A benediction of wheels

Published June 15, 2011

Church-goers from two-year-olds to octogenarians brought their favourite rides to St. Martin’s Anglican Church, Calgary for the annual Blessing of the Wheels.

Church-goers from two-year-olds to octogenarians brought their favourite rides to St. Martin’s Anglican Church in Calgary for the sixth annual Blessing of the Wheels on May 29. More than 40 vehicles—including bikes, trikes, scooters, skateboards, rollerblades, motorcycles, sport cars, new cars, walkers, a wheelchair and a go-cart—all received blessings from the Rt. Rev. Gary Woolsey, retired bishop of Athabasca, and the Rev. Natasha Brubaker Garrison, rector of St. Martin’s.

The event has its roots in the call to evangelism sent out at the 1988 Lambeth Conference, which Woolsey attended as bishop of Athabasca. Soon after that, he and his wife moved to Calgary and joined a motorcycle club called the Chinook Wings. As rector of St. Peter’s in Calgary, Woolsey honoured his commitment to evangelism by inviting the Wings to attend church. “I came up with the idea of Bikers’ Sunday. It would be a time for club members to show off their wheels in the community by attending church, followed by a show-and-shine session in the parking lot.”

After moving to St. Martin’s, he continued the tradition but soon realized that he needed to open it up to more than motorcyclists as parishioners were asking to bring in their wheels, too. “Lord, I couldn’t continue to call this Bikers’ Sunday, so it became the Blessing of the Wheels,” he says.

About 150 people, including 20 members of the Chinook Wings, sang travel-themed hymns such as “Travel on, travel on,” and “Come and journey with a saviour.” The service’s two main themes were gift and mind. “As preacher, I had young and old think about how their wheels are a gift and how they enhance our lives. Then we must use our God-given minds to safely function with our wheels,” says Woolsey.

“It is so exciting to see the children wanting to be sprinkled with holy water as a sign of God’s blessing,” he adds. The service is pegged to the beginning of the riding season when everyone is keen to hit the road but also aware of the dangers facing riders.


  • Diana Swift

    Diana Swift is an award-winning writer and editor with 30 years’ experience in newspaper and magazine editing and production. In January 2011, she joined the Anglican Journal as a contributing editor.

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