Highway Healers

Highway HealersHighway Healers

“A lot of people think that when you get saved, you stop living,” says Arthur Perry Sr., founder and national president of the Rydas 4 Righteousness Christian Motorcycle Ministry. “People think living for God is boring—you just go to church and go home; you can’t play cards; you can’t have fun. A lot of people really think you can’t be saved and ride a motorcycle.”

Perry—or, as he’s known on the road, Brother Solomon—wants to dispel the notion that God has anything against V-twin engines, or that a motorcyclist doesn’t have room on his or her bike for God.

Members of R4R regularly roll up to secular parties and cookouts. They won’t drink, they won’t smoke, they won’t cuss and, as a rule, they’ll only stay an hour before their sergeant-at-arms rounds them up.

That’s long enough to make an impression, Perry believes. He says this small gesture can work miracles, so to speak. “If we sit inside these four walls”—Perry motions around Hamden’s Wayfaring Ministries, the church we’re sitting in—“and we wait for them to open up that door and come in here on their own, it’s never going to happen. Out of 10,000 you may get five. But if we go out to them, it tears that wall down.”

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Perry himself has been a biker for 13 years and a faithful churchgoer all the while. When he first began riding, he discovered many layered subcultures within the motorcycle scene. Perry found that riding as an “independent”—a rider unaffiliated with a specific motorcycle club (“MC”) but still wanting to be a part of biker culture—just wasn’t his speed, but neither was the non-religious lifestyle to be found with most clubs.

R4R combines church services and bible study with MC parties and club obligations. Although R4R wasn’t the first motorcycle ministry, Perry, who is black, couldn’t find any urban, black-friendly motorcycle ministries in this neck of the country. So he decided to start his own.

With the blessing of Eugene Brunson, his pastor, Perry put a flier out on a table at Wayfaring, where the group now holds its meetings. At the first gathering, before the group even had a name, about 35 people showed up, 27 of which would become members, he says.

“If it was up to me, it would’ve been called Heaven-Bound Riders,” Perry says, but “no one liked that name.” So he struck it from the board. “One of the things about Rydas 4 Righteousness is it’s not Brother Solomon’s ministry; it’s everybody’s ministry.” By popular vote, the group was soon christened with its given name.

R4R isn’t a church and doesn’t push religion onto others, Perry contends. On the other hand, speaking with Perry makes it clear the endeavor is at least partly evangelical. One of the group’s missions is to demonstrate that “cool” and Christ are not mutually exclusive; another is to provide a resource for bikers that want to bring Christianity into their lives. At MC conventions, R4R is regularly called upon to preside over tributes to fallen riders, and Perry sometimes teaches a class meant to instruct biker “chaplains”—a common but not necessarily religious position in many MCs—how to incorporate prayer into pre-ride rituals, or comfort the distraught after an accident.

One particular gathering, the 2012 MC Professional Convention in Atlanta, stands out in Perry’s memory. He was slated to pray at the annual tribute for fallen riders in front of several thousand bikers, but just as he was about to take the lectern, Perry believes, God told him to give a spontaneous “altar call.”

“When I got the mic, I started ministering. ‘Listen, maybe you want to be a better husband, a better father, a better mother. Maybe you’re sick of your body…’ And you could hear people start crying,” Perry recounts. “‘Listen,’” he continued, “‘if you want us to pray for you, if you want to be saved and have Christ in your life, I want you to come up here. I got my team right here. Just slip your hand up.’ And hands started going up like popcorn. We prayed for well over 500 people that weekend. We were in that room so long they started kicking us out. We were praying for people in the hallway.”

Meantime, he says, “15 people got saved. 15 confessed Christ.” The next year R4R went to the PROC in Houston where it did the same thing. This time Perry says more R4R riders were in attendance but still didn’t have enough mouths to pray for everyone.

In January, R4R will be in Norfolk, Virginia, for the 2016 MC Professional Convention, or “PROC.” Perry’s wife, Melody Perry, a.k.a. Trinity, the president of the Hamden chapter, is planning to attend, along with representatives from R4R’s four other chapters. Those are located in Charlotte, NC; Raleigh-Durham, NC; Charleston, SC; and Cleveland, OH.

“Now that I have more members, it’ll make things easier,” Perry says. Of course, convincing others to dramatically change course is never really easy. But in a large-enough crowd, there’re almost always a few hands looking for an opportunity to reach not just out, as they would to a pair of handlebars, but up.

Rydas 4 Righteousness
Winter meetings held at Wayfaring Ministries
29 Marne St, Hamden – rear (map)
5pm 1st and 3rd Saturdays
(203) 410-2328
www.r4rcmm.com

Written and photographed by Daniel Shkolnik.

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Daniel is an aspiring novelist. He owns a Yale sweater he will never wear and takes his Faulkner with vermouth and his vermouth with an orange wedge. An avid traveler and retired hooligan, he was kicked out of the largest club in Africa for breakdancing, joined an Andalusian metal band and, while in Istanbul, learned to read the future in his coffee grinds. Despite the omens he finds at the bottom of his morning joe, Daniel continues to write.

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