The Olympic and Paralympic Games present city centre churches with an opportunity both to reach our international visitors, but also to build community presence, and enjoy the Games together.
Here are some details of how churches can be involved, in serving at stations and transport hubs, offering hospitality, and staying open during the 2012 Games.
Stations and transport hubs:
With an extra 500,000 visitors a day in central London, it’s important that we coordinate with other groups – uniformed services, other faith groups and volunteers – so that everything runs smoothly. I’m working to find out what’s going on at the major stations, and how we can use our church members and buildings to serve visitors. For example, plans are beginning to develop at Kings Cross, Euston and St Pancras, which involve churches, Games Pastors, chaplaincy teams and other faith groups and denominations each providing a part of the overall welcome.
We’re taking two approaches – heritage walking tours, and opening churches more widely.
The walking tours will encompass 4-5 buildings, on a route that can easily be walked in an afternoon. We hope to attract visitors who’d be interested in our heritage or listed church estate, and use the building features to talk about our faith. Working with the Care of Churches team, this will involve training teams of lay-people to welcome and guide visitors. It’ll focus on a small number of churches, so that a few, well-developed and publicised routes will each receive a concentrated stream of visitors.
Opening during the 2012 Games:
All central churches are warmly encouraged to be open as far as possible during the 2012 Games, which will attract extra visitors between 20 July and 9 Sept. After 9.30pm, it’s expected that the city centre will erupt as visitors stream into central London after the day’s sporting events. Depending on which groups a church is best placed or most called to serve, specialising and choosing from a number of tailored responses is suggested, so that a variety of needs can be met well across the Diocese.
e.g. For visitors, a church could provide:
- Musical events – an evening recital series, scratch choir, or drumming workshop
- Art displays – paintings, photos or sculpture, or something interactive like a graffiti wall
- Family fun activities – face painting, balloon modelling, and a safe environment for children in a busy city
- Sports events – a big screen with Olympic footage, or a chance to take part in a sporting competition
To offer pastoral care, a church could:
- Register as an official Hospitality Centre, providing somewhere to sit, have a drink, use the internet, get travel information, perhaps with a crèche for children while their parents relax
- Be a place of stillness and prayer – put in a labyrinth installation, some creative prayer resources, prayer cards or candles
- Offer chaplaincy to visitors and local people
- Meet social needs – homelessness, people trafficking, providing accurate information as to where to get assistance
To serve those in support roles, a church response could include:
- Offering hospitality to mission teams, Games Pastors, and other Christian volunteers, so they can have a central base to relax and take breaks. Maybe offer a TV, sofas, and people to chat and pray with.
- Hosting local police, transport staff and secular volunteers for breaks – this could strengthen existing relationships with them
- Supporting the Salvation Army and other faith groups in offering hospitality – allowing them to park catering vans on your premises, and distributing refreshments
If your church would like to participate in any of these ways, do contact me (Email: elizabeth.harrison [at] london.anglican.org) to indicate your interest and receive support. By November 2011 I’d love to get a clear idea of what each church is planning, so I can help most effectively, and form a balanced overall response. I can offer resources, people and advice for each of these suggestions, and I’m happy to support any other bright ideas you may have to get involved in your central London church.