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Wrestling in faith

14 September 2012

BELIEVE it or not, the figure on the right is the Bishop of Sherborne, Dr Graham Kings (right), who, dressed in a sumo suit, gave a sound 3-1 beating to his Free Church opponent, the Revd Paul White. This was at the Refresh 2012 Beach Festival in Weymouth, Salisbury diocese, when Churches Together in Weymouth laid on the four-day event, despite bad weather on three of the days.

The sporting Bishop had already had his face painted with the Olympic rings, and had been taught to skateboard by some young people in exchange for teaching them how to flick a Frisbee round a tree. He then went on to do some limbo dancing. And all that was after the Sunday service on the beach, attended by 2000 people.

It was the highlight of the festival - fortunately on the one sunny day - with music led by the rock band Evergreen. Sadly, the rain diminished the crowds to a few hundred on each of the other three days, and people had to shelter in tents. But there was a large tented play-area for children, with face-painting, circus skills, balloon-modelling, and bouncy castles.

Adults were offered the more soothing services of foot massage and herbal teas. And there was plenty of live music, including the clergy rock-band Dogs Without Collars. Dr Kings said: "It was an extraordinary Christian festival on the beach: the direct outcome of long-term relationships across the denominations."

Refresh 2012 had been timed to take place between the Olympics and the Paralympics, but earlier, during the Olympic Games, the churches had offered to come to the rescue of the failing commercial Weymouth Bayside Festival, when poor attendance forced the organisers into liquidation.

The diocesan Olympic co-ordinator, the Revd Anni Douglas, says that they sent volunteers round the site to see how people felt, and Churches Together immediately offered a force of 300 volunteers to run the site and keep it going. Another commercial company was able to come to the rescue, however; so the offer of help was not necessary.

Nevertheless, "the impressive response", Dr Kings said, was "a classic example of the way churches can offer practical help".












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