Judy Dwyer served as an interim pastor at Grace Presbyterian Church in Jenkintown over the last two years, and this past Sunday was her final Sunday. She grew up in our congregation, and it was wonderful to have her return.
Me, and Grace
Grace Presbyterian Church is a Christian community that spans all ages. To have community, you need to get to know each other. While Sunday mornings are a scheduled time of worship, every day is an opportunity to connect with one another. And at Grace, small groups provide safe spaces for asking questions and exploring one’s faith.
How do I fit into this? My friends tend to be atheist or agnostic, Jewish, Catholic or Protestant. I find commonality with people while trying to nurture what I feel is essential. The biggest challenge that I have is to do more than just showing up on Sunday mornings.
As a congregation of the Presbyterian Church USA, elected leaders within Grace perform roles of governance, finance, and caring for the community. Pastors, nominated by a congregational search committee, are voted upon by the congregation.
Judy’s leadership lead to a successful event
When Judy arrived at Grace as an interim pastor, she fit with the Grace ethos – “Meet people where they are at, and help them grow.”
Judy embraced bicycling. When I wanted to promote Montgomery County’s bicycle plan within the church, Judy worked with me to make this happen.
We raised awareness of the Montco bike plan as we promoted a short bike ride from Grace to Alvethorpe Park. Judy helped organize this, and she had some cool shopping bags made. We had a good turnout that included people who hadn’t been on a bike in years.
Judy helped me reach out to the Second Alarmers for safety support. Judy’s husband rode with us on a paramedic bike while her son-in-law drove an emergency response vehicle behind the riders.
The event was a success. Afterwards, my neighbor said, “You have to do this again next year.”
Growing the “Bike with Grace” concept
Bicycling creates great experiences for people at Grace:
- “Three of us biked to the shore.”
- “I bike at the shore.”
- “He gave me a bike.”
- “I fixed a flat.”
- “I used to bike with Suburban Cyclists.”
- “I met my wife on a bike ride.”
- “I signed up for the MS Ride”
Collective cycling knowledge empowers people
When John Van Buren and his friend wanted to ride their bikes from the 911 Memorial back to Jenkintown, I created a route. John Dwyer, who is a ride leader and had experience with the route, shared his perspective too.
Klaus Fuelleborn has done week-long trail rides for many years. And Ruth, his wife has a very old bike that she still rides.
Grace is small, but active
I’ve enjoyed sharing interests with Grace members, especially art, music, history, community service, and Jenkintown Girls Basketball.
Grace also has different programs for different people: lunch and speaker programs, service-oriented day trips and week-long trips, flower deliveries, breakfasts, retreats, bible study, Sunday school and pre-school.
Making “Bicycling with Grace” a regular thing
The church has a bike rack by the entrance, so people can bike to church services or other events. Bicycling can serve a practical need, and biking together reduces barriers.
It can be a group ride to the grocery store. It can be self-propelled, self-contained bike-overnight weekend trips for youth and their parents. It can be bike-repair evenings. Bicycling can be a small-group activity where we support each other.
Judy encouraged me to stick with the bicycling concept. She said, “You know, we have more Biking with Grace shopping bags right there in the closet.”
And I said, “I have an idea for how we can use them.”
Making a plan
How do I make this happen when I don’t enjoy scheduling meetings and events? Maybe it’s as easy as letting people know when I’m doing these things and inviting them to join me.
I think doing this through Grace makes a lot of sense. We can use Grace’s unique strengths to build a diverse bicycling community.
Barriers to participation, and solutions
I think people can overcome potential barriers.
- No bike – find a properly fitting bike
- Broken bike – repair, and teach repair
- Starting point – the bike ride loops to people’s homes on the way and on the way home
- Traffic – teach group riding communication
- Daylight – provide people with lights
- Clothing – provide people with helmets
- Carrying stuff – Grace shopping bags and a trailer.
We could do a bike ride before church on Sunday mornings. We could do a bike ride to the store on weeknight evenings. Just try something.
Schedule a time to bike to the store. Ask someone to join me.