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Bellingham UCC pedals faith in Bike-to-Church Sunday

By Rob Olason of Bellingham First Congregational UCC

For Krista Hunter, riding a bike to church on a Sunday morning was an act of faith. It meant committing to a 30-mile round trip, but she found it fun and inspirational, “even with the aches and pains.”

FCCB Bike Riders
Some of more than 20 Bellingham UCC members who rode bicycles to church in May. Photo by Dick Porter

“There was something motivating about coming together as a community and making a faith statement that we are willing to commit joyfully to healing God’s creation,” said Hunter, who joined with more than 20 other members of First Congregational Church of Bellingham (FCCB) on May 22 for the church’s first “Bike2Church Sunday.”

Church members have been exploring their role as caretakers of God’s creation since forming their “Green Team” on October 10, 2010. The date, 10-10-10, was chosen to coincide with’s day of worldwide environmental activism.

The Green Team is exploring how the church and its members can reduce their impact on the environment through educational events, such as an “Eco-faith” information series in February. Films with speakers from the state and local faith community discussed efforts to bring a faith component to environmental efforts.

One outcome of this focus is that FCCB Green Team member Sherry Pryde encouraged church members to reduce their fossil fuel consumption by using alternative means of transportation. She was aided by a local program, Smart Trips, that promotes reducing single-person car trips through carpooling, public transit, biking or walking.

At several coffee hours, Pryde enrolled members into the program, listing FCCB as their “work organization.”

When members record trips on the Smart Trips website, not only can they chart their own progress, but the accumulated miles and trips of all FCCB participants begins to show the impact of this collective effort, replacing hundreds of miles of single passenger car trips with a lower fossil fuel alternative.

Pryde was thrilled with how “our first Bike 2 Church event went and surprised by the turnout of people of diverse ages and cycling abilities.” She added, “Biking is an all inclusive and intergenerational activity that is good for the individual body, the family and the church community.”

Another participant, Janet Ott, spoke of the spiritual nature biking holds for her, equating it to a form of body prayer.

“I bike for the usual reasons: exercise, exploration, and saving gas. It is also a spiritual discipline where I can calm my ‘monkey mind’ and am in conversation with Spirit,” she said. “What a great way to start a morning of worship!”

Evan Ritchie turned the event into a family bike ride to church.

“Bike to church Sunday was indeed an act of faith,” he said. “We are charged to be good stewards of God’s creation, and this was an invitation to consider how to put that charge into practice even on a Sunday morning.

Riding requires greater intentionality than driving. No hurrying out the door with minutes to spare,” he said. “It requires preparation the night before, ensuring each bike for our family of four was in proper working order, that helmets, gloves and jackets were laid out and ready to go. On the morning of the ride, the energy around the breakfast table was heightened. The conversation during the ride was also energetic. I felt that each of these elements added to my mindfulness that morning.”

Ritchie appreciated the opportunity.

“Upon arriving at church, I was enjoying the endorphin rush and found myself to be more attentive despite the fact that I was not dressed in my ‘Sunday Best’,” he said.

He suggested he would continue this practice, “I plan to ride to church more often, and will encourage my family to join me. Maybe one of my daughters will suggest it.”

On completing her 30-mile round trip, Hunter still found joy in her personal commitment “to healing God’s creation.”

Aware that a single bike ride will not erase the massive volumes of carbon our industrial society injects into the atmosphere, she still sees the positive nature of such an act.

“While we may not heal God’s creation with one bike ride,” she said, “doing so can raise our awareness and that of others that our carbon-intensive lifestyle is damaging the earth to the point it will not be able to sustain life.”

As she pedaled her bike, Hunter found this simple act “brought home once again how I can make even greater efforts in my life and to engage in joyfulness along the way.”

After the service, bike riders gathered for cookies and lemonade and conversation at the church bike racks.

Then Pastor Tara Olsen Allen blessed the bikes and riders. Sufficiently refreshed, the group embarked on a “bike parade,” circumnavigating the church grounds.

Asked if FCCB would host a future Bike 2 Church Sunday, organizer Pryde responded; “Without a doubt.”

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Copyright Pacific Northwest Conference News © Summer 2011





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