Lessons from an Amish E-Bike Mechanic

Or don’t you know that all who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore, we were buried together with him through baptism into his death, so that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too can walk in newness of life. If we were united together in a death like his, we will also be united together in a resurrection like his. (Romans 6)

I wonder how we are walking in newness of life throughout the presbytery in 2024. What new things are you trying? Where are you seeing new signs of new life in the church?

In our communal life right now, we are called to walk in newness of life marked by reconciliation and justice. In fact, “Do Justice” is the theme of our presbytery assembly this month.

As we navigate the ripples from changes to the Board of Pensions structure, as war tears apart our siblings overseas, embodying newness of life means seeking God’s justice, acting as instruments of reconciliation for all – for the church and her structures and for those who are hurting.

Have you heard the one about the Amish e-bike mechanic? No really.  David Ross is one of our neighbors living on the north side of Chicago. And he’s the one who has made Robert’s Cycles, a bike shop in the city’s Rogers Park neighborhood, a hub of e-bike repairs.

The Block Club Chicago podcast about David starts, “A few years ago, an Amish man walked into Rogers Park’s oldest bike shop and helped drag it into the 21st century.”

Newness of life.

David grew up in an Amish community in Ohio and was headed toward a career as a carpenter. His religious community had refrained from the use of most technology. In an interview he described his first encounter with an e-bike noting, “I was actually traveling to the store with my horse and buggy when I saw someone riding an e-bike and stopped to talk to him.” Intrigued, he did some research and started teaching himself – and soon received permission to build e-bikes to raise money for his community.

But, he wasn’t able to keep any of his creations until he moved to Chicago in 2017 to get married. His community didn’t approve of his decision to leave and marry — and now, two years after his wife’s death, won’t let him return home.

But he continues to walk with an innovative and optimistic spirit. David remains committed to his faith, but now is rooted in his Chicago community.  He’s a regular at the bike shop, graciously servicing e-bike customers and often seen cheerfully riding around the neighborhood on his electric scooter with his dog balanced between his feet.

God’s grace transforms our lives and outlooks.  It invites us to look deeply into our patterns of work and relationships.  How are we being called to adapt to the context around us?  What talents within us are just waiting for an opportunity to be shared?  What new thing is God doing in our midst that we might be called to join?  There are opportunities for service and justice and creativity – perhaps in the places we would least be expected to find them.

At our presbytery assembly meeting later this month (May 21 – register here!), we’re continuing our yearlong exploration of Micah 6:8, this month focusing on “Do Justice.” We’ll hear stories from those in the presbytery living out a local call to justice. And you’re invited to share how you see justice being done in your church, community, or organization.  When you fill out the registration form, tell us how your church is living into the call to “Do Justice” this year. As we embrace the call to enact justice as a presbytery, I wonder what the ripples will be.  Newness of life? A movement of the Spirit?

As we share all of these stories with each other and lift up examples from across the presbytery when we gather, may we be inspired by how the Spirit is at work around us and be invigorated together to walk in newness of life and actions of justice.

Rev. Jana Blazek