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Ellettsvile Church Full of Holy Rollers, er, Riders

Ellettsville is like many rural Midwestern communities: churches almost outnumber houses. But in this town, there’s one that's a little different.

  • Ellettsville House of Prayer

    Image 1 of 4

    Photo: Tessa Wilhelm

  • Ellettsville House of Prayer

    Image 2 of 4

    Photo: Tessa Wilhelm

  • Ellettsville House of Prayer

    Image 3 of 4

    Photo: Tessa Wilhelm

  • Ellettsville House of Prayer

    Image 4 of 4

    Photo: Tessa Wilhelm

At the Ellettsville House of Prayer, it’s not the sound of an organ or bells which signifies church is “in service.”

Instead, it’s the sound of the congregation driving up Hartstraight Road, clad largely in leather.

“I was a Harley Davidson mechanic for many, many years; ever since I got my first Harley at 17,” said Pastor Larry Mitchell.  “So I’ve worked for two dealerships and had my own business…and, so…but I’m rolling for Jesus now.”

Mitchell has a big smile which shines through the graying stubble on his face.  He sports a cutoff t-shirt, an earring, tattooed arms, and a gold ring emblazoned with face of Jesus Christ. It was his love of motorcycles which led to creation of his first church, a makeshift worship space in a warehouse behind a Harley shop owned by his brother.

Not everyone rides a Harley to the service, though. The House of Prayer’s congregation mixes young and old, black and white, those in their Sunday best and those in leather vests.   One of the vest-wearing attendants is Jim Reynolds, who says he suffers from an eternal bad hair day.

“Today is the blessing of the bikes. Uh, it’s our first ride of the year,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds is 60 years old didn’t learn how to ride a motorcycle until five years ago.

“We are a church, that, we nickname ourselves the Church of the Divinely Comfortable, or the Island of Misfits. It doesn’t matter what your background is. It doesn’t matter where you’ve been, what you’ve been. You come in here and we’ll love on you,” he said.

Nearby, usher Doug Norton, is preparing to participate in the church’s weekly start to its worship service.

“Right now, this is our countdown to praise and worship. We’ve got about 19 seconds to go and you can hear, if you can hear, everybody’s already getting into it. They absolutely love our praise and worship service, this is gonna be fun,” Norton said.

Members of the congregation, more often than not, will stand, raise their hands, move about, and sing along with the band.

The church is non-denominational, and Pastor Larry Mitchell says it doesn’t matter to him how people drive to the church as much as it matters how the church drives them.

“We have an opportunity, I believe, to get the church back to its grassroots again, just like it talks about in the New Testament. To be an early church, to do what the early church did without all the other stuff,” Mitchell said. “If we’re bashing the drug addict, if we’re bashing the alcoholic, if we’re bashing the homosexual, if we’re bashing this person and that that person, they’re not gonna want to come through our doors.”

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