The blessing of the bikes
KIRKLAND – Roy Smith and Joyce Gregg came from Rockford. Teresa Alagna and her husband, all the way from Winnebago. Others came from much closer. Saying they heard about it from friends, the motorcycle enthusiasts all came to Franklin Township Park in Kirkland on Saturday for the same reason: to participate in the Blessing of the Bikes.
“We all have to look out for each other,” Gregg said, looking overhead. “It doesn’t hurt to have that angel above us.”
“Any luck you can get is better than nothing,” Smith said, adding that to him the event is a remembrance of those who aren’t there.
“They all know someone who has died on a bike,” Jackie Wells, the pastor of the Herbert and Kingston United Methodist churches, said. “A lot of them are here to raise awareness for bike safety. It’s becoming more common.”
Wells and several lay people from the “cluster of Methodist churches” from Kirkland, Kingston and Genoa offered blessings to bikers. They offered blessings for bikes, personal blessings or whatever the bikers wanted.
“We pray for safety,” Ron Nichols, Northern Illinois representative of the Christian Motorcycle Association, said. Although there are signs everywhere about watching out for motorcycles, he said not all motorists pay attention to them.
“We’ll also pray for whatever they may need,” fellow member Daniel A. “Bandit” Roethle added.
Nichols explained the Christian Motorcycle Association is an international organization with 150,000 members, including the local headquarters in Rockford, called Steel Wheels of Rockford.
In addition to motorcycles, those on bicycles, such as Doug Finkle, received a blessing as well.
Mary Ellen Taylor, who started the non-denominational event last year, said she “wanted to do something bigger this year.” Besides the blessings, there was live music, testimonials, a kids zone, a lunch counter and a baked goods sale to benefit a local youth mission trip. “It’s just a fun day in the park,” the Kirkland woman said.