UK Churches Prepare for 2012 Olympics

More Than Gold Plans to Unite 3,000 Communities

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LONDON, MARCH 9, 2010 (Zenit.org).- In the recent Vancouver Winter Olympics, many countries were pitted against each other in competition. For the Christian churches, however, it was a time of unity.

This was reported by a delegation from the U.K. chapter of More Than Gold after they visited their Canadian counterparts during the Winter Olympics last month in order to get ideas for London’s hosting of the 2012 Games.

A press release distributed by the Catholic Office for the 2012 Olympic & Paralympic Games, which is under the bishops’ conference of England and Wales, stated that in Canada, 350 churches were united in the More Than Gold initiative.

Christians of various denominations worked together to serve the athletes and visitors who came to Vancouver, in a spirit of unity that has continued after the games, the U.K. delegation, led by CEO David Wilson, observed.

Wilson affirmed: “We have watched history being made as hundreds of churches have united as never before to welcome and serve people from every corner of the globe.  

“We have been witnessing longstanding barriers and misunderstandings being broken down around us.”

The More Than Gold initiative included many projects, such as a chaplaincy program for the athletes’ villages, free refreshment services, and places of prayer for the visitors.

Archbishop Michael Miller of the Vancouver Archdiocese, which created two locations near the Olympic sites for prayer, affirmed: “It is such a great honour to be able to host some of the most inspirational and gifted athletes of the world in our city.  

“Our young people are being renewed in their vision of the immense potential that exists within each one of them.”

Unseen thread

The General Superintendent of the Pentecostal Assemblies of God in Vancouver, Dave Wells, who organized the chaplaincy team, noted that “sensitive pastoral care is the often unseen thread that holds everything together at the Olympic Games.”

He continued: “In few other places can the outcome of years of intense and focused discipline result in such an overwhelming sense of loss or of joy depending on the outcome of one event. This is true for both athlete and trainer.  

“We are there offering support to those who require spiritual assistance to process every part of this journey.”

The visiting delegation included representatives from the Catholic Church, the Church of England, the Salvation Army, the Pentecostal Church and the Vineyard.

Some of them were able to see their own Amy Williams, English skeleton racer, receive the gold medal. One unnamed delegate was reported as saying that “the thought of twenty or more occasions like this on home territory in 2012 will have a profoundly uplifting effect on our nation, and especially our young people, and could deeply inspire us for years to come.”

Wilson affirmed: “This shows the potential for U.K. churches as they plan to make the most of all that the 2012 Games offer the church through programs of outreach, hospitality and service.”

He expressed the hope that “at least three thousand churches across the United Kingdom will mobilize with the work of More Than Gold to help best serve the nations of the world as they arrive on our shores.”

The More Than Gold brand has been used by Christian churches in various countries who have come together to serve athletes and visitors at major international events such as the Commonwealth, Pan Am, and Winter and Summer Olympic Games.

It was first used by the groups who united to plan projects for the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics. It aims to mobilize Christians for service projects and to motivate them to witness to Gospel virtues, which are many times also underlined as sporting values.

The initiative was launched in the United Kingdom by Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster, along with the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Brian Mawhinney, Chairman of the Football League who was also named Chair of Trustees for the organization, and Tessa Jowell, the Minister for the Olympics.

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On the Net:

U.K. More Than Gold: www.morethangold.org.uk

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ZENIT Staff

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