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Chaplaincy at London 2012 

Baptist minister the Revd John Boyers has continued his chaplaincy work into the Paralympic Games after serving during the Olympics. As these draw to a close he offers some reflections and prayer points

It's Thursday 6 September.  Children are back at school, so the weather has improved - and the 2012 Athletes' Village draws nearer to the Games end!

A couple of days ago I visited all the 'residence centres.'  The Athletes' Village is divided into eleven such centres, each of which looks after several residential blocks.

Chaplaincy at London 2012 07 SI was distributing information of our final Christian Sunday Service - designated  a "celebration service to celebrate God's goodness as the games draw to a close" - wanting all who could be interested to know the details.

I spoke with staff in each location, asking the same questions of all:  'Were you working here for the Olympics?' and 'How have you found the Paralympic Games differed from the Olympics?'

The observations were interesting. Many, like several of our Paralympic chaplains, had worked as volunteers in both Games. Those who had served both made similar observations: "There is a lot less tension around now than in the Olympics,"  "Paralympic athletes appear more friendly, are more likely to engage with us Games Makers" (i.e. volunteers); and "the Paralympic atmosphere is more relaxed compared with that of the Olympics."

Our experience as chaplains would parallel such observations. The 'Paras' do feel different. Maybe it is because the Village is less crowded - we have maybe 5,500 people in the Village now compared with 16,000 plus four weeks ago.

Maybe it is because many of the athletes are not high profile and so under less media pressure. Maybe we are more familiar with the 'feel' of a major sporting event. Maybe it is because all are just so grateful to be part of these amazing games.

And they are amazing!  I'm amazed at the way so many have clearly overcome great challenges to compete at world level.

Chaplaincy at London 2012 07 SWe see those without arms or legs, the visually impaired, the wheelchair bound, and others all with reason to be disgruntled with life, putting all such disadvantages behind them to strive for sporting success - amazing! It puts all complaints about a sore throat or a persistent cough in perspective.

The chaplaincy work in the Athletes' Village is going well, very similar to our patterns at the Olympics with minor changes. We still offer religious facilities for the five main world faiths, with three chaplaincy teams working in rotation, covering two shifts a day, now from 8am to 3pm and 2pm to 9pm.

The athletes and delegations really appreciate the work of chaplaincy, our religious provisions and our personal support. In our visitors' book to the faith centre, comments have been recorded, including:

"Thanks for providing such an amazing quality service and space for all of us to pray. Cannot able to express fully how much happy and please with Olympic committee"

"God bless you for having a concern for the lives of many in the world, for your work for Christ during the Paralympics"

"A heartfelt experience, a once in a lifetime experience, thank you all"

Such feed-back is heartening, but not surprising.  During the Games some of our most significant work has been with people of faith communities who were away from home.

We Christian chaplains have provided services and Bible study, with many people coming to join whenever they were able.

Many people have asked for Bibles for themselves or for friends. For some individuals we were 'home church away from home' - it has been a great privilege to serve 2012 as a chaplain.

As you ponder these comments, PLEASE also PRAY:
  • Chaplaincy at London 2012 07 SThank God for safety and security during both Games of 2012
  • Thank God for the commitment of chaplains who have served the Games faithfully and effectively  - and for the faith communities who allowed their involvement
  • Pray for the legacy of these Games - especially the impact of  Chaplaincy in future events
  • Pray for those athletes who have inter-faced with chaplains, for those who have taken Bibles, soon to return home, that God's work in them  will continue
  • Pray for hundreds of LOCOG employees who, over the next weeks, will find themselves without work. There is a known issue of 'post-games depression' as people who have worked in such a focused way suddenly face unemployment and the question of "what now??"

The Revd John K Boyers is International Director, Sports Chaplaincy UK; Chaplain, Manchester United FC; Ministry Team member, Altrincham Baptist Church
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