Motorcycle Manifesto

This is my article from the most recent Cathedral News:

One of the many joys of being an Orthodox Christian is the ability to participate in our active liturgical life.  We have, beyond the usual Sunday morning services, plenty of other church services in which we can take part.  These range from weekday morning liturgies for a particular saint to the more specialized evening services of Holy Week or the fifteen days of August, to the sacraments of baptism, marriage and ordination.  There are also a number of services or “sacramentals” that take place outside the church.  These can range from an invocation at a meal to things like house blessings and graveside burial services.  The number of people attending these services can vary from the 1100 or so we have in church for Good Friday to the 2 or 3 household members who may be present for a house blessing.

It can be tough to bring people who are not Orthodox into church.  Many of use don’t think in terms of evangelizing non-churchgoers and bringing friends to church.  Outside of the Grecian Festival and occasional events like blood drives, most of the people present at our services or social events are Orthodox.  We are called, however, as Christians, to bring the gospel to the whole world.  This past summer, we had an event that, although it is now several months in the rearview mirror, has stayed with me as an inspirational church/public encounter and as a template for one of the ways we can evangelize the unchurched.

There exists a short prayer in our priestly service book for the blessing of a vehicle or vehicles.  Occasionally someone will get a new car and ask us to bless it, which we of course do willingly.  This summer my friend Fr. Peter and I decided to hold a blessing of the motorcycles event as a way to bring Orthodoxy to people who otherwise might not be exposed to it.  So we planned the event: a blessing of the water and then the bikes followed by a ride to a farm in Monson, Mass. to have some ice cream.  We had Orthodox people from the community who have motorcycles recruit friends and spread the word.

The day of the event came – we did it in Southbridge on a Sunday afternoon, and may hold part of it next year in Worcester – and we weren’t sure what our turnout would be.  We ended up having around 30 bikes and close to 50 people – many doubled up – as well as some spectators who didn’t ride.  We did the blessing and then departed for the farm, where we enjoyed a spectacular view as well some good home-made ice cream.  In and of itself it was a very enjoyable event – we all had a blast – but more importantly it was a great evangelical tool.  Here we had over 50 people, some of whom were Orthodox Christians from the Cathedral and several other churches, but most of whom were not Orthodox.  And they got to see a fully-Orthodox agiasmo service and the aforementioned blessing of the vehicles prayer conducted by two appropriately-vested priests.  The fellowship part at the farm brought many questions about our rituals and our faith.

The blessing of the motorcycles brought many non-Orthodox and Orthodox together in a fully Orthodox context.  It is truly a model for one method of evangelizing the unchurched.  While we must always do our best to bring new people to church (and to inform and educate them appropriately, since encountering our liturgy for the first time can be an intimidating experience), we should also seek out other fully-Orthodox ways of bringing Orthodoxy to those outside of the church.


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