For alumnus Chandler Horne, learning bike mechanics is a parallel to learning how to be the church. Horne trains confident bike mechanics and disciples “people mechanics” at Restoration Hamilton, a church plant in east Hamilton, that combines bike repair, cycling and ministry.
“We seek the restoration of people and place alongside the restoration of bikes,” says Horne, a youth ministry and business program graduate. It is—quite literally—church in a bike shop.
How can we relate to each other in a way that we can become “mechanics” for each other’s souls? How can we “talk shop” about more than just bikes but about our own lives? These are questions Horne engages daily. Horne was introduced to questions like these at Redeemer.
“I went to Redeemer not knowing who I was,” he says. “I took business courses purely as a way to move forward in a well-rounded way. But, God had his way with me, and I discovered a passion for youth ministry and an affinity with theology.”
“We believe God is into restoring people and culture just like New Hope Community Bikes is into restoring bikes.”
Chandler was a regular volunteer at New Hope Community Bikes, a bike co-op started by New Hope Church, a Christian Reformed church plant across the road. While he was repairing bikes and rubbing shoulders with those in the community, he began to talk about his faith. This led to invitations to pray for one another. Soon, it grew to full-fledged church services.
These church services, dubbed Shop Talks, are a unique space for the community to ask questions about God. All are welcome, and the congregation is continually drawing in customers from the bike shop. While it may not be traditional, it is holistic. “We believe God is into restoring people and culture just like New Hope Community Bikes is into restoring bikes,” says Chandler.
Revitalization, and bike culture, are part of the fabric of east Hamilton. “Traditionally, there’s a stigma surrounding the area: it’s seen as the dirty, industrial underbelly of Hamilton.” Likewise, ‘East Enders’ are seen as the riffraff of the city. Add the brisk gentrification taking place, and you have an equation for hopelessness. But, this is changing, especially with the hospitality and compassion of organizations like New Hope Community Bikes and Restoration Hamilton.
“Most of the people in the neighbourhood travel on bikes due to the cost of transit or owning a car,” Chandler explains. This commonality brings customers into the shop, and leads to conversations about God at Shop Talks. “Biking is an activity that nearly everyone can do. For many, it’s a hobby.” Biking is also, it appears, fertile ground for community, hospitality, growth, and discipleship.
Chandler connects the inspiration for Restoration Hamilton back to his time at school. “I would be a different husband today, a different bike mechanic, a different pastor and have a different love for Hamilton if Redeemer was not in my past,” he says. “It was an investment that God grew tenfold—Redeemer was worth the cost. Redeemer is where I received my first call to ministry, where I articulated the strengths and weaknesses of my character, where I made friends that still build into my relational equity in Hamilton today, where I honed my ability to learn, and discovered a worldview that shaped the many faculties of life.”