'Stoke Mandeville Live' -14 churches working together
On the opening night of the Paralympic Games, 14 churches from Aylesbury Church Network worked in partnership with the local Distict Council, Global Games Sports, Youth for Christ, Through the Roof, Fusion and More than Gold to bring about an opening night festival at the Stoke Mandeville Stadium.
Through the day it had been pouring down with rain, but it just cleared at 6pm as the festival was about to start. A decision had been made not to cancel or move indoors - but after a short while you would not have known it had been raining. As the pictures show, the sun came out!
Using the walkways, portaloos and a tent from the previous night's Flame celebration at Stoke Mandeville Stadium, the churches provided the big screen, marquees, chairs, display areas and games equipment to host a wealth of activities - before folk used the 500 seats to watch the opening ceremony from London on the big screen.
The free event - at the birthplace of the Paralympics - was fully inclusive. The boards helped wheelchairs get about on the grass, the multi-sensory tent was popular, everything said was signed, and a wide variety of sport, arts and crafts, activities and games with some specialist equipment was available to try.
More than Gold had challenged the churches to organise the event, as the Aylesbury Church Network had experience of putting on an annual Party in the Park. In the event they organised three events: the Paralympic Festival, a Family Fun Day, as well as Church in the Park. See their website at www.aylesburychurchnetwork.org.uk.
Speaking of the Games to More than Gold on night and about the rain, organiser Rev Martin Kuhrt, Vicar of the Church of the Holy Spirit, Bedgrove, said, 'I hardly believed I'd be standing in the sun and seeing so many people of all abilities having such fun.'
From Fusion - a network helping churches work together in running open crowd community festivals - Marty Woods orgainsed big games including races, limbo, tug of war, parachute games etc and said, 'The great thing about this event is that everyone is equal. Everyone has something to offer, no matter what their ability or disability. Everyone is important.'
Again, speaking to More than Gold, Rev Keith Edwards, minister of Aylesbury Methodist Church said, 'It has been brilliant to see everyone being included. Our team of over 250 volunteers includes some with disabilities. We just wanted to make a fantastic start to the Opening Ceremony of the Paralympic Games.'
The More than Gold press release which you can see here, also quotes Lynn Watts saying, 'I saw a partially sighted man, led by his wife, walk across the sensory path we created of grass, sand and pebbles. It was truly magical to see the expression on his face.'
Here are some pictures of the festival, which includes Marilyn Baker who sang a blessing for the crowd before the people took their seats - now dry - to watch the big screen of the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 Paralympic Games.
Two members of staff at Churches Together in England were present. John Bradley is a National Ecumenical officer (South) and a wheelchair user. Among other things John was on car park duty as a volunteer. John said, 'I am CTE's link with Churches for All, despite the rain and having to get publicity out during August, it was very well attended and it was great to see families out together.' Jim Currin, CTE Secretary for Evangelisation took the pictures and said, 'This festival shows how churches of all traditions can work together in a fantastic way to serve the local community. The planning hours and hard work have paid off, and this is a good example of how churches and agencies have worked together in partnership.'