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Peterborough, N.H. May 22, 2003 Edition      
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Archived stories:
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10/02 - 06/03

 

Heaven’s angels on wheels

By Edward X. Young
Monadnock Ledger Staff


RINDGE — “If you don’t show up,” says Reverend Joseph Delio of the Cornerstone Motorcycle Ministry, “God can’t do anything for you.”

Heeding his word, more than 400 reverent motorcyclists showed up for the 10th annual Blessing of the Bikers at the Cathedral of the Pines in Rindge on May 11.

Traditionally held on Mother’s Day, the perennial benediction has grown in popularity. What began as a modest regional event in 1994 currently attracts throngs of local and out-of-state Christian bikers, some of whom travel hundreds of miles to attend the service.

The Cornerstone Motorcycle Ministry of East Swanzey presides over the event. But many other similar groups from all over New England, including the Seed of Abraham Motorcycle Club, regularly participate.

Most riders come to have their bikes blessed in hopes of protection from accidents over the upcoming year. But ministers on hand also offer personal counseling to anyone and everyone in need.

Some of the reverent, who were leather-jacketed and tattooed, were visibly moved to tears.

Delio, who was born and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., understands the reasons for the bad reputation bikers have. He acknowledges that many once led checkered lives.

The 55-year-old Delio makes no secret of his own past.

He confesses that in his youth, for 11 years, he rode on the other side of the law. But when he found Jesus, on Sept. 3, 1976 in Lagos, Nigeria, he experienced a spiritual awakening, he says.

After Delio completed a 12-step program, he studied to become an ordained minister. When he was called to start a mobile motorcycle ministry more than 25 years ago, he says, he was regarded as a curiosity.

“I was outside of the nine dots,” he says.

At the time, he knew of only one other existing Christian motorcycle club, which was located in North Carolina. Since then, the phenomenon has flourished.

Links to Christian biker clubs that have sprung up around the world can be found on Delio’s website: www.services4bikers.com.

After riding the roads for 38 years, Delio was forced to give up his Harley Davidson after advanced multiple sclerosis left him confined him to a wheelchair in 1998.

“I know I am imperfect,” said Delio. “But by example, I hope to show how imperfect people are needed by Jesus Christ to spread the Good Word.”

The Reverend Delio, who prefers to be called “Papa Joe,” has amazing stamina.

With an oxygen tank at his side and his old biker jacket displaying the colors of the Cornerstone Ministry hanging off the back of his motorized wheelchair, he scoots around the parking lot.

He will not quit, he says, if there is a biker in need of prayer or counseling.

“People can see that I am disabled,” said Delio. “But there are lots of people who are disabled and do not know it. Broken marriages, addictions, bondage to pornography and hedonism have crippled many lives.”

Delio says the true nature of addiction is very misunderstood. He cites debt as one of the worst addictions in America today.

“People need to realize that the guy with the most toys doesn’t win,” he says.

In his sermon, Delio warned that it is not easy to ride on the righteousness path. Describing what he calls “a painstaking project,” he used motorcycle maintenance as a metaphor.

“When you restore a bike, you don’t just replace the chrome parts,” he said. “You have to completely take it apart and meticulously replace and rebuild everything that needs to be fixed.”

Delio said you don’t have to be a biker or even own a motorcycle to join Cornerstone Ministry or attend regular services.

“Everyone is welcome,” he said.

Delio and the ministers from other Christian motorcycle clubs at the Blessing of the Bikers all adamantly refuse to accept any monetary donations.

“We’re not selling Jesus for $3.95,” said Delio. “The Word of the Lord is a free gift.”

How do the motorcycle ministries support themselves?

“God is the accountant, and he provides,” said Delio. “When work is done God’s way, he never asks for support or provisions.”

When the Christian bikers hold services or sponsor events throughout New Hampshire, the members of the congregations always pitch in to make things work.

Anyone wishing to learn more about Cornerstone Motorcycle Ministry can contact Papa Joe at 146 Carlton Road in East Swanzey or call 352-2616.

Bikers in Christ, who live, as Delio says, “outside of the nine dots,” embrace the rebel spirit by taking to the road to teach the Gospel and rejecting the morally ambiguous ways of the secular world.

“Give ‘em Heaven!” says Papa Joe.

Thursday, May 22, 2003

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