Bikers zipping around Canyon Lake can see everything from the firmament to their feet says Real Church Pastor James Thornton.
Last Sunday, he brought a little piece of heaven above down to members of his congregation, who roared their motorcycles into the Wagon Wheel Dance Hall on FM 306 for the Second Annual Real Church of Canyon Lake Blessing of the Bikes & Cages.
Over 60 people showed up for services at the makeshift church as well, some arriving in “cages,” or cars and trucks as they’re better known to bikers.
Thornton moved to Canyon Lake from Louisiana over a year ago with the idea of starting a church whose outreach extended to a subculture not always welcome in more traditional churches.
He liked the area’s scenery, motorcycle culture and large military population but noticed there was no place just for bikers in this part of the Texas Hill Country.
“I ride motorcycles and have for a long time, and I came here to Canyon Lake a year and a half ago and wanted to use the motorcycle to reach a lot of other people that ride,” he said in an interview before blessing dozens of motorcycles and cars baking in 90-degree heat in Wagon Wheel’s parking lot.
“Sometimes people that ride, sometimes bikers, sometimes motorcyclists are not always received with warmth in churches…and the way that we dress is sometimes different, and so forth,” said Thornton, who also preached in North Carolina for 12 years and goes by biker preacher, preacher man, and Jimmy.
“So I got started in doing this, and it really turned out to be a blessing, and we’re having more and more, a lot of people for who it’s about a freedom of life, a joy in the Lord — kind of like riding.”
Of course not everyone at the Real Church actually rides motorcycles. People show up for the judgment-free fellowship and the fun of church services in some of the most-informal settings around.
Pastoral Assistant Suzanne Adams says more than anything else, Real Church preaches loving people through life as well as their mistakes.
“We have the coolest people,” she said, speaking in Wagon Wheel’s air-conditioned bar area following a potluck dinner that included brisket and peach cobbler. “It’s healing people in a way just by accepting them by loving them, and just by showing them that you care.”
Anyone who’s driven behind a motorcyclist probably has noticed the peace sign bikers flash.
“It’s a brotherhood sign,” Adams said. “That’s the way we feel as the Real Church.”
“Sinners saved by grace” is another way of looking at Real Church, said member Christy Harrington, who first noticed the Real Church from the back of her own bike, while headed with friends to a motorcycle rally.
Real Church was meeting at Canyon Acres’ pavilion for Tuesday night “Swimming for Jesus.”
Thornton flashed her a peace sign as she passed by.
“I said I would like to know something about that church,” she said. “And I went back next week and they weren’t there.”
That’s because Swimming for Jesus meets Tuesdays from 6 to 8 p.m. at the pavilion, 700 Lonesome Trail in Canyon Lake. Real Church gathers at Riley’s on the Backbone, 3971 Farm to Market 32, Fischer, on the first Sunday of the month and at Wagon Wheel (formerly Bar 306), 14164 FM 306 all other Sundays.
Real Church opened its doors on Jan. 23 at small garage/shop in Sattler with 16 people in attendance.
Sunday prayer service begins at 10:45 a.m. followed by church services at 11 a.m.
For more information, call 210-288-2138.