‘Olympic-less-ness’

Bruce GoodwinI heard this phrase on the radio this week and like many others I do feel the loss of watching this amazing sporting event on TV over the last nineteen days! Congratulations must go to all those who took part and of course those who won medals – especially to team GB at Rio 2016 – but is there a deeper story?

On their flight back home apparently one reporter said that the film about Eric Liddell, ‘Chariots of Fire’ was on a loop on the plane. Why might that be? Perhaps because of the wonderful sense of fulfilment we get when we sense our bodies are part of something greater. Liddell himself said that ‘when I run I feel His pleasure.’ Knowing the pleasure of God is a fascinating concept, indeed, many of the competitors acknowledged their allegiance to their maker. Usain Bolt is a strong Christian, Brazilian footballer Neymar is ‘100% Jesus’ and the US  women’s 4 x 400 relay team prayed together when they won gold.

So what do we take from all this? Is it that when we see athletes at the top of their game we see something of the image of God and His joy and pleasure? Maybe the phrase, so often used but no less apt, that sums this up is by the Church Father Irenaeus who said: ‘The glory of God is a person fully alive’.

By the Revd Bruce Goodwin, Chaplain, University of Gloucestershire.

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Rio brings out the best in humanity

Rosie WoodallI freely admit that I am obsessed with the Olympic Games – it’s the same every four years. I find new sports each time to become engrossed in and I realise time has flown by as I watch. As remarkable as the pure athletic excellence is, it’s not just the sport which I love. It’s also the amazing human interest stories that can be profoundly moving: the smiling ‘selfie’ taken by the two North and South Korean gymnasts, arms looped round each other; the first individual gold medal won by a black female swimmer; the victorious but exhausted GB rower being assisted back onto land by the Australians his boat had just beaten to gold; the pure joy on the face of Bryony Page, GB’s first ever medal winning trampolinist.

Although the Rio 2016 Games have been dogged by doping scandals and protests in Brazil over the high cost when so many are struggling, there is still something undeniably wonderful about the Olympics. Back in the second century AD, one of the early church writers, Irenaeus of Lyons, said that “the glory of God is a human being fully alive“. It’s a wonderful description of the way we should be living and feeling, though maybe it’s an ideal we fail to reach on most ordinary days. Surely the Olympics at their best are the very epitome of that statement by Irenaeus, as they bring out the best of humanity and provides us with something uplifting to celebrate in the dark and uncertain times we find ourselves in at the moment.

By the Revd Rosie Woodall, Vicar of Bisley, Chalford, France Lynch and Oakridge.

Focus like an Olympian…

Poppy Hughes

I take my hat off to Adam Peaty, winner of the first Team GB Olympic Gold Medal in Rio this week.  It was an astonishing victory in the 50m breaststroke and Peaty dominated the pool.

Afterwards, Peaty talked about the quest for “the perfect swim”, requiring total focus in the moment.  He just missed breaking his own World Record for the 50m, confessing to feeling “a little bit jittery”.  But perhaps that just makes his win even more impressive.

I have been reflecting on feeling jittery, since discovering that the Greek word for distracted is periespato.   Luke uses it in his Gospel, when he describes Martha rushing around making a meal for Jesus and the disciples.  I am no Greek scholar, but I think it is a wonderfully descriptive word.  Try saying it out loud.  “Peri” means around, like perimeter.  And “espato” … well, I just translate that as spattered!  So you get the sense of our attention being spattered around.

Feeling periespato will be familiar to many of us.  Our attention is pulled back, to reflect on past events with regret or nostalgia.  And we worry furiously about what is coming up, or what might happen.  So perhaps we could take time through day to focus on now:  to attend to this moment, as if nothing else mattered.

It is what our Olympic athletes are doing as they step up to the starting line.  It is what Jesus asked Martha to do.  Perhaps we could give it a go?

By the Revd Poppy Hughes, Rector of Tetbury, Beverston, Long Newnton and Shipton Moyne

Droning on…

DSC_0100I’m sure many people saw the news item last week about drones being used to deliver packages and thought they were living in an episode of Tomorrow’s World.  The prospect of my daughter’s  monthly subscription of nappies and bubble bath dropping out of the sky did seem just too daft to be real!  My amusement increased with a cartoon showing a drone taking off with part of a church spire attached to it, with the caption ‘Amazon, we have a problem’ illustrating an article about whether church towers and spires could be used as re-charging/docking stations for a fleet of drones.  After my initial giggles, I did start to think whether this might be a real opportunity for churches.

Now just to clarify: I don’t plan to advocate church towers and spires starting to look like tech versions of bees buzzing around a hive, and clearly any risk of a drone taking off with part of a spire attached to it is very bad thing.  However, if we can find a way of making this work successfully, just as there are successful ways of installing broadband transmitters and mobile phone aerials on and inside church towers, this has the potential to be a real good news story.

Churches have always been at the heart of their communities, often operating a wide range of functions far beyond worship.  This must continue into the future and though I don’t doubt there may be a few raised eyebrows about whether drones are appropriate, and whether the combination of something so hi-tech in such a historic location is harmful, we must challenge preconceptions, be brave and think more creatively about how our churches can benefit our local communities.

Whether or not the idea of drones takes off (please excuse the awful pun), there will continue to be new and unusual opportunities for our churches in the future and I just hope we will have the courage to pursue them.

By Natalie Fenner, Churches Officer