Amlin United Methodist Church will bless motorcycles and riders for a safe season May 18.

Amlin United Methodist Church will bless motorcycles and riders for a safe season May 18.

The Blessing of the Bikes is just one way the church is seeking to get involved in the community that is growing around it at 5441 Cosgray Road in Dublin.

The church chapel has been around since 1879, but over the past 15 years, things have changed, said the Rev. Steve Putka.

"Really, growth started about 15 years ago when the United Methodist Church looked at the growth that was coming and they decided to fund the first full-time pastor," Putka said. "They realized new neighbors were coming and we wouldn't remain a country church for long."

The New Life Center, which was built behind the original chapel in 2005, hosts contemporary services and other programs.

With new neighbors constantly arriving, Putka said the church has been trying to reach out.

"One of the things we've been doing to reach out directly to the neighborhood ... is knocking on doors and asking them what they like about the community and what organizations can do to help the community," he said.

Surveys of neighbors have revealed they think a few things are lacking.

"What most people seem to be saying is, 'We don't know the neighborhood very well, we don't have a sense of community, we don't have friendships or people we can turn to when things are rough or celebrate with when things are well,' " Putka said. "We decided to do that as a church."

With the aim of connecting people and creating community, Amlin United Methodist Church last year held its first Blessing of the Bikes.

"It's not a new idea," said Jen Bevington, an Amlin United Methodist Church member and an organizer of the Blessing of the Bikes. "My husband and I had done it.

"A group of Christians had met at a dealership and had the bikes blessed for us. That's how we got it in our head. ... We thought it would be really good outreach for the church to do that."

About 12 bikes were blessed at the inaugural event, but Bevington said the church is working to get the word out this year.

"With bikers, people tend to think they're not church people and that's absolutely not the case," she said. "We hope that some people who don't have something like this available at their church or who don't have a church will come and be a part of this with us."

The May 18 Blessing of the Bikes will follow the 11 a.m. service.

"We just gather around the bikes and the preacher does a blessing over the crowd and the people who ride bikes," Bevington said. "And, of course, we have food afterwards."

The event, open and free to the public, will be followed by a potluck lunch with hot dogs and hamburgers.

"One of the things we want to do is be genuinely welcoming to the community," Putka said. "Many people think church means judgmental or narrow. We don't want to be 'judgey.' We believe we should be marked with a spirit of joy, welcoming and hospitality."

Amlin United Methodist Church will prepare to again roll out the welcome mat on June 21 for an ice cream social and on Aug. 17 for a Blessing of the Animals.

"We're aware a lot of people don't come into a church the first time or have had a bad experience in the past," Putka said. "One of things we've been successful with is bringing people in who have had a previously negative experience of church or the Christian faith.

"We want to invite people in so they find out church can be a fun and positive thing."