When our church held a blessing of the bicycles ceremony along the C&O Canal last May, little did I know that I would wipe out on just about the same spot four months later. Not only that, another church parishioner broke her ankle riding a bike only about 50 feet away at Fletcher’s Boathouse during the summer.
Oh, my injuries were minor: a bruised hip, a bloody elbow and a few scrapes after turning too fast on the gravel. But they did come three weeks after being bitten by a dog near our country house and requiring 10 stitches on my leg.
One solution was presented by Allan Starr, the leader of the retirees’ mid-week bike tour in which I participated. “Mike you might consider getting a set of biker leathers for your rides; you need lots of protection beside sunblock cream.”
But these accidents do raise some theological questions: Such as why didn’t the blessing protect me and the other rider, Ann Thompson Cook?
I asked the Rev. Mary Kay Totty, the Dumbarton United Methodist Church pastor who blessed about 15 bike riders and their bikes (and a few joggers) on a Saturday morning as they passed along the trail.
“These blessings are not magic spells,” she said. “Blessings do not guarantee freedom from harm. Blessings are a moment of remembering, of giving thanks, of praying for well-being.
“Maybe, just maybe, your accident and Ann's happened at Fletcher's in a place where help and assistance are readily available -- maybe the blessing opened up a pathway for that possibility rather than accidents happening in far more isolated spots.
“Maybe, just maybe, the blessing opened up a pathway of possibility that the accidents were less traumatic than they could have been.
“Maybe, just maybe, the blessing did nothing at all, beyond provide a moment on a spring morning to celebrate the gift of bicycling and to remember that God is always with us, and to share with the wider community that some faith communities nurture joy, hope, celebration.”
I like the last explanation the best.