Bikers for Christ: Crossfire Church goers find road to religion

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Bikers for Christ: Crossfire Church goers find road to religion

Crossfire United Methodist Church is located in North Wilkesboro off of N.C. Highway 115 and holds church services every Sunday at 10:45 a.m.

Crossfire United Methodist Church is located in North Wilkesboro off of N.C. Highway 115 and holds church services every Sunday at 10:45 a.m.

Crossfire United Methodist Church is located in North Wilkesboro off of N.C. Highway 115 and holds church services every Sunday at 10:45 a.m.

Crossfire United Methodist Church is located in North Wilkesboro off of N.C. Highway 115 and holds church services every Sunday at 10:45 a.m.

Christina Beals, Arts and Culture Editor

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Every Sunday morning, Howie Roberts arrives early to the same 10:45 a.m. church service his friends brought him to five years ago and sits at a wooden patio picnic table wearing a faded brimmed hat with a cigarette hanging out the side of his smile, greeting anyone who walks up the church stairs.

“I wake up a different man every Sunday,” Roberts said.

Roberts is part of a tight-knit, leather jacket wearing congregation that receives communion and listens to a homily while passing around two jet-black Harley Davidson boots as church offering baskets. 

Several jackets sport biker patches, while other people commonly wear “Sons of Anarchy” and “Jesus Rally” T-shirts.

Crossfire United Methodist Church is a biker church in North Wilkesboro that the Reverend Duncan Overrein and senior pastor Alan Rice established in 2003.

Overrein is a former biker and regularly wears a thick leather biker jacket with varying iron-on patches, grey-rimmed glasses that match his goatee and the words “dead gone” tattooed faintly above his knuckles.

“(Overrein) said to me, ‘I want there to be a place where people like me can come.’ So, like people with tattoos, and earrings, and do-rags,” Rice said. “I asked if he wanted to start a biker church, and he said, ‘Yes.’”

Rice said Crossfire’s mission is “B.I.K.E.R.,” or “burning heart, intentional discipleship, keeping Christ the sinner, extravagant hospitality and generosity, and risk-taking mission and service.”

“The primary community is of acceptance,” Rice said. “We don’t care what you have done, or who you think you’ve become; you’re welcome at Crossfire. And when you put your feet on our porch, we count you as family.”

In 2007, Overrein and Rice moved the church to its current 90 seat location off of N.C. Highway 115.

The main room has shiny gray floors, a large projection screen at the altar/stage for accompanying imagery during homilies, and orange and red lines painted on the chalky walls that mimic a heartbeat on a heart monitor.

On the stage, different bands perform Christian rock songs. Lead singers interact with the audience and let children play with the band’s guitar during song numbers.

On the left side of the projection screen is a banner that reads, “The Vision,” and lists, “Crossfire exists to share the hopes of God’s love to the bikers, the youth and to our community,” “to mentor and train those who receive his love” and “our desire to live out Ephesians 4:12-13.”

The banner on the right side had Ephesians 4:12-13 written out. 

Crossfire is a biker church community from all walks of life that share an interest in motorcycles, and is collectively trying to make a difference in the world through principles found in the Bible.

Before coming to Crossfire in 2018 as an associate pastor, Jerry Rogers ministered with the Christian Motorcycle Association at biker rallies with the “1%ers,” or outlaw motorcyclists that bikers say only make up 1% of the community.

The Christian Motorcycle Association is a Christian nonprofit organization that seeks to evangelize the motorcycle community.  

Because several Crossfire congregates are either recovering addicts or suffering from addiction, Rogers said he creates his sermons to reflect addiction and how it connects back to the Bible.

“I try to connect it to the fact that Christ can change that in their lives,” Rogers said. “Here, you’ve got to talk to these people’s hearts.”

Because several churchgoers are in poverty and have low reading skills, Rogers said he implements imagery and movie snippets with scriptures to keep their attention.

“You can use big words, but it’s not going to help. You have to become one of them,” Rogers said. “I’m really effective with the bikers because I used to be one. If I wasn’t one, they wouldn’t accept me because they’re such a close-knit group.”

Congregates are also “committed to reach out to our neighbor and help them in their time of need.”

“If I got up and said, ‘Can somebody come help fix my porch?’ Half of [the congregates] are going to my house. Bikers have that bond,” Rogers said. “They just love each other. That love and that care means more than any kind of money, or anything else.”

Rice said Crossfire welcomes those struggling with addiction because within the biker community, the “1%ers” are known for being active consumers and distributors of drugs and alcohol to the rest of the community.

“On Friday nights, we do something called ‘overcomers,’ and it’s a small group of accountability sessions,” Rice said. “We also have a number of recovering addicts who befriend and become a peer to others.”

Through Crossfire, Overrein has created outreach programs to help community members in need receive the proper food security, spirituality and safety resources.

Rice said Overrein and Louis Harvey, who has attended Crossfire for 3 1/2 years organized a church firewood pantry in 2003, which grew into a garden food ministry.

Overrein said food grown in the church’s garden is available to the public and is also donated to Ebenezer Christian Children’s Home, a facility that provides a loving environment for children removed from their homes due to neglect or abuse, according to its website.

The back of Overrein’s leather biker jacket is almost covered by a large patch design of a gray shield with wings on each side of it, accompanied with, “Guardians of the Children” in red Lucida Blackletter font across the top. 

Overrein and chapter president Robert “Rooster” Padgett started the GOC High Country Chapter for Wilkes County and surrounding communities. 

According to its Facebook page, GOC’s mission is to know how to recognize and react to child abuse and educate the public on how to do the same, provide an advocacy support system for families in crisis and be a helpful resource for abused children and teenagers.

Overrein said he and Padgett were inspired to establish the chapter during a shopping trip in 2015, where they saw a mother and her son with noticeable bruises on their faces.

“(Padgett) said, ‘Man, they need to do something about this.’ And I said, ‘We are “they,” so let’s get it done,’” Overrein said.

In 2016, Padgett started riding to Ebenezer on his motorcycle on Christmas to give gifts to the children and plans ice cream socials for them during the summer.

Padgett said he plans to have a bike rally at Crossfire to raise money for the Shepherd House, a shelter in Wilkesboro that houses and educates boys removed from abusive homes. 

“You give a biker a reason to ride that day, they’ll show up and give you 20 bucks and say they’re happy to help,” Padgett said. “Every motorcycle club gives back to somebody. We do it for the kids.”

Padgett said the biker world is about brotherhood and respect, and people often get the wrong impression of them.

“Our preacher wears a vest and he wears patches on his back. People pass by and automatically think, ‘There goes a gang member,’” Padgett said. “But if they slow down and actually look at the patches, it says ‘Crossfirechurch.com.’”

Overrein wears a blue ribbon patch on the left side of his biker vest, which he said is supposed to represent Child Abuse Awareness Month in May.  

Overrein said he also keeps a pink hair tie on his bike “In remembrance of the boys and girls who go through trouble in life.”

“A little girl gave me my first one and I hung it on my mirror,” Overrein said. “When that one falls apart, I’ll just replace it.”

Similar to Overrein and Padgett raising awareness through riding, motorcycle rallies are ways to donate to various causes, such as fallen police officers and local veterans.

“Bikers are the most giving people in the world,” Padgett said.