Reverend Alyson Jacks is the Minister of Family Life at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Francisco, and has been a member of the SF Bicycle Coalition since 1990s. Jacks is also the person who came up with the idea for Bike to Worship Week, an an interfaith community event led by SF Bicycle Coalition member-volunteers of all different faiths in partnership with the San Francisco Interfaith Council. From May 25-June 1, various congregations will raise visibility of biking to worship (and elsewhere!) while making our communities safer and more pleasant places to live. We caught up with Alyson Jacks during the big event:
As the brains behind Bike to Worship, what inspired you to organize this event in your community?
I’ve been a bicycle commuter since 1977, beginning in Boston, then in San Francisco after I moved here in 1985. Along with bike commuting, I’ve done a fair amount of long-distance riding. In 1995, while in seminary, I did a solo ride from Texas to Maine, visiting Unitarian Universalist congregations along the route. I called that ride, “Riding Religiously,” and Bike to Worship was born during that ride.
In 2001, Leah Shahum and I talked about Bike to Worship, an event similar to Bike to Work but geared towards faith communities. I see Bike to Worship as a unique opportunity for community building in my congregation, as well as with other faith communities around San Francisco. Cycling is a way to practice my faith in both connecting with one another and caring for our planet. The Bike to Worship idea percolated for 11 years, and now is ready to launch. Riding a bike is such a great way to feel alive!
Why did you reach out to the SF Bicycle Coalition and to the SF Interfaith Council to be partners on this event?
Bike To Worship, like Bike to Work, promotes opportunities for new connections, innovative partnerships, and a chance to build relationships. I think these two organizations, SF Bicycle Coalition and SF Interfaith Council, have much to learn from and share with one another. My hope is Bike to Worship, like Bike to Work, becomes a part of San Francisco culture – something folks of all ages and abilities can participate in.
What kind of turnout are you expecting?
I’m thrilled that 17 faith communities have signed on, so that’s a great start. We’ll have to see about the actual numbers after Bike to Worship week concludes. It may be small, but it will be mighty! We are planting seeds; I hope we can double the number of participating faith communities next year.
How are you encouraging your members to bike?
We’ve been doing all kinds of outreach at our church. That includes posting information on our website, in our monthly newsletter, in our weekly electronic newsletter called The Flame, on our Facebook page, and on fliers. Last year, I preached abouit. This year, I brought my bike up on the chancel and did a pulpit announcement for Bike to Worship. The congregation cheered!
How does Biking to Worship this week tie in with bikes in other aspects of your members’ daily lives, religious and otherwise?
You would have to ask them to answer this question. There are common threads: environment, ease, joy and health. In our faith tradition, there are seven guiding principles that we affirm and promote. The 7th principle is about “respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.” This, I believe, is an underlying reason why we bike to worship and elsewhere.
Why do you support the SF Bicycle Coalition?
I’ve been a member since the late 1990s. I strongly believe in its mission, and its commitment to making cycling safe and accessible for all ages.
What is your favorite SF Bicycle Coalition initiative?
I’m a long-time Polk Street commuter. For 10 years, I served as a Community Minister with a nonprofit at Upper Ft. Mason. I rode on Polk Street every day, getting to know the stores and businesses. I even made new friends with some of the shop owners. Now, I commute to UUSF, at the corner of Geary and Franklin. I miss riding all of Polk Street. I LOVE the new contra-flow lanes between Grove and Market, and the bike box at 10th Street that gets you safely onto Polk. Now we need to make a safe way back, going from Market and making a left-hand turn onto 11th Street.