Continued from page 1

The bell resembles the one that is rung by the owner of a new bike at a Harley-Davidson store, Mr. Rawls said. The motorcycle is like those that congregants rev to salute a member’s baptism — a ceremony performed in a galvanized horse trough.

On one wall, written in large block letters, is a paraphrase of John 8:36: “What the Son sets free is free indeed.”

Seven Cities hosts several church events and services throughout the year, including a family meal after the last Sunday service of each month.

Sedans and trucks filled about half of the lot this past Sunday, and about two dozen gleaming motorcycles were parked in the fire lane in front of the low building.

Before each service, members and visitors are invited to “hang out” and then join a prayer circle in the parking lot.

Pastor Jeremy Scott’s booming voice greeted the crowd. He wore a black leather vest, a T-shirt, jeans and a bandanna that covered much of his head — but not his half-dollar-size earrings.

“Good to see you this morning,” he shouted, his chin covered by a graying red beard. “If you have anything holding you back today, let it loose. Put it inside the circle and leave it here.”

After a series of lengthy worship songs performed by a guitar player and a drummer, Mr. Rawls launched into his sermon. For an hour, he regaled the congregation with self-deprecating humor, personal anecdotes and a fatherly assurance that it was not too late find Jesus.

Laughter, claps and shouts of “Amen” punctuated his talk. When a man and woman came forward to ring the freedom bell and rededicate themselves to God, the applause was thunderous.

After the service, the members filed into the dining room, where they laughed and talked over plates piled with hot dogs, beans, potato salad and vanilla pudding.

In between bites of a hot dog, Brenda Day, 67, said she grew up Pentecostal and started going to a conservative church when she moved to Virginia Beach. Her son saw an article in the local paper about Seven Cities and suggested she go.

“He’s got leather, jeans, and said he would never feel comfortable going to a regular church,” said Ms. Day, who was wearing a black blazer and matching long skirt.

The retired police dispatcher said she has enjoyed becoming a part of the church and appreciates that people don’t have to be afraid or self-conscious if they want to sing loud and raise their hands in praise.

Sitting at a high-top table, JoJo Blevins, 49, said she started attending after a friend’s recommendation.

“My first time I felt like I didn’t fit in, but every time I came back, I liked it more and more,” said Ms. Blevins, wearing a black leather headband. “The message is relevant. Everybody’s real friendly and nonjudgmental.”

Story Continues →