A tattooed arm. A clenched fist. A broken chain dripping in blood.
Not your average church logo.
But the Broken Chains Biker Church is not your average church, said the Rev. Tom “Flathead” Iddings.
“We take the gospel very seriously but we do it in a biker style, exuberant, fun, maybe a little rough and rowdy. I’ve always felt if Jesus is who he says he is, shouldn’t we be excited?” said Iddings, pastor at Broken Chains, which recently moved from Holbrook to the former St. John’s Episcopal Church at 378 Bay St. in Taunton.
“The city has been wonderful to us,” he said.
Iddings, who founded Broken Chains on Torrey Street in Brockton in 2011, said the church’s name has a double meaning.
“The chains are the bondage of sin broken by the blood of Christ,” he said.
But it’s also a reference to a broken chain on a motorcycle.
Every biker knows that helpless feeling stuck on the side of the road, Iddings said.
But those moments when we feel most lost can turn out to be our greatest opportunities, he said.
“Often our breakdowns are what make us look up and say, ‘God help me’,” said Iddings.
Iddings said Taunton is an ideal location for Broken Chains.
There is a lot of excitement in the biker community about the church coming back to its roots in Southeastern Massachusetts, he said.
Another thing that drew him to Taunton is the fact the city has been hit hard by the opioid epidemic.
“Taunton needs a place like ours that ministers to the downtrodden,” Iddings said.
Iddings said he believes faith is the key for a lot of people when it comes to overcoming addiction.
His own son was a heroin addict, who spent seven years on the streets. Now 29, he has been clean for five years and is working as a union electrician, Iddings said.
At one point, his son told him why he used heroin.
“He said, ‘When you shoot that into your arm, it’s like being touched by God’,” Iddings said.
Iddings understands how compelling that feeling is.
But he also wants people struggling with addiction to know something else.
“It’s a counterfeit,” he said.
“When you know how deeply loved you are by God, the rest falls into place,” he said.
Iddings himself is no stranger to dark times.
A “second career” pastor, he worked in business management as an interim CEO before becoming a minister.
In those days he wore a suit and tie and covered up his tattoos with a dress shirt.
But at heart, he’s always been a biker, he said.
“My life history is not the one you’d expect a pastor to have. There was a lot of wreckage, booze, drugs and stupid stuff,” Iddings, 61, said.
But even as a teenager, he wanted something more and felt called to the ministry.
He turned away from the Episcopalian church of his youth in disillusionment after more than one minister ran off with female members of the congregation, he said.
It was a long and winding road back to that calling, he said.
First he got sober at the age of 30 and has been clean for the past 31 years.
Then one day sitting in his living room he had a life-changing experience.
“God said, ‘It’s time for you to become a pastor’,” Iddings said.
“He audibly spoke to me,” Iddings said.
Iddings eventually got a master’s degree in divinity from Covenant Theological Seminary through online coursework.
His wife of 21 years, Deb “Chopper” Iddings, also took courses through Covenant and now serves as the associate pastor of Broken Chains.
In her case, the call she heard was more an inner than an outer voice, but it left her with the same sense of purpose, said Deb, who previously owned an excavation company.
Tom said they form a true team and are kindred spirits.
Deb, who has an easy smile and earthy warmth, has decked out the back of her motorcycle with a silver devil’s tail.
“I’m saying, ‘Get behind me Satan’,” she says with a playful laugh.
She said religion doesn’t have to be stuffy. It’s about something much deeper than outward appearances.
Broken Chains, which moved from Brockton to an old shoe warehouse and former poker club on Maple Street in Holbrook in 2013, wasn’t looking for a new home.
But then a member who’s a realtor mentioned that St. John’s was on the market.
“We thought, ‘We have no money. We have no ability to do this,’ but God found a way,” Deb said.
They received some unexpected donations and the financing came together.
And on Aug. 2, they closed on the church and adjacent parsonage, purchased from a committee of three Episcopal churches for $316,000, Tom said.
Built in 1862, the 5,300 square-foot church has no water, bathrooms or sewer – though the parsonage has those accommodations.
It will be a financial challenge upgrading the church but they are working on plans to make that happen, Tom said.
The buildings may need some work, but Broken Chains has finally found a permanent home, he said.
Maureen “Redneck” Mignault rode 1,500 miles to join Broken Chains a month or two ago.
She’d been watching Iddings’ sermons on Facebook Live for three years from her home in Florida.
She is not alone.
Broken Chains has virtual congregants across the country, Iddings said.
“We broadcast our sermons in all their messed up glory,” Iddings said.
“I come from the biker world. I come from a world where we were broken. Alcohol and drugs were what we did,” said Mignault, who works as an administrative assistant at Broken Chains, the same position she held in Florida county government before she retired.
She said walking into the Broken Chains church in Holbrook for the first time felt like coming home.
“When I walked into that building, it touched me. I’ve never felt anything like it in my life,” she said.
Her boyfriend “Crazy Dave” Murphy is the church’s worship musician. Murphy, who struggled with addiction, has been sober 38 years.
He and Mignault have known each other even longer than that, 45 years, from the days before she moved to Florida from Brockton, where they both grew up.
“We weren’t altar boys. People had stereotyped us from day one as kids,” Murphy said.
After getting sober, he stayed away from the biker world he knew and loved, afraid it would draw him back down a self-destructive path, he said.
But he missed it, missed the camaraderie and the sense of belonging.
Then he met Iddings eight years ago.
“I almost died in that world. I couldn’t go back. But then I became a Christian and he sent me back. We’re all his children,” Murphy said.
Broken Chains holds services on Friday evenings, not Sunday mornings.
“The intent is to get people to come to church. If I wait until Sunday morning, everybody will be out riding their motorcycles,” Tom said.
“Maybe a quarter of our members are not working or are coming out of addiction. We go for the marginalized who have been ignored,” Deb said.
The Iddings, who have five children and six grandchildren and live in East Bridgewater, plan to fly a giant American flag outside the church.
“We have a lot of veterans and we’re proud of the foundations of America. Do they make a lot of mistakes? Yes. Are we pleased with any of our elected officials? No. But it’s still our country and we stand for it,” Tom said.
Tom Iddings’ tattoos tell the story of his life.
On his left arm is his “past life.”
That tattoo is a tangled mass of “creatures from Hell,” with a comet, an eagle and a Harley.
His right arm is his “Jesus arm” — but he’s a biker’s Jesus, a little rough around the edges, a bit of a rebel, an outsider.
There’s a cross with pistons.
And there’s a tattoo of Jesus resurrected, carrying the “sword of truth.”
And on Jesus’ own leg is a tattoo, “King of Kings, Lord of Lords.
A man accused of kidnapping, beating and holding his ex-partner captive for two days was granted bail after an earlier alleged attack despite police objections.
Cheyane Lubec, 22, made a dramatic escape from Chad Hogg’s car after allegedly being bound to a pole and held captive at the Gypsy Jokers bikie clubhouse in Horsley Park for two days.
Mr Hogg, 29, was arrested after a stand-off with police at the clubhouse on Tuesday af
He was later charged with a range of domestic violence offences including kidnapping, assault and intimidation.
It emerged last night Mr Hogg was already the subject of a Domestic Violence Order and on bail after another alleged attack on Ms Lubec in July.
9NEWS has been told when more information was passed on to police after the first alleged incident, they held serious concerns for Ms Lubec’s safety and argued Mr Hogg’s bail should be revoked.
A magistrate disagreed and Mr Hogg was allowed to remain on bail, with a domestic violence order put in place.
NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman today acknowledged the outcry over the decision to grant bail.
“Whenever people like that get out on bail, I understand public concern and often outrage,” Mr Speakman said.
Mr Hogg was refused bail in court yesterday and will remain in custody until his next appearance in November.
In an exclusive interview with 9NEWS yesterday, Ms Lubec said her head being shaved was the most humiliating part of the alleged attack.
“I would have preferred he cut off my finger than shave my hair off,” Ms Lubec said.
“I don’t know who I am anymore.”
Ms Lubec has been wearing a scarf over her head since her escape and in yet another emotional blow, shaved the rest of her hair today.
Ms Lubec suffered facial fractures and bruising all over her body during repeated alleged assaults and said she “didn’t want to look in the mirror”.
“He shaved off my hair and took pictures and he was laughing while he was doing that,” she said.
A home was set alight overnight in the same neighbourhood where Ms Lubec lives.
A family of four was inside the home when it was set alight and the homeowners say they have no idea why.
Detectives are investigating any link to the allegations against Mr Hogg and whether the home was wrongly targeted.