Riding for a reason
Shipp heads ‘Wheels of Faith’ cycle club
Leather jackets, gangs and visions of multiple motorcycles are some of the things one thinks of when they see bikers on the highway.
The truth is that most of those who drive motorcycles are nowhere near to being like those stereotypes. The largest percentage of those riding bikes are doing it for the pleasure it gives them.
A new group of people are now hitting the highways, not only for the pleasure of motorcycle riding, but to spread their faith wherever they go. Wheels of Faith is the name of the organization.
Lawton Shipp is the president of Chapter 54, which is the group associated with First Assembly of God Church in East Brewton.
“I haven’t been riding very long,” Shipp said. “I bought my bike in 2010 and rode probably a thousand miles before my wife, Renee’ started riding with me. We had an “empty nest” and it gave us something to do together.
The local group from the church now has 15 to 20 people as members, although they don’t all ride at the same time.
“Although we are a ministry of the Assembly of God Church, members do not have to belong to that church,” Shipp added. All riders are welcome, he said; however, to become an official Wheels of Faith patched rider, one must be in a church and of the Christian faith.
Other leaders in Chapter 54 are Tom Britton as vice-president, Renee’ Shipp as secretary, Melissa Britton as treasurer and Jeff Scurlock as pastor. They have ridden to several gatherings of other motorcycle clubs, such as the Blue Ridge Parkway, earning patches that are added to their leather vests to show the rides they have been on and plan on attending some very prestigious gatherings. For the past two years, they have gone to rallies at Maggie Valley in North Carolina.
They sometimes take their tents and camp along the way, but not always. Shipp said there are campgrounds for bikes just as they are for motor homes.
“The rides give us the opportunity to witness to others and they have learned to respect what we do and why we do it,” Shipp said. “When we started this, we had no more children at home, but now we are raising our grandson, so we have no more empty nest and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Shipp was brought to live in East Brewton when he was just a small boy and he graduated from W.S. Neal High School in 1977. He then attended Jefferson Davis Community College for a couple of years. He entered Troy University but he didn’t finish his degree because he said he felt as if it was more important to get married instead. He and Renee’ were married in 1980 and later they became the parents of two boys, and now have a grandson, Hayden, who lives with them.
Shipp has worked with the city of East Brewton and now works for the city of Brewton. While he was growing up, he, and his brother, worked at WKNU radio station which his father built and operated from 1974 to 1978.
“When I was in college, I was working toward a broadcast journalism degree,” Shipp said. “I worked at the station and was a DJ for several years.
“I am enjoying what I do today, but I am really excited about the motorcycle club we have here,” he added. “Each Christian is led to worship in his own way. Riding our bikes and witnessing for Christ wherever we go is our way to show our faith in God while, at the same time, giving us the opportunity to fellowship with each other.”