13th annual Biker Blessing honors man who began it

Jersey Shore’s Crossroads Church once again opened their facilities to the local community to spread love with the 13th Annual Biker Blessing.

The goal of the event was to share the love of God with individuals who ride as part of larger motorcycling community.

However, this year’s event had a secondary purpose, which was to honor former church member Paul ‘Slugger’ Bower, who passed away back in November 2018.

“Slugger was the one who presented the idea to us,” Pastor John Phillips said.

During the Sunday 11 a.m. service, the Crossroads pastor said 13 years ago, Bower came to him and asked if the church could do something to reach out to bikers and motorcycle enthusiasts to “make a place for them to feel loved on.”

“I said, ‘Let’s do it!’ “ Phillips said, during the service, which was met with applause from the audience. Phillips compared Bower to David stepping on to the battlefield to face the giant Goliath.

Bower had the courage to take a stand and speak on behalf a group of people normally forgotten within the sections of the church, Phillips said.

Between 600 and 700 motorcyclists walked around the church dressed in leather and denim. While many carried helmets as Christian rock music played over the speakers. Many of the church volunteers were dressed in red T-shirts with the Bible verse, Romans 4:7 inscribed on the back “Blessed are those whose Sins are forgiven.”

In his Nov. 15th, 2018 obituary, Bower was described as a “Christian to lost souls” who “enjoyed hunting, riding his motorcycle an was faithful to God and his church.”

Phillips said the church wanted to show its appreciation to Bower by giving his widow, Linda, a quilt sown together with the T-shirts from the past 13 Biker Blessings.

Upon receiving the quilt from Phillips, Linda Bower’s daughter, Aprie Brennan, and son-in-law, Justin, stood with her on stage. Linda Bower said her husband would have been terribly uncomfortable with these honors.

She said he was more of focused on staying in a low-key role and assisting where his help was needed.

Brennan said her father was the type to carry cards advertising the Biker Blessing all year round. She explained he would give them to anyone who had interest in motorcycling.

“This was my father’s favorite day of the year,” Brennan said.

Tom Allen, of Williamsport, who called Bower a friend, said he was a “man of God.”

“He had a heart for bikers,” Allen said. And because of his heart, Cornerstone sees one of its highest rates of attendances for the year.

Following the church service and blessing, riders mounted up and rode through Routes 44 and 880. Many of the motorcycles were not just two-wheeled Harley-Davidsons, but three-wheeled cycles and a variety of machines made by Honda. On that afternoon, the sounds of engines and motors rumbled for nearly 50 miles throughout Nipponese Valley.

With previous attendance at around 400, the weather pushed a lot of people back indoors. But Brennan said her father would not have cared if the attendance was 400 motorcycles or 40 motorcycles. Bower would have viewed the event as a success if just one person was helped, she said.

“(For my day), it’s not about the numbers, it was about reaching people,” Brennan said.

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