LIMA - The Rev. Bryan Bucher, of Shawnee United Methodist Church, received his motorcycle endorsement in 2005. However, he grew up riding dirt bikes and all-terrain vehicles on the hills of West Virginia.
“I had a friend who had a Honda 250 and another friend who owned a three-wheeler and I putzed on them up mountains and through creeks,” said Bucher.
Being hired by the Rev. Joseph Bishman in 2004 at Shawnee United Methodist Church was the impetus that spurred him to get his motorcycle license. The Rev. Bishman had started the Blessing of the Bikes, an event for motorcycle riders to have their motorcycles blessed as well as the rider, held in May. Bucher saw the importance of this event and has continued this tradition since.
“I don’t know how I could have had any credibility with bikers if I didn’t ride,” said Bucher.
He took the class at Apollo Career Center and obtained his motorcycle endorsement in 2005. He purchased his 2001 Kawasaki Voyager in 2007, so he’s owned it for approximately 14 years. The fact that the bike was reliable and affordable was the reason he purchased it, despite the running jokes from the biker crowd that he has an “uncool” bike.
Bucher likes riding his motorcycle as it takes his mind off of things.
“You can’t be thinking of anything else while riding. When driving a car you can zone out, but you can’t do that on a bike. You must be fully aware when riding every moment on a bike. You have to stay present in what you’re doing the whole time, which means you can’t think of anything else. If you have a lot of stress, take a break and go on a bike ride. To me there is no better way but to ride. You’re just engaged; completely unencumbered. In terms of nature, you see the whole sky and landscape. There is no greater sense of freedom than when on a bike. You just feel alive,” said Bucher.
This year marks the 21st year for the Blessing of the Bikes, which will be held at 11 a.m., Sunday, May 2, at Shawnee United Methodist Church, 2600 Zurmehly Road, Lima, OH 45806. Registration starts at 9 a.m. Of those 21 years, Bucher has conducted and/or been a part of them for 17 years.
“Everything will be outside, including the service. So if you come and don’t have a motorcycle to sit on, bring your own chair,” said Bucher.
The Blessing of the Bikes is not just blessing each individual motorcycle and rider, although that’s a large part of it. There is also a sermon geared toward the biker crowd.
“It’s an opportunity for them to make peace with the Lord and others through the grace of Jesus Christ. That is really the aim of the whole thing,” said Bucher.
With his blessing each individual bike and its rider, Bucher has come to feel comfortable with the bikers, and thus their comments about his own motorcycle.
“The running joke is how uncool my bike is. Most people ride Harleys. My bike is not cool. I get to make fun of the Harley riders, telling them their parts are always falling off. The Gold Wing riders I joke that they are old. I tell them I am a member of the Kawasaki Owners Group, and we are dedicated to the environment. We clean up the Harley parts and help the Gold Wing riders off their bikes,” laughed Bucher.
The success has been great at the Blessing of the Bikes with the largest event drawing 1,200 to 1,300 bikes.
“One year we just had perfect weather. And in early May, bikers are starting to get back out. It’s the unofficial opening of riding season. Our service is geared toward bikers and that sense of freedom and connecting with creation. It’s nice in a spiritual way. It’s a simple message of God’s grace. It takes us a while to bless them, as there are a lot,” said Bucher.
Bucher is also hopeful that the Blessing of the Bikes event motivates those driving vehicles to watch out for motorcyclists.
“It’s a way of reminding people to be safe,” said Bucher.
This year is the last year the Rev. Bryan Bucher will be participating in the Blessing of the Bikes. He is moving to Cincinnati, Ohio to another church.
“I will really, really miss it. Definitely it is the most diverse group of people that come together for a worship service in this community all year. There are different races, different cultures, different socio-economic spectrums. Getting all these people in this one place is really joyous. To me that is the church at its best. It’s one of the greatest honors of my life to have been a part of. All of the bikers I have baptized and bikers I have done funerals for …” said Bucher.
He talked of a cross that hangs from his motorcycle.
“I have a cross on my bike given to me by a son of a guy whose service I officiated. The man was Catholic and had not been a part of a faith community. I think he was in his late 60’s or early 70’s. This man was invited to our Blessing of the Bikes. The guy came. His wife didn’t know he came. When he got back home he told his wife he had been angry with God all of his life and he was able to set that aside. Two months later he was diagnosed with cancer and he died. His son made me this cross and said any time you wonder if what you’re doing is making a difference, look at this cross and think of my dad,” said Bucher. “It’s overwhelming if you think about it. I get far more out of it than anyone else does.”