On June 30th Portland will add another notch to its bike culture belt: An attempt at the world record for most clergy on bikes.
It’s an idea hatched by 42-year-old G. Travis Norvell, an American Baptist pastor of a church in Minneapolis and self-described, “gospel-centered liberal.” Rev. Norvell will be in Portland later this month for the 2017 Biennial Mission Summit and will use the occasion to spread the gospel about one of his favorite topics: How bicycles can help connect communities, improve public health, save the planet and further the church’s mission all in one fell swoop.
Norvell isn’t shy about his love of cycling. In a Medium post titled, Bicycling Toward Justice, he drew inspiration from the Montgomery bus boycott and Civil Rights Movement to implore his fellow clergy to ride bikes more often. On his Pedaling Pastor blog, Norvell mixes biking tips with passages from the bible. In one post he shared the text of a bike blessing he gave fellow riders at the start of the 30 Days of Biking challenge in April:
For thirty days you shall ride your bike
For thirty days you shall be made anew
For thirty days you shall find strength
What can befall you?
Check your brakes, oil your chain, pump up your tires.
What can cause you anxiety?
Watch our for cars, potholes, and thrill seeking squirrels!
The charm of the biking community be with you
The charm of a tail wind find you
The charm of bike riding joy never leave thee.
Norvell has made it his mission to get more clergy on bikes and has seized on the upcoming Baptists Summit in Portland to make his largest statement yet: a world record. The last two summits were held in Overland Park, Kansas. Norvell says he understands why that venue was chosen; but the location “felt like a fun desert.” “You couldn’t walk anywhere, poor bus service, and no bike share programs to be found. This year, however, the meeting is in Portland!” he wrote on his blog. While he’s eager to lay down the “most clergy on bikes” marker, Norvell says he can’t wait for his record to be broken. “I want the Lutherans or the Methodist to smash our record,” he wrote. “I want clergy and non-clergy riding bikes, getting healthy, exploring their communities, saving the planet, seeking economic and racial justice, gaining courage and putting a smile on their face. Because the world needs courageous and joyous people right now.”
Norvell hopes to see over 200 fellow members of the church join him on June 30th for a half-mile bike ride and an attempt at an official Guinness World Record (the record doesn’t exist yet, so he applied to create it and hasn’t heard back). Worried about getting bikes for all the participants, Norvell got in touch with the operators Portland’s bike share system. Biketown has agreed to provide bikes for the event. For a $10 registration fee, Summit attendees will be allowed to use a Biketown bike for the day and get a special t-shirt and water bottle.
Reached via email this morning, Norvell said, “The hope is that if they can ride a bike in Portland with friends then they’ll ride when they go back home. And I am convinced if more clergy and people of faith ride bikes we can help make the world a better place.”
If you’d like to join this event. Meet at 606 SE Madison Street at 8:30 am on Friday June 30th.
Learn more via on the American Baptist Home Mission Societies website.