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Bikers church aims to make service fun

HOGANSVILLE — Arriving on a motorcycle for church service may seem odd, but not at Hawg Heaven restaurant on Highway 29 in Hogansville.

The Rev. Randall Hodge, along with his wife Kay, do it every Sunday morning for the 8:30 a.m. service. The idea of a bikers church was inspired from the love of music, the gospel and good food.

“I think church should be fun,” he said.

The faithful arrive a little early on motorbike, cars and on foot. They help themselves to a full breakfast buffet of eggs, bacon, sausages, potatoes and, of course, biscuits and grits. All the food is homemade by restaurant manager Ted Williams.

Hodge and Williams are a team. Both are musical and share religious values. Both sport braided pony tails and ride motorcycles.

Williams has a number of tattoos, but Hodge does not. Hodge strolls around the restaurant warmly welcoming all while Williams puts the finishing touches on breakfast.

Promptly at 8:30, Hodge and one or two other musicians carefully tune their guitars. Together they sing familiar and old Baptist-like hymns like “Old Rugged Cross,” “A Closer Walk With Thee” and “I’ll Fly Away.”

Photocopied lyrics are provided at each table, and audience participation is encouraged — and often enthusiastic. Friendly waitresses refill coffee cups at the tables; occasionally, one of them is inspired to sing a solo.

A strong feeling of community and acceptance permeates the restaurant as the music begins. Pastor Hodge uses humor to make folks feel at home before his sermon begins. For example, when he spots a newcomer, he’ll suggest they pick up the food tab for all.

Hodge knows his subject, himself and his assembled group. His braided pony tail adds to his demeanor.

“Most people wonder why the church lets me get by wearing a pony tail,” Hodge said.

He shrugs off the question as unimportant as he begins the sermon for the day. His message is timely, Christian and Bible referenced.

Hodge is a busy man. Following bikers church at Hawg Heaven, Hodge gives a sermon every Sunday at 10:30 a.m. at the Hogansville Church of God at 221 Collier St. On Monday evening he’s back at Hawg Heaven for Bible study.

This group is small in comparison to church attendance, and the message is more sober. The group sits at a single table at the restaurant for an hour of study; there is a feeling of family, with Hodge guiding the discussion.

Hodge recently completed a Chaplain’s Clinic Pastor Study course, and is working to finish his autobiography for Chaplain Board Certification. Chaplain training has taught Hodge a new skill, which he uses in his other job as on-call chaplain at hospitals in LaGrange and Newnan. Hodge listens to and comforts hospice patients in their rooms, and ministers to the patients’ families.

“Preachers like to talk,” said Hodge. “But now I appreciate the importance of listening.”

Hodge welcomes anyone open to the concept of a breakfast church to join him Sunday mornings at Hawg Heaven for a relaxed morning of spiritual songs, an inspiring sermon and great food.

Ted Williams, left, manager of Hawg Heaven restaurant in Hogansville, and the Rev. Randall Hodge lead a hymn at the restaurant, where they host ‘bikers church’ on Sundays.
http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/web1_web0811BikersChurch01-1.jpgTed Williams, left, manager of Hawg Heaven restaurant in Hogansville, and the Rev. Randall Hodge lead a hymn at the restaurant, where they host ‘bikers church’ on Sundays. Carole Dickerson | Special to the Daily News

Carole Dickerson

Daily News correspondent

Carole Dickerson is a stringer for the Daily News. She may be reached at carole.dickerson@gmail.com.

Anyone interested in becoming a stringer/correspondent for the Daily News may contact editor Matthew Strother at mstrother@civitasmedia.com