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Ink, Leather, Grit – and The Church: Off the Beaten Path with Lauren Pond

The following images, captions and text are by Lauren Pond. Lauren is a photographer who specializes in documenting faith and religion in society – in order to build understanding among people. At Tanenbaum we combat religious prejudice through practical programs – and we celebrate the work of individuals who are dedicated to eliminating hatred, whether it be through the arts, education or peacebuilding.


©Lauren Pond

From left: Geof Kimpel, Chris Goings, Jim Kannal, and Pastor Michael McGuire prepare to baptize Bill Aikey, center, outside of the Rushing Wind Biker Church in Zanesville, Ohio, in September 2013. A number of bikers who attend the church come from backgrounds of drugs, crime, and violence, but have since repented and started new lives. ©Lauren Pond


With their tattoos, leather jackets, and sometimes dark pasts, some bikers say they feel judged and unwelcome at traditional churches. However, in southeast Ohio, dedicated biker ministries and churches are helping motorcyclists use Christianity to turn their lives around.

At least 100 people gather regularly for worship services at the Rushing Wind Biker Church in Zanesville, Ohio, which was founded in 2010 by members of the local Bikers For Christ motorcycle ministry. The church seamlessly blends Christianity with elements of biker culture, and tries to make everyone feel welcome, regardless of their background or appearance, said Pastor Michael McGuire.

“They need to hear the truth about their past and how they can be forgiven. We’re interested in a person’s heart. And we want to see that heart change, and believe that it can be.”  – Pastor Michael McGuire

– Lauren Pond

©Lauren Pond

Bikers For Christ (BFC) motorcycle ministry member Dennis O’Bryan, of Portsmouth, Ohio, poses for a portrait outside of the Rushing Wind Biker Church in Zanesville, Ohio, in June 2013. Dennis has been involved in the ministry for about 10 years, he said. ©Lauren Pond


©Lauren Pond

Bikers for Christ motorcycle ministry member Nick Buxton is reflected in a framed image of Jesus at the Salvation Army building in Zanesville, Ohio, in June 2013. Before joining the Rushing Wind church and BFC ministry, Nick, 33, had problems with alcohol and violence, and faced felony charges for his involvement in a street gang, he said. “Once you get that far down, you just don’t have anywhere else to go but up after that,” he said in an interview. ©Lauren Pond


©Lauren Pond

Members of the Bikers for Christ motorcycle ministry pray before a ride in Zanesville in April 2013. After getting involved with the church and its affiliated ministries, many bikers have found a new reason to ride: to share their experiences and testimony with others in the biker community. “That’s my duty . . . to get on my two wheels, which is my pulpit, and go share the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” Pastor Michael McGuire said in an interview. ©Lauren Pond


©Lauren Pond

Scott Saxton sits with other bikers in the pews of the Meadow Farm Church in Zanesville in April 2013. Members of the Rushing Wind Church and BFC attended a worship service at this United Methodist establishment so they could educate the congregation about their biker church. Many bikers say they have felt unwelcome at traditional denominational churches, where they feel judged for their clothing and appearance. ©Lauren Pond


©Lauren Pond

Bikers for Christ motorcycle ministry members visit nursing home resident Dorothy Bilderback in November 2012. ©Lauren Pond


©Lauren Pond

Christian bikers mingle outside of the Rushing Wind Biker Church in Zanesville, Ohio, in June 2013. They were attending the Bikers For Christ motorcycle ministry’s annual “BikerFest” event, which brings together hundreds of bikers from across the nation for three days of fellowship, food, and motorcycle riding. ©Lauren Pond


Artist Biography:

Lauren Pond is a documentary photographer who specializes in coverage of faith and religion. She recently received her Master of Arts degree in photojournalism from Ohio University’s School of Visual Communication, and currently works as a freelancer based in Athens, Ohio.

Rather than focusing on worship and ritual, Lauren explores how people’s beliefs shape their daily lives, decisions, and cultures. She often immerses herself in faith-based communities over the course of several months, helping her understand different faiths more deeply and portray them in a nuanced manner. Ultimately, Lauren hopes to use her work to generate greater religious understanding, empathy, and tolerance.

Lauren’s work has been recognized by the Magnum/Inge Morath Foundations, the Lucie Foundation, FotoVisura, PDN, College Photographer of the Year, and the William Randolph Hearst Foundation, among others.