As the 2012 Games gets underway, churches across the UK are about to set their own record – for the highest ever level of involvement in the Olympics.
Thousands of churches are running events for their communities. These include large screen festivals – with a total estimated attendance of 500,000 people – Family Fundays, children’s clubs, street parties, quiz nights, community cafés, and special church celebrations and Holiday at Home activities for those who are housebound.
This response follows two years of work by churches of all denominations and More Than Gold, the agency established to help churches make the most of the Games. Its CEO, David Willson said: “This is the largest ever inter-church response in Olympic history and it will show churches at their best – serving their communities and the thousands of international visitors.”
Francis Brienen, the URC’s secretary for Mission and member of More than Gold’s Executive says: “United Reformed churches, like churches of every denomination, have got the mission and communications potential of the Olympics and are using it to fully engage with their local communities. With less than 48 hours to go until the opening ceremony the sense of expectation, and sheer excitement, is growing, and it’s fantastic to know that many of our churches will be at the very centre of their communities enjoying the sport, having some fun, and showing the love of Christ in action.”
To help people find out what is going on near them, More Than Gold has set up an interactive map , currently showing around 600 events.
In addition to events for their communities, more than 300 volunteer games pastors will serve those passing though main transport hubs, and volunteer teams led by the Salvation Army will distribute water to visitors and spectators. Churches are also providing free accommodation for over 350 family members of athletes who wouldn’t otherwise be able to attend. This is through the More Than Gold Athlete Family Homestay Programme which has the endorsement of the London Organising Committee’s Inspire mark.
The UK churches will not be doing this alone – they are being supported by more than 1,500 volunteers, mostly young adults, coming from 40 countries including Austria, Australia, Brazil, Nigeria, the Czech Republic, Togo, Norway and Jamaica.
For a little last minute inspiration see the Revd Ashley Evans, URC minister at Christ Church Newham, explain why your church should get involved in some Olympics action! ENDS
PHOTO: Many churches used the torch relay as a springboard for local engagement, and many more have events planned throughout the Games.
Olympic Torch Relay, Crowds waiting for the Olympic Torch to pass through Croydon by SouthEastern Star http://www.flickr.com/photos/southeasternstar/7630719198/sizes/z/in/photostream/