' ... and He will make your paths straight'

From left, Mac and Laurie McCauley of Manchester and Richard Longo and Tara Tradd of Brockton, Mass., stand while the band Mercy Road performs during the Full Throttle Biker Church service at Seaport Community Church in Groton Friday.
From left, Mac and Laurie McCauley of Manchester and Richard Longo and Tara Tradd of Brockton, Mass., stand while the band Mercy Road performs during the Full Throttle Biker Church service at Seaport Community Church in Groton Friday. Dana Jensen The Day Buy Photo

Groton - Mac Daddy, dressed for church in jeans, boots and a leather jacket that reads "One in the Son," can nod with authority when someone talks about giving up drugs for Jesus.

He's done it. His real name is Mac McCauley, and he used everything but heroin, starting at age 9 until age 40. He sold, stole and ran from the law, but escaped going to jail.

"I ride fast," he said.

McCauley, 49, is now president of Covenant Motorcycle Ministries Connecticut chapter. He attended the December service Friday of Full Throttle Biker Church, "Wide Open for Christ," held at Seaport Community Church in Groton.

"Hey, you can still be cool, riding a motorcycle, sober and loving Christ," McCauley, of Manchester, said.

Brad Whipple, pastor of the Seaport Community Church, started the biker church in May, and 60 people showed up at the first service. They travel from as far away as Massachusetts and Long Island, N.Y.

The biker church holds services every month. The next is scheduled for Jan. 10.

Whipple said bikers sometimes don't feel comfortable in church, so he wanted a place just for them. He also holds an annual Blessing of the Bikes.

"Some churches have the mistaken notion that bikers are thugs," he said. "So the bikers may have the feeling that they're not welcome."

December's service had a smaller crowd than usual - about 35 to 40 in the congregation and a handful more in the lobby. Much of Friday's service focused on overcoming addiction because it included testimony from "Teen Challenge," a Christian residential rehabilitation program.

Whipple, of Mystic, said it's off-season for riders, though he just returned Thursday from a 2,500-mile ride in the Southwest.

His wife, Debra Whipple, sings lead vocals for the Christian rock band Mercy Road and began the service singing over drums, two electric guitars, and electric keyboards.

"We tell them, wear your jeans and your leather and just come," Whipple said of the bikers. "Check us out." The church has a Facebook page and Whipple also sends out email invitations.

Friday's service was followed by a deep-fried turkey dinner.

"Real church is about people coming however they are and finding new life," Whipple said. "It's not about becoming 'churchy' or 'religious.' That's bogus."

Outside, a couple of people finished their cigarettes shortly before the service.

Inside, the pulpit took the form of the front of a motorcycle with instruments and handlebars.

"This is awesome," said Dave Pantaleo. "It's not every day you walk into church and see that as a pulpit."

Richard Longo, dressed in his leather, said he was a drug addict and criminal for 35 years. Now he's Rev. Richlow and ministers to people on the street. "Instead of working for Satan, we're working for Jesus," said Longo, of Brockton, Mass.

Laurie McCauley, whose road name is "Wrong-Way" and who is married to Mac Daddy, said Covenant Motorcycle Ministries reaches out to "a lot of people that other people would be afraid to (approach), or would not care to."

During Friday's service, a group from "Teen Challenge" sang "Out of the Ashes We Rise" to piped-in music. The bikers clapped to encourage the singers.

Nick Caroll, 25, originally from the Philadelphia area, told the congregation he was once a heroin addict. He said the last words his father said before Caroll turned his life around were: "Son, you're nothing but a thief, you're nothing but a liar. You're a cheat. And I don't want anything to do with you."

Now his father is back in his life. Caroll said he's a musician and is working on an album. He said he lives by the verse in Proverbs 3: 5-6:

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart

and lean not on your own understanding;

in all your ways submit to Him,

and He will make your paths straight."

d.straszheim@theday.com

Pastor Brad Whipple stands next to a motorcycle-style pulpit while welcoming the congregation to the Full Throttle Biker Church service at Seaport Community Church in Groton on Friday.
Pastor Brad Whipple stands next to a motorcycle-style pulpit while welcoming the congregation to the Full Throttle Biker Church service at Seaport Community Church in Groton on Friday. Dana Jensen The Day Buy Photo
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