When Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours” becomes “Saved, Healed, Delivered I’m Yours,” the church is rocking.
This congregation is different. The focus is on recovery from addiction, through faith and prayer.
A few weeks ago, my wife and I visited the Covenant Confirmers Church in Springfield. It is also called the “biker’s church.” Most attendees and staff are motorcycle riders.
Though we arrived in my red Mercedes, we were greeted and treated as if we were bikers. Actually, we are Methodist and traditionalists. Our church does offer a contemporary service where the music is spirited and high in decibels. More of our church members attend that service than the traditional. We prefer the quieter, traditional setting.
Pastor Ron Baptiste, a ‘mystic presence’
It was a bold step for us. The theme in the entry foyer, classrooms and sanctuary was motorcycles. Two very big Harleys flanked the stage, under theater lighting. The pulpit was a beautifully modified Harley as well.
Considering the Covenant Confirmers Church serves the addiction community among bikers, a biker will feel at home as soon as they arrive. They will find the church staff to be in jeans and leather, just like them. They will not be concerned about how they are perceived or looked upon. I can imagine the looks they will get if they had the courage to visit our traditional church setting.
Although all of us go to church to pray and seek God, there is certainly a different social and cultural aura based on ethnic and denominational traditions. Going to a church in search of recovery from addiction is a major step in that journey. The ‘biker’s church’ provides a comfort and welcome without the concern of strange looks.
Pastor Ron Baptiste is a remarkable man, of Native American descent, with a mystic presence. ‘Pastor Ron’ and his wife, Pastor Cricket, are motorcycle riders who personally know the scene and the culture of riding and addiction that may capture some.
Adverse childhood experiences dominated Ron’s early life. He was just three months old when he developed a rare childhood cancer on his face. The first six years of his life were spent in hospitals and under medical care. Multiple operations were necessary, as doctors worked to reconstruct his face.
Congregants receive love, support and all they need
Not unexpectedly, the resulting deformity attracted teasing and ridicule at school. So he responded by beating up the school bully.
“All of a sudden at lunch, all these little girls are bringing me their ice cream,” he remembers. As Ron learned that violence made him accepted and popular, it became a way of life. “Violence is like a drug. That was my first real addiction,” he says.
He started carrying weapons, even to school. A period of alcohol, drugs and crime followed, leading to prison. When he came out of prison, he fell back in to the same life. Finally, under threat that he may lose his family, he sought Christ. He tells of a vision in which Christ came and sat down with him on the floor. He cleaned out his cupboards of alcohol and drugs. He cleaned out his heart and mind and filled it with God!
“Just because you have done some things wrong, God doesn’t stop loving you,” he tells his congregation.
The Covenant Confirmers Church is a Certified Faith-Based Recovery Congregation under the program initiated by former Gov. Bill Haslam. In addition to Sunday and Wednesday church services, it also provides a family support group, Narcotics Anonymous programs and a free medical clinic.
Pastor Ron’s sermon focused on the recovery needs of his congregation. It was rich in Biblical references. It was, truly, a spiritual experience.
The road to recovery from addiction is complex and long. There are many options. For these bikers, and their families, the Covenant Confirmers Church provides a great promise with the love and support that they need. May God continue to bless this journey for all.