toward Education. They are widely known for their opposition to legislation forcing them to wear helmets. But they have several other lobbying missions.
Tim, from Parkesburg, first clarified the helmet statement. “We’re not against helmets; we just believe it is a choice. Even without legislation 70 percent of bikers choose to wear helmets anyway,” he said.
He also listed causes ABATE addresses including limiting police from profiling bikers; resisting limiting the ages of bikers; permitting bikers to modify their bikes; and giving biker groups the right to regulate traffic around their parades.
He also commented on the prevalence of motorcycle riding instruction lessons, which can take the form of after-school programs and government-run motorcycle safety courses.
Some of the visitors at the Kennett Township event said that bike blessings are not unique in the region.
“There’s one in Philadelphia next week,” one rider said.