This week’s case study is from St Mary with St Alban, Teddington. I went to visit them initially a few months ago, and caught up with Emily, their parish assistant, over coffee last week. They’ve put together a full programme, aimed at local residents, to celebrate the Games together. I hope it will provide some inspiration for your plans.
What they’re doing
- Going to watch the Torch Relay. The relay passes within about a mile of the church, on the other side of the river, so a morning walk is planned, followed by brunch back at the parish hall.
- An Opening Ceremony celebration. This is the main event in their programme, and afternoon of family-friendly events in the park followed by an evening watching the ceremony inside.
- Afternoon tea during the cycle race time trials. The race goes past the churchyard, so outdoor refreshments and bunting will make it an inviting place for people to gather to spectate.
What impressed me
They’ve thought about funding – a ticketed sports quiz in May, with a curry, raffle and bar will help them to raise money well in advance of the summer events. By using quiz questions from Christians in Sport, the event becomes easier to run. A neighbouring curry house is providing all the food, so local relationships can be built up, and the church can support the local economy. By inviting teams from local businesses and sports teams, the event could build community while also fundraising from outside the electoral roll.
They’ve integrated within existing village activities, as well as starting something new. The Teddington Business community are organising a ‘Health and Wellbeing’ trail while the cycle races are going on at the other end of the village. To play their part in this, the church building will be open for quiet reflection, while community groups which use the hall for sports are being encouraged to participate in the trail.
They’re bringing together all the groups that already exist within the church community, and sharing the load. For the opening ceremony, the less serious welly-wanging and egg and spoon races will be organised by the guides and scouts, the youth group is planning to host a cafe. As the evening draws in, a kids choir will perform to bring everyone into the hall to watch the ceremony on a big screen. The tasks of the afternoon and evening have been broken into discrete, manageable chunks, and delegated to existing groups, so a large number of people can volunteer.
How the project could develop
The parish already communicates to its residents each month with a delivered newsletter, but attendees at events could sign up to receive electronic copies of this, if they’re not resident in the parish. Including these occasional visitors when inviting people to Harvest or Christmas events could help them to feel included, and widen the reach of what the church is already doing.
There’s an active knitting group, where people can come to find companionship, and encouragement in their projects. At first we struggled to link them in to the summer programme, but using knitting patterns to make athletes and sportspeople this term will help them feel included, and provide a good display, or race prizes, at the Opening Ceremony party.
At the moment, nothing is planned for the Paralympics. But the church youth group, and uniformed organisations could run a sports evening in early September, trying out Paralympic sports like Goalball and Boccia. Socials like this will help to bring the various groups for teenagers together, and build community.
This church is taking full advantage of the opportunities the Olympics bring, making good use of its existing community groups, and working to provide a range of events to cater for everyong in their parish. I think they’ll have fun, and get to know people better, boosting the church’s presence in its community.