Holy Rollers hit the road

Pastor Ed Hopkins, of Williamsburg United Methodist Church, leads the 23 other Holy Rollers and support staff in a singing of Cat Stevens' "Peace Train" before embarking on the 150-mile bike ride. Jake Zuckerman/Daily

NEW MARKET — After breakfast Wednesday morning at the Manor Memorial Methodist Church in New Market, Jesus took the wheels – not to mention the brakes, handlebars, chains and derailleurs of the bicycles of the Holy Rollers.

The term Holy Rollers refers to the 24 Methodist pastors who embarked on the 150-mile ride to the Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church in Roanoke on nothing but pedal power.

Ed Hopkins, pastor of the Williamsburg United Methodist Church, first organized the event in 2004 as a means of fundraising.

Each year, churches pool money at the conference for donation to a different cause. This year, proceeds are going to raise money for establishing churches in Mozambique, as well as for victims of a tornado that struck Virginia in February.

Hopkins breaks the purposes of the ride into the three F’s: fitness, fellowship and fundraising.

The Holy Rollers begin the first leg of their journey from New Market to Roanoke on Wednesday. Jake Zuckerman/Daily

“The idea is you can come and sit in the saddle with us for three days, or you can get out your checkbook and donate to a great cause,” he said.

The cyclists will break the trip up into three legs, sleeping and eating at Methodist churches along the way.

Despite the daunting mileage, the riders are not competitive in pacing and are not obligated to ride the entire trip. Dave Stokley is a pastor at Duncan Memorial United Methodist Church in Ashland, and he said there’s no issue cutting out of some mileage.

“You can stop and rest on the sag wagon if needed,” he said, referring to the support cars carrying food and supplies for the riders. “You don’t need to be prepared to ride 150 miles. You can work up to that.”

Some riders, like Hopkins, have been training all year for the event. Likewise, Sherman England, a pastor at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Danville, has been training for months and nearly matched the mileage in a pre-ride last week.

Unbeknown to Pastor Ed Hopkins at left, several of the Holy Rollers group members added a name plate to the pastor's bike to honor the man who started the Holy Rollers in 2004. The group left New Market on a bike ride Roanoke for the Virginia United Methodist Conference. Jake Zuckerman/Daily

“When you do this enough, it gets to be a passion,” he said.

Whatever the age, speed or intensity of the bikers, many of them said a key aspect of being a Methodist is the interconnectedness of the denomination, and they’re happy to ride together to a conference to meet with other pastors from about the state.

Until the United Methodist Church annual conference begins Saturday, the Holy Rollers will keep on riding, one pedal at a time.

Contact staff writer Jake Zuckerman at 540-465-5137 ext. 152, or jzuckerman@nvdaily.com.