After going nearly a year without a pastor, Washington Village Church celebrated not only its new leader, but his recovery from a critical motorcycle accident that occurred shortly after he was  appointed.

The congregation gathered Sept. 30 to welcome Pastor Brad Bean and his wife, Laurie. Bean was called to the Village Church in early summer, but the start of his ministry was delayed because of injuries he sustained in a crash in Chelsea.

In an interview Oct. 18, Bean said he didn't remember anything of the accident or the week that followed.

"And I'm fine with that," he said, adding that he felt blessed to have walked away.

Despite his strong belief in wearing a helmet and safety gear, it wasn't enough to prevent a traumatic brain injury and a broken wrist. Miraculously, within a week the TBI symptoms disappeared. He is still getting physical therapy on his left wrist — which is at 20 percent mobility to date.

Bean said when he came to in the hospital, he could feel God telling him, "I've got you. I've got your family. I've got your church. And I'm going to answer the prayers of those people who are praying for you."

"I put all the recovery on God answering the prayers of the people of this church and many in the community who did not know me," Bean said. "That's what these small communities do. They look out for one another, and that was very warming to my heart."

Having ridden motorcycles most of his life, Bean had bought the bike he was riding just over a year ago.

Originally from Lisbon, N.H., Bean's ministry began while he was in the Navy aboard the U.S.S. John F. Kennedy.

At the age of 17, he entered the Navy and remained for 20 years, serving mainly in Norfolk, Va., then at Brunswick Naval Base from 1979 to 1982.

"It's really what got my heart going — preaching to sailors away from home and reaching out to them at a time when they really needed somebody," Bean said.

Bean served in Operation Desert Storm in 1991 and retired from the Navy as a chief petty officer in 1995.

He became an ordained minister in 2007, served at churches in Topsham and Portland, and helped establish Cross Church in Portland.

Bean said when he and his wife moved to Portland, he started his street ministry. He worked with Casco Bay Rescue Mission, which reached out to the homeless, and eventually started a church called Warehouse Worship.

"In my mind, it was very unique," he said. "We called it a church without walls."

He explained they would take a 10-by-10-foot tent, pop it up in the city anywhere they could and have a church service out there where the people were. "Instead of drawing people to the church, we took the church to them," Bean said.

Through his reading of scripture, Bean said he began to see "the church is the people, not the building." He said worship wasn't just conducted for an hour and a half on Sunday, but throughout the week.

"That led to some amazing chances to meet with people," he said.

As an example, Bean said they were having a concert in Congress Square in Portland one afternoon. "In the middle of it, I looked down and saw this guy on his hands and knees, with his head on the ground … sobbing," he said.

"When he finally came up, we asked him 'what's going on' and he said 'Well, I've been fighting with God, and I told him I'm not going to fight anymore,'" Bean said, adding that the man was on his way to kill himself.

"It was powerful to me," he said. "It showed me what being a church without walls means …  being available to people."

Bean said that really changed the way he ministered, so when he came to Washington Village Church he told them "We need to be a church without walls."

"This group of people were all over that, and said that's what we need," he said.

Bean said it is evident that's the way the parish has been living anyway, explaining they maintain a prayer list that sometimes has 60 names on it — many of whom do not belong to the church. And he has met several of the families on that list.

The church was started in 1834 — getting ready to celebrate 200 years.

Bean hopes the church can continue to be a light in the community as it is right now.

"My personal goal is that I would become part of this community and be available for whatever they need … just somebody to talk to or someone to pray with," he said.

He said he wants the church to continue to be a church of prayer, explaining many people who come to the Food Bank know about the prayer list and are not afraid to ask for prayer, either for themselves or someone they know.

When asked how he found out about the opening at the Village Church, Bean replied, "Well, this is Maine … and so it was Uncle Henry's."

"So, I said 'It's not only a God thing, it's a Maine thing,'" he laughed.

The Maine connection also is that his wife, Laurie, grew up in Jefferson. The couple have three grown daughters and five grandchildren — soon to be six.

When asked if he'd ever ride a motorcycle again, Bean quickly replied, "Nope. I told my wife when I came to I'm never going to ride again …. she said, 'I know.'"

"We are very happy and blessed to be here," Bean said.

Courier Publications reporter Beth A. Birmingham can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 125 or via email at bbirmingham@villagesoup.com.