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Visitors to Olympics to have pastors for their spiritual needs

01 February 2012

by Ed Thornton

Home start: Steph Cook, a modern pentathlete who won a gold medal at the Sydney Olympics in 2000, helping to launch the Homestay programme for More than Gold last November. The agency reported this week that 100 people had so far offered accommodation to the families of athletes who will be coming to London for the Games. Ms Cook said: “The warm welcome and hospitality of a lovely family made my family's stay in Sydney very special, and meant that they were able to support me on one of the greatest days of my life”

THE race is on to find more than 800 “Games Pastors” to “demonstrate the love of Christ” during the Olympic and Paralympic Games in London this year.

More Than Gold, an agency that is supported by the Church of England and other Christian denominations, said in a statement last month that the Games Pastors would be “deployed at main transport hubs and where large crowds gather”. The pastors would “respond to the practical and spiritual needs of an estimated 800,000 people as they visit London and other Games locations next summer”.

The chief executive of More Than Gold, David Wilson, said: “There will be many lost, confused, and lonely people coming through London during the Games. These Games Pastors are going to be a lifeline for them, which makes this a great opportunity for Christian service.”

Mike Freeman, of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, who is overseeing the Games Pastors programme, said that it was an opportunity for churches “to engage with potentially thousands of people in a caring, supportive role, actively demonstrating the love of Christ”. He said that those applying to be volunteers would need the “full support” of their parish priest or church minister.

A spokesman for the Christian Police Association, Sgt David Turtle, said that the Games Pastors would be “invaluable to the police service” during the Olympics.

Churches are also being encour­aged to send members to “Get Set” training days, which will take place from now until April. A statement from More Than Gold said that the training will include sessions on becoming a Games Pastor, running a community festival, and “using sport to impact every age group”.

The Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Richard Chartres, attended a training session at All Souls’, Lang­ham Place, last Saturday. It was organised by the 2012 project, which is attempting to enlist 2012 volun­teers, between the ages of 13 and 35, to take part in community projects during the Olympics.

Those who sign up to be one of the 2012 volunteers will be commissioned by Bishop Chartres at a “London Calling” service in St Paul’s Cathedral on 24 April.

Church House has published a list of liturgical resources for the Games on the website www.olympics.churchofengland.org. The resources include a prayer in preparation for the 2012 Games; a prayer before a competitive event; and “a Litany at the time of the London Olympic Games”.

A paper published in November by the Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility, Hotels, Sex Trafficking and London 2012, said that the influx of visitors to London during the Olympics “will be ac­companied by a greater demand for sexual services, and an increase in sex trafficking”.

It encourages hotel companies to act to “prevent their facilities being used by traffickers”, and to train hotel staff to “identify and respond appropriately to potential trafficking cases”.


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