This article was originally published by Mennonite World Review

New York City skateboarders receive a blessing

NEW YORK — Blessings abounded at the inaugural “Blessing of the Skateboards” outdoor worship service of Manhattan Mennonite Fellowship on June 17.

Those blessed included about a dozen youth who skated from nearby Union Square station, where invitations were distributed to “bring yourself, your friends and your skateboard and get blessed” at the Quaker Meeting House where the Mennonite congregation worships.

Manhattan Mennonite Fellowship Pastor Jason Storbakken, center right, prays a blessing on skaters and their boards June 17. — Susan Miller
Manhattan Mennonite Fellowship Pastor Jason Storbakken, center right, prays a blessing on skaters and their boards June 17. — Susan Miller

The service preceded the 15th annual Go Skateboarding Day on June 21, organized by the International Association of Skateboarding Companies, and the Skate It Forward event on June 23, in which Skate4Jesus volunteers would skate around the city and distribute donated T-shirts and new socks and underwear to homeless friends.

Although skateboarding is not mentioned in the Bible, Pastor Jason Storbakken related Ezek. 1:20-22 to his reflection: “Wherever the spirit would go, they went, and the wheels rose along with them, for the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels. When they moved, the others moved; when they stopped, the others stopped; and when they rose from the earth, the wheels rose along with them; for the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels.”

Storbakken said Mennonites are sort of like skateboarders — nonconformists who, as pacifists in a militarized society, may be seen as misfits by others. In skateboarding, as in life, “sometimes a little rock will throw you,” so looking out for each other is important.

The pastor encouraged everyone to live into the flow of right relationships with God and humanity, to love one another and to live and skate in harmony with joy.

The congregation surrounded the skateboarders who held up their boards as Storbakken led a responsive reading and prayer of blessing for the “skateboards, skate culture and all skateboarders around the world” as well as all who support them; for peace and protection as skateboarders share the city streets, bike lanes, sidewalks and skate parks; and for the blessing of living in harmony with one another.

All who earn their livelihood from the skate culture and industry were offered “blessings of purpose and prosperity.” Blessings for protection were pronounced, and there was a moment of silence to remember skaters who had died.

Messengers for Jesus

Diana Rodriguez founded Skate4Jesus in 2011 after committing to God’s calling to use her hands, feet, voice and talents to spread the love of Jesus. She spoke about the organization’s mission and activities. The message is simple, she said: “Jesus loves you no matter who you are or what you’ve done. . . . We’re just messengers of God’s love and grace that glide on boards with wheels.”

Skate4Jesus activities have included holding concerts to raise money for Hurricane Sandy relief; soliciting and delivering donations for homeless people in the Bowery neighborhood; handing out bottled water and high fives on the streets and stopping to pray for individuals and hear their stories, and “making their day even better.”

Members and guests enjoyed pizza and watermelon while getting acquainted.

Skate4Jesus had contacted two shops, Uncle Funkys Boards and Heavenbound 7, who each donated prizes for a free raffle.

Another takeaway for MMF was the opportunity to welcome non-skateboarding members of the community, at least one of whom said she came to check out the church near her apartment because of its invitation to an informal outdoor service.

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