Games to inspire change?
Faster . . . Higher . . . Stronger . . .
The 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games in London provide a once in a lifetime
opportunity for Churches to engage with an event of major significance and celebration in
the life of our nation. What follows offers some thoughts on the ‘Why?’ as well as the
‘How?’ of engaging with the Games.
Our Anglican contribution to the 2012 Games will stem from our long history
of incarnational ministry and leadership in every community of the UK.
Why and how should churches engage with the Olympic and Paralympic
Giving value to life
Sport, culture and religion lift spirits and give value, significance and inspiration to all of
our lives. The Olympic movement gives expression to each of these, and it sits well
with the values of the Church.
The Church’s engagement provides us with a great opportunity to promote all three in
our nation, inspired by united prayer and action.
The Olympic Lens: A focus for ministry and mission
The Olympics is a lens through which to focus and enhance all of our day to day
ministry, whatever that might be.
Mission, witness and evangelism are of paramount importance in our secular society. As
the Olympics celebrate excellence in sport and culture, so we have the opportunity to
demonstrate how human life can be celebrated in even greater excellence when
enhanced by faith in Jesus Christ.
Service and hospitality
Hospitality and welcome are central to the good news of the Gospel.
Volunteering by Christians serving the Games has added value to previous Olympic
venues. Volunteering is what we do well and provides opportunities for service and
Existing diocesan and parish overseas links provide the opportunity both to offer
hospitality and to develop those links.
Interfaith relations and Church unity
Both Old and New Testaments were written in times, like our own, of competing
religions and philosophies. People of all religions will be represented at the Games – a
great opportunity to deepen our interfaith relations and make a Christian contribution
assisted by the Presence and Engagement Network.
Engagement with the Games provides an opportunity for Church unity to be expressed
at a practical level as Christians of all denominations join hands for the common good in
practical service, mission and united projects.
The Olympics provides a high profile national ‘peg’ on which to hang many imaginative
good news stories which can enhance the place of Christian activity in the life of our
communities and nation.
The scope for raising the profile of the Church of England is considerable, as well as the
Church in general.
The Olympic Truce
Ancient Olympia was a combination of Wembley Stadium and Westminster Abbey, with
constant reference to the sacred Olympic Truce protecting travellers to the sacred
territory of Elis for the seven-day period before and after the Games.
The ancient truce was proclaimed throughout Greece by three heralds; we shall need
rather more to carry the message to every community to proclaim the modern Olympic
One of the things which won the Games was London’s cultural diversity and
extraordinary experience of cultural and religious harmony. At St Paul's Cathedral,
supporters of all the major recognised religions in London will proclaim the truce.
We will have to work out carefully a process of commending the Truce in ways that
penetrate our communities at depth.
There is potential for the Truce to be proclaimed in cathedrals and churches across the
Prophetic reflection and action
We need a robust critique of the Games, including theological, economic, ethical and
To assist in this The Oxford Centre for Ecclesiology and Practical Theology has begun
to write up the story of the Churches’ engagement with the Games and provide
theological and prophetic reflection.
This will be of lasting benefit and assist the Church of England in its engagement with
national sporting and cultural events in the future.
Legacy and regeneration
A major local concern is whether the Olympic legacy will be positive or negative and
how well the extensive regeneration of the Borough of Newham will serve its
There have been winners and losers already around the Olympic Park and this will
We are working in these neighbourhoods, and with the Regeneration authorities, to do
all we can to ensure as many people as possible are ‘winners’ as a result of this major
regeneration within East London.
The Games to inspire change
The Church of England is as committed to the legacy of the Games in the decades to
come as it is to making a significant contribution to the planning and delivery of the
The legacy for our Churches will be trained people of all ages who have enjoyed
themselves in ministry, mission and evangelism and are able to respond to other
sporting and cultural events both locally and nationally. Be a part of it. Don’t let the
opportunity pass you by.
Eight out of ten people normally watch the Olympics on TV but it could be nine out of
ten with the Games being held in London.
One third of the population belong to sports clubs and two thirds of young people play
sport. During the Games, the figures will increase.
We are well served by Duncan Green, full-time Church of England Olympics and
Paralympics Co-ordinator, appointed in 2007 and working closely with the London
There are plenty of resources available. More Than Gold has years of experience in
delivering ministries at Olympic Games and can offer training in all aspects of outreach for
the Games period.
For more information and ideas:
Your diocesan website or try www.chelmsford.anglican.org and press the Olympic legacy
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run
in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into
strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown
that will last forever.
1 Corinthians 9: 24 – 27
We can’t do everything. We must do what we do well.
An important priority in all that we attempt to achieve is to clarify what we do well as the
Church of England and concentrate on that as our distinctive contribution alongside all the
other denominations and Christian organisations.
I commend this once in a lifetime opportunity for our engagement in mission and ministry.
The Rt Revd David Hawkins
The Bishop of Barking