By JOEL McNEECE
Calvary Baptist Church Pastor Ken Hanks said he feels close to God when he's cruising down the road on his motorcycle.
"I can get on that bike and it doesn't take 15 minutes and it eases your mind," Hanks said. "I feel close to God at that moment. There are no distractions, no cell phones. It's just me and God."
Hanks, who rode his first motorcycle just 10 years ago, said motorcycling is the greatest stress relief.
"There's an old saying you never see a motorcycle parked in front of a psychiatrist's office," Hanks said. "There's a reason for that."
Hanks, 35, a native of Abbeville, grew up loving motorcycles, but never riding one due to a fear of his mother's.
"My mom had some family members that rode in a rough club when I was younger," Hanks said. "So any time it was mentioned my mom would put it out."
In 2001, while Hanks was pastor at Faith Baptist Church in Oxford, he gave in to the long instinct to ride a motorcycle.
"I went to the dealership in Oxford and was looking around and decided to go ahead and buy my first bike," Hanks said. "I had loved motorcycles all my life, but I'd never ridden one before."
When his new bike was pulled around to the parking lot, he told the salesman he had never ridden and asked for some quick instructions.
"He told me about the ignition, gas, clutch, brake and all that," Hanks said. "I eased out on the clutch and apparently gave it too much gas. I spun my tires there in the parking lot and took off toward the busy road. I panicked and pulled in the clutch and drug my feet on the ground until I got it stopped."
The salesman decided they better deliver the bike for him. It didn't take long, however, before Hanks did catch on and began riding with a number of local friends.
"One of my friends who was a pastor bought a bike and several other friends started showing up to ride," Hanks said.
They started a biker Sunday School class and Hanks began looking into the Christian Motorcyclists Association (CMA).
"I saw where the closest chapters were in Tupelo and Southaven," Hanks said. "I started riding over to Tupelo to meetings and eventually joined and earned my colors (the large patch signifying membership in the club)."
As more and more interest began to grow around Oxford, Hanks set out to establish a new chapter. Soon after getting it organized Hanks was elected the chapter's first president, a position he served in over the next seven years before deciding to step down.
"It's still a growing club," Hanks said. "I try and remain as active as I can, but my priority now is Calvary Baptist Church and we have so much going on here I can't always make the meetings in Oxford."
Ken and his wife Leah have two sons – Alex, 9, and Noah, 6. They came to Calvary Baptist Church just east of Bruce in 2010.
"Calvary is a wonderful church with wonderful people," Hanks said. "We really love it here."
While his pastoral duties at Calvary come first, he continues to find time to enjoy his motorcycle and serve the Lord with it. This September the church will host its second "Biker Sunday."
"Last year we had a great turnout," Hanks said. "We had special parking for the bikes and reserved a couple of pews. It was a great day."
Hanks also rides when he can to rallies with CMA. The black, leather vest with the giant patch on the back, his do rag and the roaring pipes often leave people a different impression than a Baptist minister at first glance.
"People are shocked initially," Hanks said with a grin. "It's not unusual when riding with a large group to pull up at a red light and see an elderly lady locking her doors."
"In that role we're really there to serve the bikers," Hanks explained. "We attend the rallies, give out free water and coffee and just visit with other bikers. I'm always amazed at the number of people willing to sit and talk about Jesus."