Virginian-Pilot Newspaper: Church calls itself ‘a biker bar for Jesus’

Now, Rusty Rawls, the pastor, is hoping to turn a once-troubled nightclub spot in the heart of Great Bridge into a new home for his two-wheeled flock.

“It’s a biker bar for Jesus where they can come get full of the Holy Spirit,” Rawls said.

At this bar, water bottles have replaced beer bottles. Offerings are made in a boot, not a basket. And Sunday best means leather, tattoos and jeans.

A cross in the lobby reflects the culture. Rawls’ wife, Chris, made it with old metal pipes. The lobby is painted white and black with rusty orange trim.

The church was reborn Sunday as Seven Cities Freedom Biker Church.

“Praise God he’s given us a location where people can come who don’t feel like they can fit in anywhere else,” Rawls said to the 50 or so people who attended the service.

Rawls knew the former home of Blakely’s Nightclub was the spot to expand his church when he first laid eyes on its large parking lot – perfect for spin-outs and lots of motorcycles.

Blakely’s shut down nearly two years ago after surrendering its alcohol licenses. City officials blamed the club for becoming a haven for criminal activity and a noise nuisance.

The spot has an 11,321-square-foot building, enough to hold several hundred people, and it’s on the main thoroughfare of Battlefield Boulevard.

“Father, God, we thank you for this inaugural day,” Rawls said in a sermon. “This is a building that was used for evil. You’ve taken this building and turned it into a house of worship.”

Services had been held in Virginia Beach at Soul Haven Hall on Aragona Boulevard for four hours on Sundays and two hours on Wednesdays until the last service there a week ago.

“It’s almost like we’re starting the church all over again,” Rawls said. “We just know God’s going to do good things here.”

Rawls found out about the new building from one of his congregation members: Curtis “Gorilla” Wolfarth, who knows the owner of the building.

A lease hasn’t been formally signed, but Linda Overton, the assistant for building owner Bailey Parker III, said the two “have a gentlemen’s agreement” and they hope the church will make its home there.

Read the rest of the story at the Pilot Online