The Orders of Service for A Blessing of the Bicycles

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I have ridden the Lake Pepin Three Speed Tour as the Quicker Vicar since 2007 and celebrate a short service at the beginning of each ride and have on occasion done a singalong on the Saturday night. To my surprise, I've had some inquiries about this from other clergy based on posting the early service bulletins so have decided to post all the Blessing of the Bicycles bulletins here. If you're clergy with a congregation that meets more than once a year then you may find the tone and content insufficiently reverent. All I can say is that I hope God has a sense of humor. Also, you will notice that readings recur. This is in keeping with mainstream liturgical churches, who have Years A, B & C of readings with various special Feast days when needed.

The 2007 Blessing of the Bicycles was the first. I got ordained by the Universal Life Church and put together a service. Rather than use a Biblical reading, I adapted Shakespeare's stirring Saint Crispin's Day speech from Henry V to fit with Saint Dunstan's Day, which matched up with our weekend. I like the ending of this particularly:

and cyclists everywhere now-a-bed
shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here
and hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
that rode with us upon Saint Dunstan's Day.

The service proved to be a success, and we decided to go with it again the following year. This was also the year of the nascent Brew Up when my buddy Paul and I brewed up tea on the lakeshore in Lake City (and nearly caused the Great Lake City Fire of 2007 from the unfortunate combination of piles of driftwood and careless disposal of the ashes out of the new Kelly Kettle, recently received from Ireland) because we'd found the Chickadee Cottage Tearoom tea to be wildly insufficient. Jon was still trying to keep the Chickadee Cottage thing happening, even posting a nice Cyclist Teas sign out front, but the Brew Up would come to replace the Chickadee pretty quickly. This was also the first year we took Ski Road, now a standard lovely bucolic bypass of a section of Highway 61, and much nicer than Hill Road after Old Frontenac, which ends up at the same place.

The 2008 Blessing of the Bicycles was for Whitsuntide, the week after Pentecost. The date of Pentecost is based on Easter, March 23 this year, and it hadn't been that early since 1913 and won't be again until 2160. The reading this time was an adaptation of Genesis from The Cyclists' Apocrypha, slightly modified and reworked so as to include congregational participation. We also had a brief serious bit, remembering Sheldon Brown, who died in February and who should be a saint.

The 2009 Blessing of the Bicycles was for The Feast Day of Saint Caroline Chisholm. I was a bit hard up for a relevant saint's day! This year I went with a Cyclist's Lamentation from New Zealander Annie Welborn, wailing and gnashing of teeth over missing a bike on eBay written as a very traditional Church of England prayer. I made this interactive as well. Caroline Chisholm was an Australian saint, so it was an Antipodal service. We stuck with Amazing Gears for the hymn but actually had the music written out this time. This ride started off on Saturday with the temperature in the 40s.

The 2010 Blessing of the Bicycles was for Whitsun Eve, as Pentecost was near, and we returned to the Cyclist's Apocrypha and did The Flood and the Ten Commandments portion, slightly adapted. For the first time, we also switched hymns, to I Sing a Song of the Chaps on Bikes, an adaptation of Lesbia Scott's excellent I Sing a Song of the Saints of God. There was another moment of silence, this time for midwestern bike nerd Phil Wood, who died earlier this year, and whose hubs I first bought in 1977 for my Motobecane and whose bottom bracket serves in my main bike still.

In 2010 we went from just a songsheet to The Vicar's Hymnal with all the songs we sing. This repertoire is slowly growing but currently includes our versions of folk songs (Danny Boy, Loch Lomond), hymns (Amazing Grace, Comfort, Comfort Ye My People) and even a 1930s Cycle Touring Club song (I Like to Jump Upon A Bike). We have actual music for most of these and a short bit about the original underlying piece. The lyrics are generally tailored to the Three Speed Tour specifically, but perhaps they'll inspire you to write your own. This year was the ride where the Smiling Pelican was closed for renovation and the forlorn flock had to take solace at Ole's Bar & Grill.

The 2011 Blessing of the Bicycles was for The Rapture. Elderly Christian talk show host Harold Camping had predicted, based on a close study of the numerology of the Bible, that the Saturday of the Three Speed Tour was the day that Christians would ascend to heaven (around 6PM, though it wasn't clear if that was Eastern time or Central), and that the Earth and the universe would be destroyed October 21. He was pretty confident about this, his prior prediction of September 6, 1994 having been predicated on incomplete information. A lot of his followers sold all their stuff and travelled around warning us to get ready. That this paragraph is written in past tense might be a clue that Camping got it wrong again, and the Three Speed Tour carried on undisturbed on Sunday and not just because we were lacking in good Christians to get raptured. This is Year A in the Blessing of the Bicycles Liturgical calendar, based on Genesis Chapters 2 & 3, in which Adam and Eve get thrown out of the Garden of Eden, my favorite of the readings. On the ride this year it was pissing down rain early on Saturday and then we had big thunderstorms Sunday afternoon starting at the Brew Up from the same system that damaged Northeast Minneapolis with a tornado. This led to the discovery by the Chicago Mob (guided by Juston) of the B. Wells Bar (aka the Tornado Bar) in Frontenac Station, a regular Sunday stopping point ever since. My buddy Paul rode out the worst of the storm huddled under an awning of an outbuilding of a farm on Ski Road while I, a mile or two along, just stood in raingear under some trees in the shadow of the bluffs and admired the deluge.

The 2012 Blessing of the Bicycles returned to our Feast Day, St. Dunstan's Day, and the non-Biblical adaptation of Shakespeare's St. Crispin's Day speech from Henry V.

And cyclists everywhere now-a-bed,
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That rode with us upon Saint Dunstan's day.

Stirring stuff, that, makes you want to go out and shoot a Frenchman with a longbow. Or ride to Wabasha on your bicycle, it can be taken a couple of different ways. St. Dunstan's interrupts the usual Liturgical Calendar and is used when the ride falls on (or near, I'm not too demanding) St. Dunstan's Day. This was my daughter Geneva's first 3ST. This is the ride where Shirt Tail Organizer Jon Sharratt broke his French crank arm in Reads Landing on Sunday, one of the best mechanicals ever. Sunday was also pretty chilly and overcast for most of the day but at least there were no thunderstorms.

The 2013 Blessing of the Bicycles was Whitsun Eve again. Sunday of the 3ST was Pentecost, Whitsunday. In Britain, the newly baptized would wear white robes, hence the White Sunday, Whitsun. Also in Britain, Whitsun Ales (referring both to beer specifically and boisterous celebrations generally) were popular and involved boys and men getting drunk in the streets, young people dancing, bowling, and shooting their bows and otherwise carrying on with an enthusiasm more vigorous than the strictly religious celebration required. The Vicar is all for observing these traditions and expects rigorous observance from his congregation! This year the Tornado Bar in Frontenac Station worked against us; lingering a bit too long meant a group of us was caught by a massive thunderstorm just short of Red Wing and had to take to the ditch or other cover. There was a superb minute or so as the gustfront came through with sheets of rain that cars pulled off for lack of visibility and I had a gigantic tailwind and spun along in top gear, but then the lightning started up and I took to the ditch. The reading is the Cyclist's Lamentation by Annie from New Zealand and in the Blessing liturgical calendar is Year B.

The 2014 Blessing of the Bicycles celebrated the feast day of the obscure Saint Madern, who lived and died in a hermitage near Lands End in Cornwall. Yeah, I'd never heard of him either. He was cured from an affliction by waters from a well near Lands End in Cornwall. This well is said to still be venerated in the Celtic tradition but my main familiarity with Celtic Christianity comes from watching Father Ted and I don't recall any mention of it. This is the first Tour in memory with no rain whatsoever. Ever other year we've had at least a modest sprinkle. This year: nothing.

The 2015 Blessing of the Bicycles was for The Feast Day of Saint Caroline Chisholm, the Immigrant's Friend. I was there to celebrate the Blessing and ride the first day of the Tour and even stayed overnight in Wabasha, but my daughter's graduation from the University of Minnesota on Sunday meant that I didn't ride the second day. My wife and 90-something Auntie Margaret (from England, who actually rode bicycles in the UK in the 1930s and 1940s) were along. We left Wabasha after all the cyclists had departed and had the novel experience of driving through the Tour and seeing how strung out it gets.

The 2016 Blessing of the Bicycles was for Whitsun Eve, the Sunday of the ride being Pentecost. I went with new reading this time, an adaptation of Acts, Chapter 2, where the Holy Spirit descends on the gathered crowds and people begin speaking in tongues. The relevant reference for our purposes was the bit "Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine.", but that is denied since it is only eight in the morning; "For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, excepting perhaps Garth, seeing it is but the eighth hour of the day." A few tongues of flame would have been welcome as it was bloody cold out in the parking lot and photos from Saturday show us all in gloves and leggings. Fortunately the rushing mighty wind was from the north and thus helped us along.

The 2017 Blessing of the Bicycles was for The Feast Day of Saint Mucious, a priest martyr who destroyed a temple to Bacchus (god of wine, boo hiss to Mucious) so the Romans decided to execute him by burning him and exposing him to wild beasts. He survived, and was made a saint for his durability as much as anything, but later was beheaded, which he didn't survive, so there's that. We went back to Annie Wellborn's Cyclists Lamentation for the reading this year. The Vicar had his own miraculous brush with death this year when a scone purchased from the Chickadee Cottage Tearoom proved to have mold on the inside. Ever since we abandoned the Chickadee Cottage because of their lousy tea (2006) and poor attitude (2007) I have at least stopped in to buy scones for the Brew Up, pee in their toilet and fill the water bag so we can brew up. As apparent clergy, the elderly ladies there are among the most deferential I run into on the whole ride. No more. I shook the dust of the Chickadee Cottage from my sandals and will never return.

The 2018 Blessing of the Bicycles was for Ascension. We did nothing specific for Ascension but used the story of the Flood and the Ten Commandments for this year's reading. This ride where the Highway 63 bridgework out of Red Wing was starting and also was the first where the Flattened Penny ice cream shop was closed. From my point of view, our stop for a Bloody Mary in Bay City put us behind the rest of the day since the non-drinkers just carried on sans ice cream and descended on the Smiling Pelican in Maiden Rock like a plague of locusts, wiping out all the pie and special trifle. We were fortunate to snag the last three panna cottas and leave those behind us desolated at the lack of selection. Slow service at the Harborview put us further back and we didn't roll into Wabasha until 8:40. On the Three Speed Tour, you can never assume you're last in, though, and Troy, Marlis and another guy, who had lingered at the bar in Nelson, crossed the bridge only at 9:05. On Sunday on Ski Road the Lloyds stopped to say hi to some friendly cats and the farmer came out for a chat and ended up showing us his 1926 Ford Model T, albeit powered with a Mustang engine. This was the first 3ST since Minnesota authorized alcohol sales on Sundays, so there was no panic to get supplied on Saturday with booze for the Brew Up. The Stag Head wasn't open Sunday due to vacation plans (they'd been open Friday night) so we met at Liberty's afterwards.


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by Matt "The Vicar" Cole, Saint Paul, Minnesota