GATESVILLE — You don’t have to ride a Harley to attend the Highway 2 Heaven Biker Church in Gatesville.
“Less than 40 percent of our members are bikers,” said Pastor Monty Van Horn, who founded the church with his wife, Tammy, in 2010. “Like a Cowboy Church isn’t just for cowboys.”
The simple sanctuary that was once a Lutheran church is open to anyone yearning for Christian fellowship, he said, those who may feel uncomfortable or unwelcome at more traditional churches.
“Some churches judge people by the way they dress or by their vehicle,” Van Horn said.
His ordination came, not from any of the traditional denominations, he said, but from a mail-order Bible study course and from God.
Van Horn’s preaching style matches the denim, leather and chains of his biker attire — rough and honest.
“Sometimes they get a Presbyterian,” he said. “Sometimes they get a Pentecostal.”
The congregation, which ranges from 50 to 70 on any given Sunday, includes wounded soldiers, veterans and “those whose hearts are with veterans,” he said.
Van Horn, 52, spent 12 years in the U.S. Army and served in Iraq as a soldier and later as a civilian contractor working as a Bradley Fighting Vehicle mechanic.
He shares the story of his religious conversion in his book “A Biker-Soldier’s Journey.”
Van Horn will sign copies of the book at McWha Book Store, 114 Central Ave., Belton, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. today.
“It is autobiographical but written in third person,” he said.
In 156 pages, Van Horn’s narrative veers and swerves through his life like a motorcycle rolling over a road with some rough patches. Through the pain of divorce, the terror of combat, the rigors of physical and emotional suffering and his struggle with alcohol addiction, Van Horn sees a divine light providing a steady gleam of hope.
Van Horn’s ministry started on the road, where he would provide a prayer or share the Gospel at biker rallies. Seeing a dearth of “biker-friendly” churches, he and his wife, Tammy, started one.
In January 2010, four worshipers held a service at the couple’s home in Levita. In June of that year, the growing congregation moved into the little church at 1608 W. Main St. in Gatesville.
With the sanctuary starting to fill up, Van Horn is eyeing the wooded acreage behind the church for expansion. But nothing fancy. “We don’t want stained glass and carpet,” he said.
It is a denim, leather and chains church. Harleys are optional.