The statistics are staggering:
200 countries represented
14,000 officials and organisers
800,000 people visiting London and other Games’ venues
100,000 extra travellers through St Pancras Station
“A once in a lifetime opportunity for Churches to engage with an event of major significance and celebration in the life of our nation” is how the Bishop of Barking, the Rt Revd David Hawkins, describes the forthcoming London Olympic and Paralympic Games. “Engagement with the Games,” he says, “provides an oppor-tunity for Church unity to be expressed at a practical level as Christians of all denominations join hands for the com-mon good in practical service, mission and united projects.” He says the An-glican contribution to the 2012 Games stems ”from our long history of incar-national ministry and leadership in every community of the UK.”
Learning from the experience of previous global sporting events, church leaders had launched an ecumenical initia-tive in 2007, under the banner More than Gold. Five years on, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols and the other two Presidents of Churches Together in England say they are delighted “that so many of England’s churches are committed to being at the heart of these celebrations and are already preparing practical ways to build and support communities in their localities. The work we are doing through our own denominational staff, and through the work of More Than Gold (UK) is unprecedented.... More Christian communities from different traditions than ever before are coming together to plan practical ways of serv-ing the project.”
More Than Gold is mobilising 800 trained volunteers as “Games Pastors” who will respond to the practical and spiritual needs of people in a caring, supportive role, ac-tively demonstrating the love of Christ. The chief execu-tive of More Than Gold, David Wilson, says: “There will be many lost, confused, and lonely people coming through London during the Games. These Games Pastors are going to be a lifeline for them, which makes this a great oppor-tunity for Christian service.” Further volunteers will staff hospitality centres, providing rest for weary feet, free internet access, free tea, coffee or water, information, and other practical ways including prayer and advice.
Meanwhile, the Ecumenical Council for Corporate Re-sponsibility has issued a warning in Hotels, Sex Trafficking and London 2012, that the influx of visitors to London during the Olympics “will be accompanied by a greater demand for sexual services, and an increase in sex traf-ficking”. It encourages hotels to prevent their facilities being used by traffickers.
Initiatives are not confined to London and other Games’ venues: churches are being encouraged to engage with their own communities through guest events, sports outreach, creative arts, and community festivals. Canon Dun-can Green coordinates the Church of England's response and is seconded to the Games’ London Organising Com-mittee (LOCOG) as its Faith Adviser. He sees the Games as a catalyst to work with people of all ages in mission and outreach. He told Centro:
“Every church can do something: peo-ple are going to be into the Olympic and Paralympics Games in a big way. We need to be there, part of the party! I invite churches to start with what they are good at and add an Olympic flavour to it. Resources are available for holiday clubs, flower festivals, celebration of sports ser-vices, community festivals and hundreds of other ideas that will help churches reach out into their community.”
A prayer in preparation for the 2012 Games
Giver of joy and source of all strength,
we pray for those who prepare for the London Olympic and Paralympic games;
For the competitors training for the Games and their loved ones;
For the many thousands who will support them;
For the Churches and others who are organising special events
and who will welcome many people from many nations.
In a world where many are rejected and abused,
we pray for a spirit of tolerance and acceptance,
of humility and respect
and for the health and safety of all.
May we at the last be led towards the love of Christ
who is more than gold, today and for ever.
Taken from the latest Centro the newsletter of the Anglican Centre in Rome