-- By Jackie Campbell, Communications Director--
Thirteen United Methodists from around Western Pennsylvania jumped aboard their bicycles at the Boston United Methodist Church near McKeesport on Monday, Aug. 13 and headed onto the Yough Trail for the first leg of a 315-mile journey to Washington, D.C. They're raising funds to support the Deeply Rooted, Upward Reaching capital campaign to ensure that funds are available so that anyone can have a camping experience regardless of ability to pay.
"We want to make sure that those who have been pushed to the margins of our society have the opportunity to meet and know Jesus through our camping and retreat ministries," Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi said during worship before the riders left the church.
The brief service had a bike-related theme, from the Ezekiel 1: 15-21 text describing wheels to the substitution of the word "ride" for "work in the second verse of the hymn of praise -- We will ride with each other, we will ride side by side ...We will ride with each other, we will ride side by side.
Singing "Marching to Zion", the bikers and congregation left the church for a blessing and benediction before the riders mounted and headed down the path beside the church to the trail along the Youghiogheny River, heading for Dawson, PA and Ohiopyle. The group hit some stormy weather around noon and, while some found shelter under an overpass, others were on open trail and ended their day soaking wet, but exhilarated at Mill Run United Methodist Church, where the congregation fed and sheltered them for the night. For updates on their progress, visit our Facebook page.
Nine of the bikers committed to attempting the complete 315-mile trip along the Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal Trail to Washington. Planning to go the distance were: the Rev. Chris Kindle and Pastor Raphael Koikoi, who organized the trip; Lee Baker of First UMC in Titusville; Rev. Matt Blake, pastor of the Bradford Area Parish; Rev. David Ewing, pastor of Greenstone UMC; Ellen Gainer of Central Highlands UMC; Sandra Matoushaya, Conference Mission Engagement Coordinator; Rev. Jason McQueen, pastor of Cabot UMC, and Michael Sahlaney of Seward UMC.
Pastor Jerome Alsdorf of Evangelical UMC, Titusville; Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi and Pittsburgh District Superintendent Dawn Hand and Rev. Drew Sutton, pastor of West View UMC, rode with the group for the first day.
The main purpose of the Bike-A-Thon is to raise money and awareness for camperships, but it also addresses other areas of the Conference's Five Areas of Focus. Participants will be physically challenging themselves while promoting abundant health, creating new places for new people and dismantling racism.
Each biker paid a $75 fee for the ride and has a minimum fundraising expectation of $500.
Bikers will be lodged at churches along the route, and some congregations will provide meals. Bill Jacka, Conference multimedia/event production specialist, is driving a truck and trailer stocked with food for other meals, snacks and supplies and will rendezvous with the bikers at various stops along the route.
UPDATE: The riders arrived in Washington on Friday evening and spent the night before returning to Boston UMC.
There are three ways to donate to the Bike-a-Thon: