Churches delighted with success of Jubilee events
Published 08 June 2012
The bad weather over the Diamond Jubilee weekend failed to dampen the spirit of churches across the country that went ahead with their street parties and community events in spite of the rains and chilly temperatures.
In Reading, the Big Jubilee Lunch organised by the local Churches Together attracted 5,000 people. In addition to sandwiches and snacks, around 2,000 people picked up a free Diamond Jubilee New Testament.
Having built a solid reputation with their family fun days and service to the community, Churches Together in Reading was invited by the local council to lead the Diamond Jubilee celebrations in the town.
The lunch was hosted with the support of volunteers from churches in the area and opened by the owner of Reading Football Club, John Madejski.
Local vicar, Vernon Orr, said: “It felt like the whole community turned up and a well-organised army of volunteers meant clockwork organisation in getting the free food distributed.”
In Bilton, near Rugby, churches ran a free barbecue during which souvenir mugs and Diamond Jubilee New Testaments were handed out to guests.
Richard Street, co-organiser, said: “Nothing has been done on this scale here before. We had nearly 2,000 people all having a fantastic time, despite the rain.
“Each gazebo-covered area had a host from a local church to make people feel welcome. It was generosity, care and attention from hosts that people were most touched by.
“One lady said she will try out Bilton Evangelical Church because she felt so comfortable.”
Pastor Wunmi Oladunjoye, of the RCCG Holy Ghost Zone Church on London’s Old Kent Road, kicked off a buffet lunch by saying the specially-written Diamond Jubilee Grace.
HOPE’s Big Thank You sheets were passed around so that guests could write a message of thanks or a prayer for the Queen.
They also handed out copies of the special edition Diamond Jubilee New Testaments.
Co-organiser Pastor Lola Ayeni said: “Despite the rain, we had an amazing time. Everyone that got the Jubilee New Testaments was delighted with their gift.”
Eleven churches came together in Portishead to host a Big Jubilee Lunch attended by thousands of locals. Their celebrations in Battery Park included fun activities like beat the goalie, face painting and crown making.
Portishead Parish curate, the Rev Jeremy Putman, entertained children with his balloon modelling tricks, while local Christians baked a staggering 4,000 cakes as their contribution to the meal.
“We’ve all been baking like mad,” said Debbie Bonne, of Gordano Valley Church.
“It is the first time all the churches have worked together to put on something like this.
“We all think it's a great idea. The Big Lunch was a huge success with a multitude of people turning up with picnic blankets and chairs.
“People from all parts of our community could be seen enjoying lunch provided by the churches in the town."
Ruskin Road New Life Christian Centre, in Croydon, had to move its celebrations indoors because of the rain but that did not stop them from having a wonderful community lunch.
The church received 260 confirmed responses when invitations were sent out for its street party.
Anticipating extras, they cooked lunch for 300 but the final turnout was more three times that amount.
Kay McCabe, one of the organisers, said: “We experienced a loaves and fishes moment as by mid-afternoon we had fed over 1,000 people with a cooked meal and desert followed by cake and tea or coffee.
“We were overwhelmed by the response of the local community, many commenting that ‘no-one has ever done anything like this’ for them.”
For many of the guests, it was their first time inside the church building. Some people enquired about the Alpha course held at the centre, and one person signed up to attend.
Another highlight of the afternoon was the portrait of the Queen made by the children using old buttons. The portrait is now on display at Croydon’s central library.
Churches across the UK stretched their imaginations to ensure lots of fun for the community over the holiday weekend.
The Royal Engineers provided a mini assault course in Maidstone, while the Coastlands and St David’s Methodist churches in Colcot, Barry, offered sumo wrestling and bouncy castles.
A handbell group played the national anthem at the St Barnabas Big Jubilee Lunch in the London Borough of Sutton. In Farnham, guests were treated to water balloon volleyball, and Worcester Baptist Church ran a treasure hunt for the Queen’s jewels and pin the tail on the corgi.
A street party on Richmond Avenue, in Benfleet, Essex, brought many neighbours together for the first time. To help them get to know each other, each guest wore a name badge with their house number and now people greet each other by name in the street.
Sutton co-organiser, Janice Clarke, said: “The whole day was a ‘God moment’. Seeing people who did not know each other all enjoying themselves together, sharing food together and having lots of fun together could surely be said to be a ‘vision of heaven’.”
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