by Larry R. Hygh, Jr., Ed.D.
“The community building, trust, and kinship among all 3,000 or so involved persons truly felt like a reflection of the kingdom of God. It also served to open eyes and hearts to both the needs and strengths of the HIV/AIDS community,” says the Rev. Andy Mattick,” pastor of Valencia United Methodist Church. A team of United Methodists recently completed the AIDS/LifeCycle ride.
This is not the first time United Methodists have participated in the ride, but this is the first time there has been an official United Methodist team. They raised more than $42,000 in a quest to help end the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Mattick says, “Despite both an injury and a mechanical challenge, I found AIDS/LifeCycle to be inspiring and life-giving.”
Team “Circuit Riders” are a group of United Methodist ministers and lay people. The name “Circuit Riders” comes from the name given to traveling preachers in late 17 and 1800’s who spread Methodism into the largest Protestant denomination in the United States. The early Circuit Riders spread Methodism riding on horseback, and the AIDS/LifeCycle team strives to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic with a journey on their bicycles.
AIDS/LifeCycle is a 7 day, 545-mile bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles, co-produced by and benefiting San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Los Angeles LGBT Center. The event raises awareness about the ongoing HIV/AIDS epidemic and funds services such as HIV testing, prevention, and care. The Ride began in 1994 and was called the “California AIDS Ride.” In 2002, it was rebranded as AIDS/LifeCycle. Since 1994, participants have raised more than $300 million for the HIV and AIDS-related services.
This year, more than 2,200 cyclists participated in the ride raising a combined $17.8 million.
The Rev. Steve Peralta, pastor of North Hollywood First United Methodist Church, says, “I am still thinking about the joy of living in a community where people are affirmed and accepted for who they are.” He added, “The AIDS/LifeCycle ride gave me hope for the future of humanity and our church if we let love be love. The ride was so much more than something I enjoyed, it was transformative and I am not the same because of it.”
Team Circuit Riders is recruiting United Methodists from across the denomination to join them from June 4 to 10, 2023 for the next AIDS/LifeCycle. Registration opens on August 17 for next year. Each cyclist has to raise a minimum of $3,500 to participate in the ride. In addition to cyclists, persons can be roadies (the team that helps to move what is essentially a small city from Northern to Southern California). People can also sign up to be an “@home hero.”
Mattick says, “I was proud to be involved and I am already committed for 2023.”
Team Circuit Riders will be working with the California-Pacific Annual Conference’s HIV/AIDS Task Force.
AIDS/LifeCycle cyclists commit to the following:
- funding the work of San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Los Angeles LGBT Center to provide free HIV/AIDS medical care, testing, and prevention services;
- raising awareness to end the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS;
- providing a positive, life affirming experience for people affected by HIV/AIDS;
- growing a community of activists, volunteers, and ambassadors fighting to end AIDS; and,
- honoring those who have passed from AIDS-related causes.
Despite remarkable progress that has been made since the disease was first discovered in 1981, the HIV/AIDS epidemic is far from over. In the seven days it takes AIDS/LifeCycle to reach Los Angeles, more than 650 people in the United States became infected with HIV.
Larry R. Hygh Jr., Ed.D., is a lifelong United Methodist, fifth generation Methodist, who is a college professor. He spent 20 plus years as a United Methodist communicator. He is a member of Harmony Toluca Lake UMC, a campus of Hollywood UMC, and the team captain for Circuit Riders.