One hundred days before the 2012 Games commence, the Church of England has released details illustrating how hundreds of its churches and worshippers are preparing to serve communities via Games-themed events, hospitality, chaplaincy, sports fixtures, prayer and exhibitions.
Canon Duncan Green, CofE Olympics Coordinator and LOCOG’s Head of Multi Faith Chaplaincy Services, said: “The Church of England is making a massive commitment to the Games. It is very exciting to see so many Games-related outreach projects planned throughout the country. The Church will come into contact with many thousands of people through these exciting initiatives.”
The details are a sample of how Church of England churches are organising or supporting community initiatives.
1) Websites resources
The Church of England has an area of its national website encouraging churches to engage with the Games, which includes resources, links, new prayers, and special liturgy for use during the Games. The homepage of this area has so far been viewed more than 3,400 times. Most CofE dioceses have their own Games-related website areas.
http://www.runtherace.biz/whats_on.php (containing Games news and events from Chelmsford Diocese)
2) More Than Gold
The Church of England is a sponsor of More Than Gold - an ecumenical initiative helping churches serve their communities and international visitors through the 2012 Games. Hundreds of Anglican churches are working with those of other denominations to host special events in their area and to host the families of competitors.
The Church of England has its own Olympics Co-ordinator, Canon Duncan Green, who is also seconded to LOCOG as Head of Multi Faith Chaplaincy Services. For the past five years, Duncan's role has included advising the organising committee on faith matters and recruiting and managing 193 multi-faith chaplains to serve 23,500 athletes and officials, 26,000 reporters and broadcasters and 200,000 staff and volunteers. Canon Duncan Green also supports and resources officers in the dioceses working to promote the mission and outreach opportunities afforded by the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Many churches are taking inspiration from the Olympics to focus on prayer. In advance of ‘sailing event fortnight’ (29 July to 12 August), local churches are organising a 13-mile run on 28 April from Dorchester to Easton on Portland, praying for God to touch each neighbourhood passed through. This is being organised by the ecumenical organisation Refresh 2012, of which the Diocese of Salisbury is part. Also, the Olympic Torch route in the South East will get an early run through on 17-22 June by a group of clergy planning a prayer pilgrimage on their motorbikes. The clergy, all from the Diocese of Chichester, plan to engage with their communities in a fresh way and visit as many churches as possible along the route.
5) Special services
For example: Olympicnic and service on 13 May at 12.30pm in Dorchester's Borough Gardens with the Bishop of Sherborne, Dr Graham Kings, Christian Aid and the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD), featuring Children’s activities and a live music roadshow. Also, the Church of the Good Shephard, Maidenhead, and St Marys, White Waltham, will hold open air services in a local park.
One example: Ben Dearnley brings his Avenue of Champions to Salisbury Cathedral for three months (23 June - 16 September) to coincide with the 2012 London Olympics and Paralympics. His sculptures focus on the ‘power zones’ of up to 15 of some of the UK’s past and current Olympic and Paralympic champions and are sculpted in the timeless materials of bronze and marble.
7) Torch Relay hospitality
Many churches are opening up to play music and offer refreshments to Torch Relay on-lookers. For example, St Johns Church, Greenhill, Weymouth, will have the church open for coffee/tea and bacon sandwiches, which will be served in the grounds on the morning of 13 July.
8) Welcoming the Olympic Torch
The Olympic Torch will be carried into Canterbury Cathedral Precincts mid-afternoon on 19July.
One of the 7,000 Olympic Torchbearers is Ted Collins from Hugglescote, near Coalville, of St John the Baptist Church, Hugglescote, who is planning to use the opportunity to talk about his faith.
10) Warm church welcome for spectators
Many churches are opening up their doors to offer a warm welcome to those visiting to watch Olympic events. Some will be offering refreshments whilst others will be providing a full programme of different activities. For example, many Weymouth and Portland churches are offering a warm Olympic welcome between 27 July and 12 August.
11) Event hospitality
One example: the Bedouin Tents during ‘sailing event fortnight’ (29 July to 12 August) in Weymouth will provide a welcome of hospitality where visitors will enjoy the comfort of an interior filled with soft furnishings, rag rugs, cushions and bunting whilst soft gentle music is played. They will be offered water, foot and hand massage, listening ears, and prayer.
For example:a large stage, provided by Making Jesus Known, is to be located at the Pavilion end of Weymouth beach on 24-27 August, and a fenced area, able to take up to 5,000 people, will be the venue for various singers, bands, dancers and short speaking slots.
13) Fun days
Many churches, including St Andrew’s, Aylestone, Leicestershire, are organising or collaborating to organise Olympic-themed fun days.
14) Sports events on big screens
Thanks to Church initiatives, the Games will be shown on a big screen in various locations, including the Run the Race Café in Coalville, Leciestershire, where refreshments will be available, and there will be an opportunity to talk about life’s big issues. St Marys and All Saints, Beaconsfield, will be organising the screening of the opening ceremony at a local high school.
15) Parish Olympics
Some parishes are organising their own sports competitions. A noticeboard in the churchyard at Hoby, Leicestershire,will promote local sports competitions such as tennis, badminton and table tennis, and will also reveal all the results.