Colorado church’s spiritual sprockets
By Mike Givler | Presbyterians Today | Photos courtesy of First Presbyterian Church of Fort Collins
It’s only fitting that a state whose official motto is “Nothing without the Deity” would invite residents to take in God’s handiwork from the vantage point of handlebars. But that’s exactly what Colorado does, inviting folks to pedal away during the state’s designated Bike Month each June.
While the monthlong promotion of biking for health and recreation features festivals and safety awareness seminars, the highlight of the celebration is its Bike to Work Day, held on the last Wednesday of the month. And with the Bike to Work Day route running adjacent to First Presbyterian Church of Fort Collins, Colorado, it seemed only natural for the congregation to get involved.
“We’re right on the main bike and pedestrian way through the downtown area,” said Miriam Nelson, director of welcome and fellowship at First Presbyterian. “It seemed like the perfect opportunity to be a presence in the community for a positive good.”
When it participated in Bike to Work Day last year for the first time, the number of volunteers willing to help, coupled with the overwhelming response from the community at the church’s rest stop, was a clear sign that the church should more fully live into the city’s vision of being a cycling community.
With Fort Collins annually listed among the best bicycle cities in the United States by cycling enthusiasts, First Presbyterian certainly hasn’t ignored its city’s passion.
The congregation has been a drop-off hub for the city’s yearly Bikes for Tykes donation drive that helps young riders find a bike if they are in need. First Presbyterian has also created a makeshift bike repair shop near the fellowship hall, bringing in mechanics to repair bikes for veterans and the homeless.
But when nearly two dozen bakers agreed to prepare muffins for the church’s Bike to Work stop in 2019, attracting about 350 cyclists that morning, it was obvious that First Presbyterian needed to keep the momentum going.
“We ran out of muffins and got great reviews,” said Joseph Moore, the church’s parish associate for mission and outreach, adding, “It became clear that we needed to inspire more people to ride to church.”
That’s when its Bike to Church Sunday was born. Held on the last Sunday in June 2019, Bike to Church encouraged worshipers to leave their cars at home and travel to church in a healthier, more eco-friendly way. The result was several dozen members who rode their bikes, traveling as far as 10 miles, to participate in the church’s new initiative.
Since the Bike to Church Sunday, First Presbyterian now has people “who regularly ride their bike to church,” which is a blessing in many ways, Moore adds, explaining that the church’s parking lot is not big enough for all the cars.
“There’s a practical aspect for us, as well as a health component. The more people who ride their bikes, the more parking we have for families with young children and older adults,” said Moore.
This movement has caught new energy surrounding cycling at First Presbyterian, as a new bike rack was recently installed front and center of the church building.
“We had a bike rack for years around one of the sides of the church,” said Moore. “But what you put in front says this is what we value. So, we put the bike rack by the front doors to the sanctuary, in part to say we think this is important. There was something symbolic about the front doors to the church being the best parking spot for bikes.”
First Presbyterian is working toward becoming an Earth Care Congregation, a certification offered by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) that encourages good environmental stewardship by its churches. One activity that qualifies toward certification is Bike to Church Sunday.
“There are a lot of people who choose to bike here because it’s good for them and their bodies, but also because it’s good for the Earth,” Nelson said.
This year, the word about the Bike to Church event will be more widespread in Fort Collins as the church ramps up promotion of the event.
“If we can encourage people to be healthy, if we can cut down how much carbon we use and say we’re a place that values all that, that’s a win for everyone,” Moore said.
Mike Givler is the communications coordinator for the Synod of the Trinity in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania.
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Categories: Presbyterians Today
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