‘Blessing Of The Bikes’ at St. Aidan’s Church connects riders’ faith with love for motorcycles

The church hosted the bike blessing for safe travels as riding incidents increase in Toronto

A blue sign outside St. Aidan's church that says "Ride your bikes, trikes & motorcycles to church this Sunday"
A sign outside St. Aidan's church in the Beaches urges patrons to bring their bikes, trikes and motorbikes for the church's inaugural "Blessing Of The Bikes" on May 12, 2024. (Austin Kelly/Toronto Observer) 

A Beaches neighbourhood church brought a sense of faith, and an added layer of safety, to the free spirit of motorcycle riding last Sunday.

Church of St. Aidan, located at 2343 Queen Street East, held a ‘Blessing of the Bikes’ event May 12 for riders of all walks of life, whether religious or non-religious. The event was organized for motorcyclists to bicyclists and beyond by Murray McCarthy, a member of St. Aidan’s and an avid motorcyclist.

The event was St. Aidan’s inaugural blessing event. An electric sign outside the church urged patrons to “Ride your bikes, trikes & motorbikes to church this Sunday” for the event, which commenced at noon, after the regular 10:30a.m. service.

Blessing of the Bikes is not unique to St. Aidan’s. Church ministries for motorcycle enthusiasts have been merging their faith with their love of riding in the United States since the 1970s, the first known mass blessing event having took place in 1999 in New York City at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, a tradition that church has continued to this day.

Bonnie Jones arrived at St. Aidan’s on her motorcycle. Jones, a frequent churchgoer at St Aidan’s, made sure to attend the day’s sermon. She said she’ll be going to heaven and hopes to take her motorcycle with her.

Jones said that riders already have their superstitions, such as “gremlin bells,” a decorative motorcycle accessory meant for protection on the road. She said the blessing was an “extra bonus for safety on the road.”

St. Aidan’s churchgoer Bonnie Jones arrives for the morning sermon in her blue motorbike (Austin Kelly/Toronto Observer)

The morning church service drew a crowd of approximately 60-70 people, a majority older patrons and children of a variety of backgrounds, with close to a dozen taking part in the bike blessing ceremony.

In its opening, the church read out a land acknowledgement, affirming the church’s support for First Nations, as well as messages supporting Black and LGBTQ+ rights.

The service opened by asking the children in the audience, “what is your favorite superhero?” Young children responded with popular comic book characters, including Doctor Strange and The Flash, which led into a sermon on Jesus and his miracles. “Think of Jesus as the original superhero”, the reverend said, which then to an acoustic guitar-led song. After the children left for Sunday school downstairs and it’s older audience remained, the morning service became more standard of a traditional church.

The church prayed for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Premier Doug Ford & Mayor Olivia Chow to “serve the marginalized” and in referencing the bike blessing, the church prayed for the safety of all motorcyclists and bike riders, asking for God to “keep all riders safe as they ride swiftly through your earth.”

Becky, a clergywoman at St. Aidan’s, helped to lead riders to the ceremony outdoors, mentioning to humoured churchgoers curious about the event how the church blesses many items for good luck, including backpacks for student success, so “why not bless bicycles too?”

Riders get bikes blessed, hope for personal safety on road

Peter is unmistakable as a biker, his motorcycle jacket having stood out amongst a sea of formality. Peter isn’t a member of the church — “I’m a pagan,” he said, but he showed up as a member of the Southern Cruisers Riding Club as support for the organizer, Murray McCarthy, a fellow member of the group.

The club is one of the largest active riding clubs, having first been founded in the United States sometime in the 1970s, its first Canadian branch was formed in 1999 in Burlington, Ont. The Southern Cruisers report having over 30,000 members spanned across groups in five different continents.

Riding jacket belonging to Peter, a member of the Southern Cruisers Riding Club Chapter 383. (Austin Kelly/Toronto Observer)

Along with motorcyclists, a father-son duo had their bicycles blessed. Marguerite Rea, a church assistant at St. Aidan’s, had her bright pink motorized scooter blessed. nicknamed ‘Pink Floyd’ after the famed rock group, and the colour of her ride.

Rea said she bought her scooter five years ago in an effort to reduce her carbon footprint, but in recent years has become more of a necessity due to her mobility issues.

St. Aidan’s clergy assistant Marguerite Rea gets herself, and her bike ‘Pink Floyd’ blessed. (Austin Kelly/Toronto Observer)

The riders came in hopes the blessing would ensure their safety on the road, something backed up in the data. According to tracked data from the Toronto Police Service, 2024 has been a dangerous year for riders in the city. Fifteen fatalities have been reported, up from 11 in 2023, according to TPS’ most recent update May 13. Four of those fatalities involved cyclists, doubling the amount of fatalities from 2020-2023.

The blessings took five minutes to complete, with bikers having their rides, as well as themselves, blessed for good luck and safety on roads. Members of the congregation stayed to witness the event, taking part in a public prayer written specifically for the blessing. The church used a quote from Psalm 20: 7-8 in its address to riders.

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm.”

Written Prayer for St. Aidan’s ‘Blessing of the Bikes’ ceremony. (Austin Kelly/Toronto Observer)

About this article

Posted: May 17 2024 9:00 am
Filed under: Community work Culture and communities News Roads & Transit