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Tuxedo-clad seminary chorus sings for Colorado biker church

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–Tuxedos among a sea of black leather. Cars and Harleys in the parking lot. Clean-cut haircuts outnumbered by ponytails and long beards. A precisely planned music program blended with an open, spontaneous congregation. Two cultures, one church.
For Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s men’s chorus, the last-minute addition of Church in the Wind — a biker church started by Gary Davis with regular services on Friday night — became the most memorable stop on its spring tour.
“My first impression when I heard they were coming,” pastor Davis said through a boisterous laugh. “Oh boy, tuxes and high church, this will be a real eye-opener for them. Our idea of dressing up is wearing a shirt with buttons on it.”
The praise band of Church in the Wind opened the service. “They have a different type of service,” Tommy Rowel, a member of the men’s chorus, recounted. “They have a loose format, people are in and out.”
After the praise band, the men’s chorus performed songs such as “Amazing Grace” and “Holy, Holy, Holy” with precision and passion years of practice and training have produced. Some members of Church in the Wind heard many of the treasured classic hymns for the first time.
The joint worship helped break down walls often affecting the body of Christ.
“I saw a small boy come in with a lady. He had patches over his eyes,” said chorus member Grady Chism. “I found out later he and his sister were playing the day before and she accidentally sprayed hair spray in his eyes. They didn’t know at the time if he would regain his sight. He listened through the entire concert with a big smile on his face. After the concert I had the opportunity to befriend him and we had our picture made together. He said that if he was able to see again he wanted to know what I looked like.”
“The men’s chorus allowed our people to get a taste of traditional church and get over some of their fears of it,” Davis said. “Many of our people don’t feel comfortable in a regular church. They (people in traditional churches) wear coats and ties and flowery dresses; we wear leather jackets and T-shirts, jeans and boots. The crossing of cultures showed how people can worship Christ together no matter what they wear.”
After the performance any remaining walls were eliminated through a time of fellowship and a few motorcycle rides.
“One of the most exciting moments of the night was riding with the pastor on his Harley,” Rowel said. “Me in a tux and him in his biker outfit with his ponytail.”
Pastor Davis said in 1982 “the Spirit first gave me the idea for the church … . We had just moved into town and went to a swap meet. I looked around and saw a whole bunch of people who needed Jesus. My wife thought I was crazy.” Through the next decade Davis said he dragged his feet and put the idea for a biker church on the back burner.
The first attempts to bring the church off the back burner came in 1996. “I was at Riverside Baptist and asked if they used the chapel on Friday nights,” Davis said, and Riverside caught the vision to start a church for bikers and supported the efforts.
That October, a barbecue and rally were held to promote the new church. On Nov. 1, Church in the Wind held its first service with about 50 people in attendance. The church has held regular services on Friday nights ever since.
“I’ve been asked why Friday nights and I explain that there are many rides and rallies for bikers on Sunday morning, as well as (bikers) just taking a ride,” Davis said.
So, on the Friday the men’s chorus rode into town, a lasting impression was made on those in leather and those in tuxedos.
“It was hard to leave, very hard to leave,” Chism said.

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  • D. Chad McConnell