Chris Marley, an Aroostook County native who founded a Bangor church that has become a social services hub in the city, died last week at age 60, according to an obituary published in the Bangor Daily News.
Marley, founder of the Biker Church, died Jan. 4, according to the obituary. He had suffered from COVID-19 at least since late November, according to a Facebook post from the Storehouse, the Biker Church’s donation center in downtown Bangor.
Bangor’s Biker Church is part of a national network of independent evangelical churches associated with the Biker Bible Institute, which seeks to get “10,000 bikers into the Bible every week,” according to its website. Locally, however, the church has focused on outreach to the homeless community, offering food, clothing, classes and a warming center in the winter.
The Biker Church partnered several years ago with Manna Ministries to consolidate services in the Union Street Brick Church in Bangor, said Manna founder Bill Rae, with Manna offering its soup kitchen, and the Biker Church offering supplies and ministry.
Marley was born on Aug. 11, 1961, in Houlton, according to his obituary. As an ardent lover of the biker lifestyle as well as a devout Christian, Marley found he could reach people who might not otherwise walk into a church, said Terry Dinkins, pastor of the Mansion Church in Bangor, with which the Biker Church also collaborated.
“I think he used his background as a biker to reach people who wouldn’t typically go to church,” Dinkins said. “And he just had so much compassion for the lost out there, who are homeless and hungry and cold. We learned a lot from each other. The Lord used him a lot for our city. He’ll be really missed in our community.”
Marley said in a 2019 interview with the BDN that he hoped to change the stereotype of bikers through the Biker Church, in Maine and around the country.
“The stereotype has come in place from, back in the early 1970s, they made all these movies about bikers coming in and pillaging towns and all of this stuff. And, unfortunately, that stuck,” Marley said. “And it kind of followed up through the years. And it’s not at all what it’s about.”
Despite the recent loss of their pastor and leader, the Biker Church and Manna Ministries opened their warming center for extended hours at the Brick Church this week as temperatures plunged, Rae said.
A celebration of life for Marley was held Sunday at the Brick Church.
He is survived by his wife, Tracy, his children, Jennifer and Daniel, and his mother, brother and grandchildren.