By Jessica Connor
ANDERSON—A block from the busy Hwy. 28 bypass in Anderson stands a church so concealed in the neighborhood that most people drive by and don't even notice it's there.
But thanks to new signage donated by a local motorcycle club, that's not the case anymore.
John Wesley United Methodist Church, Anderson, has just 98 members and an average weekly attendance of about 38.
It s tucked away, not visible, and we d been talking about the need for signage, but we re a small church with not a lot of funds, said John Wesley s pastor, the Rev. Kurt Stutler.
At an administrative meeting, one of the church s members had an idea: What if she talked to her son, who is a member of a local motorcycle club, and see if his club could help with some of the money for a sign. After all, the motorcycle club does benefit runs and other fundraising projects to help the community. Why not help John Wesley?
I said, ˜Well, let me work on it, and I called my son, Brenda Allison said.
Immediately, her son “ Rick Ponytail Allison “ was interested.
It just struck me. We do enough for everyone else; why not help the church? Rick Allison said.
Allison, who is also president of the Motorcycle Awareness Alliance, began to rally support. He spoke with Robbie Taylor, from a local motorcycle ministry, and together they solicited donations from Anderson-area motorcycle clubs, motorcycle ministries, riding clubs and hot rod clubs, all of which chipped in to purchase two signs, plus an extra $300 for the church to use as it sees fit. One of the signs is at the corner of Camellia Drive and the bypass, and the other is at the corner of Stone Avenue.
Then, this fall, the bikers came in full motorcycle gear on their bikes to Sunday morning worship at John Wesley, bringing the signs, the cash and their goodwill for the congregation as a whole.
They pulled in to the church, and you could hear John Wesley just rumbling with motorcycles, Brenda Allison said. I ve been out of my mind about it “ it s been great.
Stutler said that Sunday morning was an emotional time.
I was teary-eyed at the thought that complete strangers would feel the notion to help us, Stutler said. That s a God thing “ who could inspire people to do that other than the Holy Spirit?
Stutler thinks the signage has already been a big help; a recent event was very well attended by many people he has never seen before.
Rick Allison said he is happy to know he and his fellow bikers were able to help “ particularly at a time when so many churches are struggling as older members pass away and new people are not joining.
It s a instant smile (when I drive by and see the church) knowing I was able to help, Allison said. It s an overwhelming warm feeling.
And perhaps the signage donation helped in another way, too. Seeing so many bikers come to John Wesley with open arms and open hearts spoke volumes to Stutler.
What it said to me is we re always much too quick to make judgments of people based on their appearance, but if you allow yourself to look at their heart “ surprise, Stutler said. They had no personal investment in our congregation, yet they helped.