This week’s post comes from Peter Steadman, a parishioner in Guildford Diocese. He’s encouraging churches along the cycle route to ring their bells during races on 28 and 29 July. To check if you’re on the route, visit the London 2012 website. Peter writes:
When the cycle race came through Surrey last August one group of spectators felt there was something missing. The crowd on Leatherhead’s Dorking Road included clergy and congregation from several churches who had come out after their service at the Parish Church.
There was a lovely atmosphere. We had a mix of people who wouldn’t normally all come to the same service. Because of the road closures, some of our regulars couldn’t get to our church that morning, and there were others who came here because they couldn’t reach their usual churches either. After the service we joined the crowd on the street, all of us anticipating the excitement to come.
You often hear that a cycle race is over in a moment. That may be an exaggeration, but the action is certainly fast and intense.
The riders were doing 40mph, in a tight pack. Their heads were down reading the road markings. I wondered whether it made much difference to them whether they were riding through France or Belgium rather than the lovely Surrey landscape. I wasn’t sure they’d notice London’s great landmarks as they passed them either.
So I came up with the idea of adding that very English sound of church bells ringing as the cyclists passed through each town and village. Something that would stay in the minds of the riders long after the day. A sound that would remind spectators on the race days that churches can be a focus of activity too.
I wrote to the Bishops of Guildford, Southwark, and London – through whose dioceses the Olympic cycle route runs – to seek their support for the idea. All three Bishops are encouraging the project. They hope bell-ringers will take on the challenge, even though the Queen’s Jubilee and the Olympic opening day have already added to ringers’ duties in 2012. Despite their heavy 2012 workload, bell-ringers across the three dioceses have been keen to adopt the project.
The Bishop of Guildford, the Right Revd Christopher Hill commented:
“I am very happy to commend to churches along the Olympic cycling route the idea of ringing during the events themselves. No doubt the ringers concerned will consult their incumbents as is proper but I am sure we all have goodwill towards this joyful celebration of a major international event.”
So when you hear the bells ringing during the Olympic cycling events on July 28th and 29th, remember it all grew out of an idea a group of parishioners had one sunny Sunday morning last August.
If you’re on the cycle route and would like to find out more about how to make the most of this opportunity, contact me (Email: elizabeth.harrison [at] london.anglican.org) to join the working group.