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Churches throw open doors for Games fans

01 August 2014


Medal-winners: Patricia Bezzoubenko, from Canada, who won six medals

Medal-winners: Patricia Bezzoubenko, from Canada, who won six medals

AS thousands of athletes, volunteers, and fans throng Glasgow for the 20th Commonwealth Games, churches throughout Scotland are rising to the challenge.

While medals are won on the track and in stadiums across the city, Christians have been handing out bottles of water, providing free beds for volunteers, and showing the festival on big screens in church halls.

The organisation More Than Gold 2014 has spent two years encouraging churches to use the Games as a unique opportunity. Its chief executive, Matt Oliver, said that he had been impressed by the response: "We have got 500-plus churches across Scotland doing something for the Games.There's a warmth to these Games which is uniquely Glaswegian."

During the build-up, more than 250 churches on the route of the Queen's Baton relay opened their doors to fans and passers-by, Mr Oliver said. Now that the Games had begun, churches were opening their doors to welcome people in to watch the opening ceremony and highlights of the 17 sports on show.

Glasgow was even showing up the efforts of churches in London, two years ago during the Olympics, Mr Oliver said. "It far outweighs anything that was done, compared by size to London. Per head, it's significantly larger."

The Salvation Army had planned to give away 100,000 bottles of water to fans, but had already gone through so much on the first day that it was planning to order more.

Mr Oliver said that the festival of sport was also a good opportunity for mission. There were "around 300 Games Pastors out there, day and night", he said. "There have been first-time commitments of faith. There is such a buzz about it. You spend two years convincing the Church of this moment for mission; [so] it's such a joy to see the Church happy, and people in church."

The Provost of St Mary's Episcopal Cathedral, Glasgow, the Very Revd Kelvin Holdsworth, said that he had used the arrival of the Commonwealth nations as a platform to speak out against injustice.

"We had Peter Tatchell here last week, highlighting issues of equality and justice across the Commonwealth. We are using it as a vehicle to highlight those kind of issues, and in particular about sex. Forty-two out of 51 Commonwealth countries still criminalise same-sex relationships."

Provost Holdsworth said that the cathedral was displaying the Commonwealth Tapestry, an artwork created by schoolchildren from around the Commonwealth. "I think it is a good thing for the city - Glasgow is absolutely buzzing. Right now, it just feels like we are at the centre of something."

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