Biking for Jesus (and helping curb climate change)

Posted by on March 12th, 2008 at 2:33 pm

(Photo sent in by a reader.)

According to an article published last Sunday by the Associated Press, a group of Southern Baptist leaders have signed a declaration stating that, “current evidence of global warming is “substantial,” and that the threat is too grave to wait for perfect knowledge about whether, or how much, people contribute to the trend.”

The group represents 16.3 million members and is the largest Protestant group in the U.S. That’s a pretty big constituency — imagine if just a fraction of them started riding a bike to church…

Here in Portland, Hinson Baptist Church (not affiliated with any other Baptist group) is doing their part to encourage bike use.

The marquee at Hinson Baptist
Church on SE Salmon and 20th.
(Photo: Elly Blue)

Community Outreach coordinator Jim Evernden recently put, “Ride your bike to church” on their marquee and he says, “It’s just part of trying to get people thinking about how they get to church. It’s something we’re working on.”

Evernden says a lot of Christians used to not take climate very seriously, but now, “they’re realizing it’s part of our world, and we’ve got to do something about it.”

Hinson has partnered up with the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) and the Community Cycling Center (CCC) for a series of events this spring. The BTA will hold a bike safety workshop at the church in May and the CCC will show up in April to help with a free bike tune-up day.

When they held the free bike tune-up day last year, Evernden says over 100 people showed up. He adds that the events are open to anyone in the community, not just church-goers.

Evernden also says he’d like to partner with the BTA to hold a friendly competition with other churches to see who has the highest number of bike commuters in the congregation. Maybe the BTA’s Bike Commute Challenge should add a “Church” category to their contest next year!

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

52 Comments
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    DJ Hurricane March 12, 2008 at 2:39 pm

    Wow, and only 20 years after everybody else figured it out. Amazing!

    Also, this just in: The world isn\’t 12,000 years old, and the Earth revolves around the Sun!

    Anyway, yeah ride your bike to church in Mississippi and get one step closer to Jesus when you\’re crushed by all your fellow congregants\’ monster trucks.

    [ok, stopping now]

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    nuovorecord March 12, 2008 at 2:48 pm

    Glad to see that more religious groups are getting serious about this issue. I\’ve always been puzzled at most religion\’s attitude towards climate change. If you believe God created the Earth, shouldn\’t you be leading the effort to take better care of it?

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    Mmann March 12, 2008 at 2:50 pm

    Yes, the BTA should add a \”church (sanctuary?)\” category to the challenge. But so many of the reasons biking is a good thing to do, have to do with care for the well-being of others and an awareness of how small actions matter in a larger context. For many of us these are issues of faith as well.

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    girl on a bike March 12, 2008 at 2:53 pm

    I had a debate about this with a born-again back when I was in high school, and she told me her (and her religion\’s) take on it was \”The apocalypse is coming anyway, and Jesus is coming back to take \’us\’ somewhere special, so why even bother being concerned with the physical state of this planet since it\’s clearly only temporary?\”

    I\’m not saying it makes sense (it doesn\’t), but that\’s what she said.

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    Peter W March 12, 2008 at 2:53 pm

    Speaking of churches and the bike commute challenge…

    I\’ve been thinking about how the BCC could expand to include other types of groups.

    A church is a different sort of group and the BCC software would have to treat it differently. A couple problems come up: first, how many members does a church have? Maybe a church is more of an \”open\” social group with an unbounded number of potential members (or maybe it is a closed group, with a fixed membership size, but you still have to realize that the members are the employees + churchgoers).

    Anyway, I\’d be curious to hear what people think of the idea of having something like \’social groups\’ that could include churches but it could also include things like \’BikePortland readers\’.

    I\’d think one advantage of opening it up to different types of groups is it enables that many more spheres of influence to push people towards cycling.

    (Note that I\’m just a random guy with no control over the BCC software, except I do occasionally send comments to the BTA, which I\’m a member of.)

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    Aaron Brown March 12, 2008 at 2:57 pm

    We should be welcoming this news with open arms. The goal of bikeportland, the BTA and the larger bike community should be to get more people on bicycles, regardless of religious affiliation, regional stereotypes, or anything else. I may not usually find myself in political agreement with a group of Southern Baptists, but now that they are on board, the bikeportland community should be actively encouraging engagement with all forms of community organizations, be they corportate residential or religious.

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    Carl March 12, 2008 at 3:07 pm

    I\’ve always wanted to see \”bike to church\” events during Pedalpalooza, but being wayward and unaffiliated with any local flocks, I\’ve never been able to spark such a thing.

    Care to post a Pedalpalooza event, Mr. Evernden?
    http://www.shift2bikes.org/cal/viewpp2008.php

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    Carl March 12, 2008 at 3:08 pm

    PS
    I\’m also a big fan of Hinson\’s \”take Trimet to church\” signs when they post the nearby bus lines. Great work!

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    Andy March 12, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    I think it would be cool to have other groups affiliations tracked in the BCC. I don\’t know how many other people at my church commute by bike, but I think most of them should (I\’ll let the retirees slide). It would be cool to be able to say, \”Look, the synagogue down the street had more than twice as many people commuting as us. We need to get with it.\”

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    David Feldman March 12, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    I\’ll second Aaron Brown on this. It\’s good to see the message getting out beyond secular and progressive communities.

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    joe adamski March 12, 2008 at 3:23 pm

    A favorite phrase I\’ve ofter heard is that \”we are all at different stages of development\”; referring to spiritual awareness. It also applies to worldly awareness. Don\’t be too smug or amused/bemused by others late-to-the-dance. Better later than not at all.

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    Metal Cowboy March 12, 2008 at 3:36 pm

    Amen, Aaron #6. We should embrace and champion anyone and everyone who comes to the river to be saved by the bike! Bikes don\’t care what color or creed you are, neither should fellow riders. Me, I\’m a fallen away Catholic with Budhist tendencies (meaning in most situations I\’m blanketed by guilt followed by a peaceful river of peace) but in the saddle… I\’m just a big white boy having a good time.

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    todd March 12, 2008 at 3:36 pm

    semi-related is this christian pro-bike/anti-car thing: http://www.geezmagazine.org/demotorize/

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    bahueh March 12, 2008 at 3:37 pm

    finally, the catholic church picks a fight worth fighting…
    maybe finally they\’ll quit bickering about the 30 year old Roe vs. Wade decision now….ya, right..talk about late to the dance…

    I have always thought most denominations could have so much potential towards bringing good actions into the world opposed to all the judgement and divisiveness they foster..maybe its time to start coming around..

    now would someone please really explain to them how dinosaurs existed…and that abstinence programs do NOT work…

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    peder horner March 12, 2008 at 3:48 pm

    Thanks for the well-written and informed post Jonathan.

    While some liturgical churches may have greater ridership than others, Protestants will always have problems getting their members to bike to church, since they usually do not have such a parish-type setup or mentality. Protestants are not confined, so to speak, to their neighborhood gathering so much as Catholics, Anglicans, and Eastern Orthodox are.

    Because of the \”community\” aspect of the parish system, liturgical churches should have better ability to encourage their faithful to come on two wheels rather than four.

    From what I know of it, Hinson is very neighborhood-centric, so they may be somewhat more successful than a typical Protestant church. Also, \”city\” churches should be more successful in this endeavor than suburban churches simply due to the commute distances involved.

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    toddistic March 12, 2008 at 3:52 pm

    I\’ve ridden my bike to church fairly regularly. It\’s actually quite nice, just have to watch out for the \”late to church\” drivers (haha).

    Especally in Portland, there are a growing number of churches that are more \”progressive\” such as Imago Dei that meets at Franklin High School and Evergreen Community that meets at the NW Lucky Lab on Sundays.

    Imago Dei focuses on environmental stewardship of the Earth as a Christian response to a Biblical mandate. After God created man He told us to care for the earth (Genesis 1:26-30).

    Food for thought, we aren\’t all right wing, pro-Bush, pro-capitalism sheep as so often painted.

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    L March 12, 2008 at 4:04 pm

    #13: what are you rambling about? Hinson is a Baptist church, not Catholic. Why the Catholic church was even mentioned, I\’m not sure.

    In any case, please do bother to do the slightest bit research before you bring your broad brush to paint all Christians as Bible literalist, 8-day earthers.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolution_and_the_Roman_Catholic_Church
    Pope Benedict XVI:
    \”According to the widely accepted scientific account, the universe erupted 15 billion years ago in an explosion called the \’Big Bang\’ and has been expanding and cooling ever since. Later there gradually emerged the conditions necessary for the formation of atoms, still later the condensation of galaxies and stars, and about 10 billion years later the formation of planets. In our own solar system and on earth (formed about 4.5 billion years ago), the conditions have been favorable to the emergence of life. While there is little consensus among scientists about how the origin of this first microscopic life is to be explained, there is general agreement among them that the first organism dwelt on this planet about 3.5 – 4 billion years ago. Since it has been demonstrated that all living organisms on earth are genetically related, it is virtually certain that all living organisms have descended from this first organism. \”

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    John Russell March 12, 2008 at 4:15 pm

    Apparently, the Vatican also condemned pollution this past week. And that\’s nearly what, a quarter of the people in America? There sure are some nice churches along some bike boulevards I often ride on, now it\’s just time to show them what they\’re there for.

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    john March 12, 2008 at 4:16 pm

    Yes I too have been given the impression that since the second coming is neigh, why bother with global warming? My response is, well if you destory the house God gave you, do you really think He\’s going to let you into His house?

    But also Global warming is just a minor issue compared to all the other \”sin\” that cars \”committ\”. Resource earth raping, animal killing, including humans, cancer producing tire dust among other things, and on and on, reason for war, etc, etc..

    Still remember a super serious religious type so happy he got hired into car safety because it was \”holy to be saving people\”. Hmmmm I pondered, so you thinks its better to hand out bullet proof vests, then to end or limit flying bullets?

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    joeb March 12, 2008 at 4:44 pm

    Where’s Pastor Ted Haggard when you need him? In Hinson’s neighborhood, they need to be more focused on pagans and gay people.

    Hinson’s marquee along with their Thursday night Farmers Market really does a lot to give the church a progressive community centric feel. Way to go, imo.

    I hope you all know my opening paragraph is nullified by the mention of Pastor Ted.

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    Max March 12, 2008 at 5:42 pm

    I think it\’s great that Hinson is doing this, but I rode by Sunday morning and saw a lot of SUVs and no bikes. I\’ll give em time though, I got plenty.

    Like most people above, I am happy to hear the church is recognizing that we need to do something. A Christian friend of mine decided to get a degree in \”Environmental Studies\” at UCLA, and when she told people at her church what she was studying they would scoff or talk about what a \”propagandist\” study it was.

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    Matthew March 12, 2008 at 6:03 pm

    That is great.

    There is another advantage, many churches have parking problems on Sunday mornings, so the immediate neighbors of the church are often not very fond of the church… With more people bicycling, that problem very quickly goes away.

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    Crash N. Burns March 12, 2008 at 6:13 pm

    Acceptance is the new Black, err, I mean Pink.

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    Elliot March 12, 2008 at 7:07 pm

    Re: the story headline, you can bike for Jesus, but you\’d have to huff and puff pretty hard in order to emit enough CO2 to \”Bike for […] climate change\”. Maybe it\’d be easier to bike for climate stability?

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    Jeff March 12, 2008 at 8:16 pm

    There IS NO sign of a great doomsday or second coming. No Armageddon. STILL no evidence for god (I\’m talking about the classical omnipotent anthropomorphic god) in spite of ever increasing evidence contrary to any supernatural existence. I\’m riding for Atheism….

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    John Russell March 12, 2008 at 8:51 pm

    Jeff 25,

    Despite what you say, the ARE signs of climate change. So regardless of religion, more bikes is rarely a bad thing.

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    Scott Mizée March 13, 2008 at 4:35 am

    As a Jesus follower, myself, I am very happy to see a post that contains both Jesus and Bike in the same subject line. Thanks for the post, Jonathan!

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    Scott Mizée March 13, 2008 at 4:37 am

    Oh… and if anyone ever wants to bike commute with me to my church (mentioned above http://www.imagodeicommunity.com) I\’d be happy to meet you near my home close to the University of Portland. It is a great ride. We currently meet in Franklin High School at 9am, 10:30am and 12pm on Sundays. There is going to be a rockin Easter Service and I am really excited about it!

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    heather andrews March 13, 2008 at 4:42 am

    A significant segment of Imago Dei churchgoers ride to church, including a friend of mine. Their large community meets every week at Franklin High School, at 52nd and Woodward.

    http://www.imagodeicommunity.com/

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    Scott Mizée March 13, 2008 at 4:46 am

    Who is your friend, Heather? You can e-mail me off list scott dot mizee [at] npgreenway.org

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    Scott Mizée March 13, 2008 at 5:28 am

    I have yet to make up my mind on this issue of \”human induced global warming\”– Global warming itself seems to be an undisputable fact, but the cause still seems debatable.

    I recently came across this interesting video on a bunch of scientists gathering to discuss this issue:
    http://www.citizenlink.org/CLtopstories/A000006737.cfm

    ok… I\’ll stop hogging the comments page now. and echo Toddistic in number 16

    Food for thought, we aren\’t all right wing, pro-Bush, pro-capitalism sheep as so often painted.

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    E March 13, 2008 at 7:22 am

    Ride my bike to church? Riding my bike IS church!!

    😀
    tree-hugging earth worshipper

    Seriously though, way to go Hinson. More people on bikes is better regardless of what else they believe.

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    Me 2 March 13, 2008 at 8:25 am

    Scott #31,

    500 \”scientists\” might sound impressive that is 0.000001% of the scientific community who have found substantial evidence that global warming is significantly driven by human activities.

    This conference was a minor event put on by a right wing think tank involving largely scientists who, while I don\’t doubt their educational background, receive substantial amounts of money from fossil fuel industries who have a pretty strong economic incentive to cast doubt on human caused climate change.

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    augustusann March 13, 2008 at 8:35 am

    This thread is about biking to church not inviting to church.
    As with many churches (not all) this one referenced is very anti-gay as well as traditionally ant-many other things I do not want to have to hear/read about while enjoying my time on this site. I have the rest of the world for that. Please keep your invites on a more personal level.

    (#28
    Oh… and if anyone ever wants to bike commute with me to my church (mentioned above http://www.imagodeicommunity.com) I\’d be happy to meet you near my home close to the University of Portland. It is a great ride. We currently meet in Franklin High School at 9am, 10:30am and 12pm on Sundays. There is going to be a rockin Easter Service and I am really excited about it!)

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    Jim Evernden March 13, 2008 at 8:37 am

    Love all your comments and love being in this community. Thanks!

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    Dave March 13, 2008 at 8:46 am

    This is a good thing! A rarity for organized religion as a whole, sure, but good in the micro sense.

    And let\’s suspend disbelief (and science, and common sense) and say ol\’ JC shows up again. Since he\’ll bypass the megachurches and go right to the poor, the sick, and the homeless where a guy like him would hang, what would he ride?

    I\’d say a rickety old, heavy, fendered Schwinn with chipped paint. And a bell. A jesus bell.

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    Pete March 13, 2008 at 8:56 am

    It sounds like Jeff Castro and Jim Evernden should get in touch. All those bike-riding church goers will need to park their bikes somewhere.

    http://bikeportland.org/2008/03/10/local-product-designer-hopes-to-solve-bike-parking-shortage/

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    Mmann March 13, 2008 at 9:00 am

    I\’m finding this whole discussion fascinating, and it\’s really got me pondering the intersection of faith and cycling. I agree with the above sentiments cautioning against painting all believers/congregations with a broad brush, but also acknowledge those of us in the church have frequently been our own worst enemy. As a member of a congregation with some dedicated bike commuters (Peace Mennonite – on 35th in the Hawthorne neighborhood) I also need to say that not all of us have come to this late. A couple of our most avid cyclist are retirees who have been bike commuters for literally decades. For them it\’s a part of their lifestyle and fully integrated with their faith, though I also think, for those raised in Mennonite farm families, it comes from a tradition that values simplicity and hesitates to adopt a new technology when the existing one works just fine for the job. After all, in an urban setting a bike is more practical than a horse & buggy 🙂 We\’ve even had members of the congregation propose tearing up our small parking lot and replacing it with a community garden, which I think is a great idea.
    I also agree with the above comment that many protestant congregations are spread pretty far and it\’s not practical for all attendees to bike. PMC faces this dilema as the only Mennonite congregation in Portland; we\’ve got folks attending from Corbett, Gresham, Beaverton, Hillsboro, and Vancouver. The problem of bike commuting to the suburban mega-churches with their multi-acre SUV-filled parking lots is more problematic, as is the message that communicates about faith and stewardship. (there I go with the broad brush…)

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    Galen March 13, 2008 at 9:07 am

    Hey, what\’s my bike doing promoting religon!

    Seriously, does anyone recognize the event/place where the photo was taken? That\’s my bike behind the person holding the sign.

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    Scott Mizée March 13, 2008 at 9:15 am

    augustusann said:

    This thread is about biking to church not inviting to church.
    As with many churches (not all) this one referenced is very anti-gay as well as traditionally ant-many other things I do not want to have to hear/read about while enjoying my time on this site. I have the rest of the world for that. Please keep your invites on a more personal level.

    I\’m sorry to hear I offended you augustusann, but I get offended by comments on this blog on a regular basis. I just have to chalk it up o the fact that most people in Portland don\’t have the same world view as I do and continue to try to love everyone as much as I can.

    I still like to bike. 🙂

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    Curt Dewees March 13, 2008 at 9:25 am

    The Mormons are way ahead of the curve on this \”bicycling for Jesus\” thing. Don\’t most good Mormons voluntarily do two years of missionary work when they\’re a young person, and don\’t many of the young men do this work while riding around on their bicycles, wearing short-sleeve white shirts and dark ties? I\’m just sayin\’!

    And WWJR? How about a cross bike? (OK, bad joke.)

    But seriously, folks: Jesus worked as a carpenter for the first 12 years of his adult life. He\’d probably ride an Xtra-cycle or some other long-tail bike, so he could easily haul his carpentry tools to and from the job site.

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    KT March 13, 2008 at 10:11 am

    Why does \”pro-bike\” always seem to equal \”anti-car\”?

    I\’m pro-bike… and I drive, too. That must make me a bad person when I drive, but a good person when I ride.

    On-topic now: If more organized groups encouraged their members to ride to the groups\’ meetings, wouldn\’t that be a good thing??

    I mean, this thing with the church… it\’s outreach on a more personal level than the cycling community is doing, and peer pressure is pervasive. 🙂

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    Chris Leonardo March 13, 2008 at 11:34 am

    I\’m a pastor at the aforementioned evergreen community (hey todd!) who bike commutes nearly everywhere. I am compelled to do so for a number of reasons including climate change.

    I\’m happy to see that the Southern Baptists are starting to get excited about curbing climate change as well. You may think they\’re crazy or wrong and you may say lame stuff about them, but if you\’re concerned about the future of the earth this is an exciting turn that could have great benefits.

    I\’m the first to say that christians do tons of dumb crap (actually everyone does, but man…we sure have made it into an art), in the midst of all that stupid stuff I\’m happy to see that Jesus is inspiring even the most unlikely of folks to care for our beautiful world.

    Even if they are \’20 years after everybody else figured it out,\’ Its better than 40 years too late…

    And who knows, maybe there\’s a couple things that we haven\’t totally pinned down yet either. 20 years from now we may have progressed enough to talk about each other a little differently, ya know? 🙂

    I\’m happy to see that they\’re starting to care, thanks for the good article Jonathan.

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    Michelle March 13, 2008 at 11:47 am

    We\’re finally redeveloping the Bike Commute Challenge website (finally finally) and I\’m hoping we\’ll achieve some extra flexibility. One of my fantasy projects is to host a \”Bike to Church Challenge\”, once a week for the month of September.

    I think Hinson would be up it, probably First Unitarian, maybe one of the synagogues in town? It would be fun!

    Another one would be Bike the Market Challenge, among farmer\’s markets.

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    el timito March 13, 2008 at 1:05 pm

    Folks\’ reactions to religion remind me of folks\’ reactions to biking – it\’s like the 3 visually-impaired humans and the elephant: you react to that small part you perceive. Seems like a lot of folks have bumped into religious folks who rubbed them the wrong way.
    Personally, I\’m agnostic but both my parents are ordained. My father turned the keys to the car over to me when I was in high school and rode his bike everywhere. I did the same for my son when he was in high school (hope he doesn\’t wait so long to go car-free).
    Final note – religious folks did a lot more for abolition than hipster bikers. (Bikers may have had slightly more of a role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott…)

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    Chris Leonardo March 13, 2008 at 1:08 pm

    Michelle, I\’d be really glad to be a part of the \’church\’ piece of the bike commute challenge. If you\’d email me I\’d love to get involved and invite the people in my community to participate at well.

    chris at evergreenlife dot org

    thanks!

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    Opus the Poet March 13, 2008 at 2:25 pm

    Any (other) bicyclic Wiccans in here? 🙂

    Opus

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    Brandon Rhodes March 13, 2008 at 3:02 pm

    If the BTA, et al, needs help connecting to local city churches, I\’d be happy to help out. As a bicyclin\’ seminary student, I\’ve got a handful of connections that I\’d love to introduce to the bike challenge, pedalpalooza, etc. 🙂

    brandon.d.rhodes {at} gmail.com

    Thanks for the great story!

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    joeb March 13, 2008 at 4:21 pm

    Is everybody aware of http://www.bikejournal.com ? Churches could set up bike clubs and track personal and club activity. It\’s an awesome site. I think bikejournal needs a bikeportland club.

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    mmann March 13, 2008 at 7:12 pm

    Correction #38
    PMC=Portland (not Peace)Mennonite. I frequently make the slip of confusing my current church name with my former congregation. I\’m still writing 2007 on checks as well 🙂

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    anomalily March 14, 2008 at 12:50 pm

    The highly successful That\’s My Farmer! program in Eugene has been around for over 10 years, doing just this: getting faith communities on board to other issues. That\’s my Farmer! worked to sign whole faith communities onto supporting one CSA (community supported agriculture) farm. Not only did this educate congregations about sustainable food, but it provided a base of support for local farms that is unprecedented. In no small part due to That\’s My Farmer!, there are over 40 CSA farms in spitting distance of Eugene.

    Imagine if we could do the same thing across the US for bicycles. Sounds fabulous- I\’m ready for the manpower of church communities.

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    wsbob March 14, 2008 at 4:14 pm

    Ahem….\”..manpower…\”?…a lot of gals out there might appreciate being included. Shall we say, \’peoplepower\’?

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