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Roadhouse church gives bikers a place to worship

December 27, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
At the Roadhouse Biker Church, there is no shortage of leather, tattoos and faith.

The non-denominational Christian church in San Bernardino is admittedly a bit unorthodox in its look as it is in its approach.

Each Tuesday and Saturday night, Pastor Denver Cooley delivers a sermon to bikers and their families, where saints and sinners are welcomed both equally.

"I think mainstream America has their opinions of what a pastor looks like, and I'm not it," Cooley said

Maybe not, but in 2006, after a decade of ministering to bikers, he and fellow rider Ray "Eagle" Ramirez discussed the possibility of establishing a church that would embrace their subculture.

"I'd said, 'Yeah we can make it look like 'Tombstone.' We'll put swinging doors in and do a birdcage theater stage and we were just throwing out these ideas laughing,'" Cooley said.

Shortly after that conversation, Ramirez was killed in a motorcycle accident. But his dream would survive with the help of his daughter Amy Paulsen, who is now the church's administrator.

"I know that he would definitely see it as something he would have loved to have been a part of," Paulsen said.

Three years and 20 operating ministries later, Roadhouse has an active membership thanks in part to Denver and the welcoming atmosphere.

Even the roughest and toughest biker feels less intimidated by the pursuit of faith in this environment.

"At this church, you can come as you are. You can drop your facade of being something rather than yourself," said Arnold Payne, a biker and church member.

The location of the church is also pretty unorthodox. It's located in an industrial park in San Bernardino because when the congregation arrived, it sounds like thunder.

"Part of that is intentional because we can't really put our church in a residential community because of the noise factor," Paulsen said.

While the setting may be unconventional, Roadhouse is like any other church in its basic mission.

"My goal isn't to be the biker pastor that led 100,000 bikers to the Lord," Cooley said. "If I am the biker pastor that led one guy to the Lord, then I've accomplished something amazing, as far as I am concerned."

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