Building the Blessings of Bikes

Revolutions Bicycle Co-op

by Stacy Smith

Blessing of the Bikes in Memphis, Tennessee

Kevin Gallagher

Some were brand new and some were worn out. Some were created using spare parts, and others were still a bit dusty from the last time they got outside. One had room for two riders, and one had room for two infants. But that morning all the bikes were blessed at First Congregational Church.

These days, many churches hold a blessing of the bikes. But First Congo, as it is called, is one of the few churches that will help you get a bike—or more literally, build a bike—and bless it for you, too. That’s because the basement of the church has been transformed into Revolutions Bicycle Co-op, a ministry that provides affordable and reliable bicycles to all members of the community.

For twelve years, Revolutions has endeavored to save the world, one bike at a time. The co-op began under the leadership of a 17-year-old who simply wanted a place to fix bikes for those who could not afford repairs. First Congregational Church had plenty of space to share, and Revolutions was born. For a small membership fee, members received classes, instruction and open shop time to either work on their own bike or build one from scratch using donated parts. At Revolutions, bikes are built using donated parts in all conditions, from gently used to totally rusted. A team of volunteer mechanics helps to disassemble, evaluate and reassemble the bike parts to create new, functional bikes for community members.

As city bike lanes were added and the community’s focus on bicycle riding began to increase, so did Revolutions. They expanded into previously unusable spaces in the church basement, but more importantly expanded into the community, becoming a home for bicycle safety, education and advocacy. They now host several community classes like Commuting 101, Women’s Bike Chat, Children’s Bike Safety, Fix a Flat! and Roadside Repairs. Sylvia Crum, the executive director of Revolutions, makes regular announcements at Sunday morning worship about upcoming bike events and has created events to welcome riders of all ages to the church.

Even at a church that is well-known for its community outreach, Revolutions is special. The banner outside of First Congo reads, “A church that teaches compassion, faith … and bike repair!” Revolutions has created an environment so that anyone, from complete novices to leisurely riders to dedicated bicycle activists, can be blessed by the bikes.

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