Monroe biker church and Union County Sheriff’s Office form unlikely partnership

Bikers in Union County are offering refuge, and snacks, to the county’s first responders.

At Freedom Biker Church of Monroe, the congregation decided to buck biker tradition, or at least its reputation, and offer friendship and solidarity to law enforcement and other first responders.

“Twenty years ago, bikers in general probably wouldn’t have thought to, ‘Let’s help the cops out!’ So, it’s kind of interesting to see how the biker community — the Christian biker community have embraced it and supported it,” said the church’s pastor, Phillip Morris.

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After moving into the space, pastor says they noticed UCSO deputies and EMTs were parking in the lot  

Pastor and congregation decided to offer the space as a quasi-breakroom for first responders 

Now, congregation provides snacks, water, coffee and ice cream for visiting law enforcement and EMTs 

Morris, himself a longtime biker, said the idea sprouted after his congregation moved into a new location on Wesley Chapel-Stouts Road. 

“This building sat empty for two years, prior to us purchasing it,” Morris explained. “The Union County Sheriff’s and the EMTs have taken residence in our parking lot to write their reports, and I guess it may be a good spot to catch speeders, I don’t know.”

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The pastor said before moving in, they knew first responders often used the parking lot, which led to them officially offering the space as a break spot.

“When we renovated our fellowship hall, to give them access because we know that their headquarters is in Wingate, pretty far from here, so as far as using the restroom, having a place to rest. We decided to offer them our facilities,” Morris added.

At first, the church started with just offering the space. Then, some congregants donated a coffee pot, then others wanted to provide snacks. Now, three cabinets are filled with snacks for deputies and EMTs, the freezer is stocked with ice cream sandwiches, a nearby cooler is filled with water bottles, and the first responders have a special lock box code to use the building at any time. 

“I want them to feel welcome to use this as their own. … I used to be a chaplain for Waxhaw Police Department, so finding a place to use the restroom, they went to gas stations, stuff like that,” Morris said.

For the men and women in uniform, the gesture is very much appreciated.

“We are very fortunate in Union County, we’ve got multiple businesses and churches that look out for our deputies, and this is just one more example of that,” said Lt. James Maye, with the Union County Sheriff’s Office.

Maye said they were first approached several months ago, with Morris offering Sheriff Eddie Cathey the lock box code for the door, to disperse to his patrolling deputies. Maye said in the past few months, deputies have used the hall to write reports and catch a breather about 30 times, according to report filing data.

“Our deputies, like I said, are out on the road 24-7. They do work in shifts, but it is extremely important for them to be able to get out of their cars, stretch their legs, walk around a little bit,” Maye said. “As you can imagine, some of those cars are less comfortable. And so, they like to get out, grab something to drink, and just take a break from looking at the computer screen.”

At any given time, Indian Trail is home to about four to seven patrolling deputies since UCSO provides the town’s law enforcement, according to Maye. With 24/7 shifts, varying patrol hours, and the need to write reports and use a restroom, Maye said it is critical to have physical locations around town for deputies to use. Not to mention, it offers deputies a safer spot to work outside of their vehicles, where they could be surprised by someone at the car window or door, Maye added.

For Morris, he said it was an easy decision to offer first responders the space. But, it also has its advantages.

“It was a win-win, I mean, free security,” Morris said with a smile.

In the meantime, the four-year pastor will continue leading his congregation during Bible study each Wednesday night and service on Sunday. Meaning, there are often other vehicles in his parking lots besides patrol cars and ambulances.

“I would say majority Harley-Davidsons. There’s probably 20 to 30 bikes here on a Sunday, couple of European bikes, but mostly Harley-Davidson,” Morris said about the other usual tenants in his parking lot.

Monroe’s Freedom Biker Church has been in service since 2008, and Morris is its second pastor.

“In 2004 or [2005], the state Baptist convention of North Carolina started trying to reach certain people groups, they started biker churches, they started cowboy churches, military churches,” Morris detailed. “It was originally designed to reach the biker community. And we still do that, we go to motorcycle rallies, we have a relationship with the outlaw motorcycle clubs in Charlotte metro.”