With the exception of the more than 100 long-haired, leather-clad, tattoo-brandishing bikers rumbling in on their motorcycles, it was pretty much like any other Sunday service at the Kenai Christian Church.
"This is a good thing to see," said Scott Hamann, who is a Christian, a biker and one of the primary people responsible for the diverse congregation at the church this week.
The presence of all the bikers was twofold, according to Hamann. Some were there as part of the 11th annual Bike Blessing a yearly ritual in which bikers pray for their safety and the safety of others, as another riding season is about to begin. Others were there to honor the memory of slain Kenai police officer and motorcycle enthusiast John Watson.
According to Hamann, the Bike Blessing in Alaska began as the work of Ron "Preacher" Elerick, who used the blessings as a tool to present the gospel, as well as to encourage and supply fellowship for Christians and bikers alike. Elerick passed away last year, but not before leading Hamann to the Lord.
"I'm trying to keep it going, to minister to bikers, to stay involved in their lives, to meet their needs and be here if they need help" Hamann said.
Nathan Elerick, Ron's son, was in attendance Sunday and said he was happy to see so many bikers on hand.
"It's good to see Scott and everyone continuing this. It can get people that might not normally feel welcome in a church, into a church."
Some of the first bikers on the scene had concerns that the day's wet weather might limit attendance for the blessing, but as bikers kept roaring in one after another, they soon realized they had nothing to worry about.
Fat boys on Fat Boys stepped off their bikes, carrying their helmets in hand, and strode into the church side by side with numerous parishioners carrying casserole dishes of potato salad and dressed in their Sunday best.
Inside, Hamann gave a brief explanation of the scene.
"Well, when I told (Minister Robert DeVolld) that I wanted to make this my church, I said there may be some baggage and here we are," he said eliciting a few chuckles from the congregation.
Hamann also added that the service was part of his goal to get his church family on motorcycles and to get his motorcycle family in church.
Minister David Higginbotham then delivered a relevant sermon to Sunday's crowd in particular. Reading from the book of Luke, Higginbotham described how Jesus often associated with outcasts of the affluent society in order to save them, and he drew the comparison that both Jesus and John Watson gave their lives in the process of helping others.
Following the service, the crowd moved outside and the Bike Blessing began. One by one, bikers rode up to the front of the church, where Hamann and DeVolld performed a laying on of hands and a blessing for each motorcycle and rider. Bikers also were given Bibles upon their request.
Following the blessing, a procession of bikers led by Officer Watson's widow, Kathy Watson on her late husband's motorcycle rode to Cooper Landing to spread his ashes in one of his favorite spots. She explained the ride was something John had spoken of after he had attended a similar motorcycle procession to spread the ashes of Ron "Preacher" Elerick.
"John thought it was just so touching of a send-off, and so I thought he would like it," she said.
Prior to the blessing, Watson said she thought the event may be emotionally difficult for her, but she knew it was something important for her to do.
"It's hard because I loved him so much, but he had a lot of biker friends and so this isn't just for me, this is for them, too."
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