Branch looks at starting FAITH Riders chapter
SPRUCE PINE – A local pastor has reached out to members of the FAITH Riders motorcycle ministry about starting a chapter in Spruce Pine.
Spruce Pine First Baptist Church Pastor Dr. Rocky Branch met with FAITH Rider Pat McNeill and FAITH Riders Alabama State Coordinator Phillip Cook recently to discuss the necessary steps.
Forgiveness, Available, Impossible, Turn and Heaven, or FAITH, Riders was founded in Lakeland, Florida, in 2002 and has expanded to include more than 350 chapters in 29 states and two in Cuba.
Cook and McNeill were attending the ministry’s national rally at Ridgecrest and took the opportunity Wednesday, Aug. 29, to meet with Branch, a Harley-Davidson enthusiast, who had expressed interest in starting a chapter at the church.
“Our national director called and asked if I knew anybody in the area, any groups or someone who would be able to speak (at the convention),” McNeill, a native of Marion, said. “I told him I knew a few people and I would check and see.”
McNeill called his friend Cliff Black in Granite Falls and Black recommended he call Branch. The two have been discussing starting a chapter in Spruce Pine since.
“I got hooked up with Cliff because he does a Thunder Sunday every year and we do a motorcycle Sunday,” Branch said. “I became familiar with the FAITH Riders during my 14 years in Florida.”
Starting a chapter is relatively simple, Cook said.
“You just have to have people in your church willing to go out and share the Gospel with folks in a biker setting that may never step foot in a church,” he said. “Then, you just fill out a form online, and the national office reviews it.”
There are few chapters of FAITH Riders in North Carolina, but that number is growing, and there is no state coordinator.
FAITH Riders attend the major bike weeks across the country – Daytona, Myrtle Beach, Sturgis, etc. – as well as Thunder Beach in Panama City Beach, Florida, Bikes Blues and Barbecue in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
“Wherever there are people, we are there,” Cook said. “It doesn’t even have to be a large event. We have had the Harley shop in Dothan (Alabama) call and say they are having an event and would like us there and we go. Wherever we get the opportunity, we go.”
Cook told Branch the group is typically well-received at events.
“Bikers are bikers,” McNeill said. “If we go to them as FAITH Riders and they know we are genuine about what we do, there is no issue. They can spot a fake a mile away. We have to be intentional about what we do.”
Branch said one thought behind starting a chapter at First Baptist Church is creating a connection point because of the number of bikers that travel through Mitchell County.
“FAITH Riders has been solid for quite a while,” Branch said. “ They have a good reputation.”
The time and frequency the Spruce Pine chapter of FAITH Riders will meet will be announced later.