By Tarsila Burity, ACNS
St John’s Church in Stratford is working in partnership with local and international churches and groups to host a series of Olympic-related events to celebrate of the London 2012 sporting tournament.
Anglicans from around the world have been attending a series of events across churches in London's district of Stratford (also the location for the Olympic Park) since 27th July to celebrate the 2012 Olympic Games.
The initiative, called 'Ultimate Gold’, is a joint venture designed to encourage churches to mobilise their members and use their buildings to welcome the many thousands of visitors to Stratford, and to help the local people celebrate the Games.
St John’s Church, main host for the scheme and part of the local Stratford Churches initiative, has teamed up with around 18 other churches and groups across the Diocese of London and arranged a variety of different activities for visitors. These have taken place in the Churchyard and have so far included children's activities, free refreshments, a Prayer Zone, classical music concerts, worship services and performances from Christian entertainers from around the world – such as a Brazilian arts company and an urban dance crew from Paris.
The Stratford Churches have also been working alongside Christian organisations at a regional and national level to encourage their congregations to get a feel for the 2012 Games. They have partnered with groups such as Through Faith Missions (TFM), Open Air Campaigners (OAC) and Youth with a Mission (YWAM). Visits and performances from Christian entertainers (like the ones mentioned above) were arranged in conjunction with More Than Gold and Share Jesus International and have been taking place across the country.
On an international level, St John’s Church has also been quite proactive. Home to a multicultural congregation (with around 50 different nationalities represented in its membership) and ideally situated -- approximately a mile away from the main Olympic Stadium in Stratford -- St John’s has so far welcomed people from a range of nationalities.
“We have had a reasonable number of Anglicans from around the world visiting the church so far due to the Olympics," said the Revd David Richards, Vicar of St John's Church since 1990. "The main country has been Kenya because Kenya House has been based in Stratford and we hosted a Kenya Emphasis Night last Saturday.”
St John’s Church has also acted as the official hospitality centre for the worldwide Anglican Communion, which according to Mr Richards has helped to “reinforce the international nature of the Anglican Church”. A display, highlighting the work of the Anglican Communion as part of the Ultimate Gold programme, has been available to the public.
The church has been preparing for the Olympics since the day of the announcement in 2005, and has to date mobilised more than a hundred church members from many different countries to think about ways to engage with their surrounding culture.
"Jesus told us to go into the world; now the world is coming to us. We have always had an open door to the local community and to passers-by, now our members are ready to welcome the world, and share our faith with anyone and everyone", said Mr Richards. “We need to show that the Christian faith is relevant to all cultures”.
The ‘Ultimate Gold’ events have been happening from noon until late every day and go on until 12th August. For a programme of events currently taking place go to http://www.stratfordchurches.co.uk/ultimategold/index.html#D12