God's Spirit in Motion?
This article, by our CEO Tim Wood, first appeared in the ‘Connecting with Culture’ weekly e-mail produced by London Institute for Contemporary Christianity.
Over the next fortnight the Paralympics will welcome 4,000 disabled sportsmen and sportswomen to London and seek to emulate its motto, ‘Spirit in Motion’. The Games will value and recognise each competitor equally as an athlete, celebrate every individual’s God-given talent, and provide accessible facilities and assistance to ensure a truly rewarding and inclusive experience.
This positive environment will contrast with UK society more generally, where disabled people are twice as likely to live in poverty, and more likely to suffer abuse, hate-crime, physical violence and abortion. Research shows that 65% of families with disabled children frequently feel isolated, with one in five such families breaking up. The daily struggles disabled people face pose uncomfortable questions.
Games Chair, Lord Coe, declares: ‘London 2012’s vision has always been to use the power of the Games to inspire change... to change attitudes and break down barriers to social inclusion.’ The Government likewise maintains that the event ‘will showcase a Britain without barriers [and] a country in which the whole of society takes responsibility for changing the lives of disabled people’. It seems our sport and political leaders perceive the influential role the Games has as a catalyst for change. I wonder, do we, as Christians, acknowledge the part that we might play in pursuing parity?
The message of Jesus in Luke 14 is of inclusivity. He advises not to ask friends to a dinner party, but to invite the marginalised members of society – those living in poverty, or with personal experience of disability: people who are forgotten and overlooked (14:12-14). Jesus expresses the heart of his Father through the parable of a house owner who throws a banquet and orders his servants to go out and bring in ‘the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame’ (14:21). God’s kingdom isn’t complete without disabled people at the table. It is precisely in human brokenness that the brightness of the gospel of grace is seen in all its power.
London’s Paralympics will provide a unique sporting stage for the fortunate few, and reveal the abilities and spirit of disabled people. It also offers the ideal backdrop to profile the injustices faced by disabled people and to offer a compelling alternative.
Beyond this Paralympics, will we seize the baton and strive together to invite disabled people to join God’s Spirit in Motion?
TTR at the Stoke Mandeville Festival
TTR was involved with a community festival at Stoke Mandeville Stadium, celebrating the opening night of the Paralympics. Here's a few thoughts from event organisers, More Than Gold, about the evening.
Finally the rain stopped, the sun broke through and people of all ages and abilities just had fun, at the first ever Paralympic opening night community festival.
The free event, on Wednesday 29th August, was at the birthplace of the Paralympics, Stoke Mandeville Stadium. In keeping, the massive enterprise went the extra mile to be fully inclusive.
Much of the grass was decked with wheelchair-friendly boards. There were opportunities to try Paralympic sport. And a multi-sensory area drew large numbers. Meanwhile, events like the tug of war became open to all, including wheelchair-users.
It had been a nail-biting experience for the organisers, the Aylesbury Churches Network – fourteen churches of different denominations who had planned and funded the event. Torrential rain throughout the day had threatened to bring disaster.
Just in time, the torrents stopped. As the clouds broke, organiser Rev Martin Kuhrt said, ‘I hardly believed I’d be standing in the sun and seeing so many people of all abilities having such fun.’
Between leading games of ‘What’s the Time Mr Woolf’ and the ‘Hokey Cokey’, Marty Woods of More Than Gold told the crowd, ‘The great thing about this event is that everyone is equal. Everyone has something to offer, no matter what their ability or disability. Everyone is important.’
Rev Keith Edwards, minister of Aylesbury Methodist Church, said, ‘It has been brilliant to see everyone being included. Our team of over 250 volunteers, includes some with disabilities. We just wanted to make people smile and have a fantastic start to the Opening Ceremony of the Paralympic Games.’
One of the volunteers, Lynn Watts, said, ‘I saw a partially sighted man, led by his wife, walk across the sensorary path we created of grass, sand and pebbles. It was truly magical to see the expression on his face.’
The Paralympic opening night community festival also included strolling clowns welcoming guests, a vast range of inflatables, human table-top football, arts and crafts, face painting, a free barbecue and a big screen showing of the opening ceremony.
The media attention gained by the event included Channel 4 creating a report for their daily Paralympic breakfast programme.
The Aylesbury Church Network is also responsible for the only Paralympic live site to be run by churches. It will also be used for their annual community Festival in the Park on Saturday 1st August and for a united church service and picnic the following day.
Another report, and some more photos from the day, can be found by following this link.
TTR's on the Radio
Get your radios ready, as TTR's Youth Project Manager and Paralympian, Alan Whetherly will be appearing on a radio near you to discuss faith, sport and the paralympics (amongst other topics!)
He'll be appearing live on different local BBC radio channels on Sunday 2nd September, between 7am and 9am.
On Sunday 9th September he's a guest on Premier Radio's breakfast show from 9-10am, talking about the Paralympic Games and its legacy.
Pre-recorded interviews with Alan will also be aired on Sunday 2nd September at 9am on RNIB's insight radio (Follow this link to visit the Insight Radio site) and on Sunday 9th September at 4pm on Premier Christian Radio (Follow this link to visit the Premier Christian Radio site). We'll let you know as soon as any of these are available for listening online.
You can also hear our Chairman, Mike Townsend and Alan speaking on Radio 4's Sunday worship from the 19th August by following this link. A transcript of the service is available on that page.
Image licensed under
Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
, taken by Ian Britton and www.freefoto.com
Mind and Soul's 'Headroom'
Saturday 3rd November - 9.30am to 5pm
Central Hall, West Tolcross, Edinburgh
Tickets: £20 before 30th Sept / £25 thereafter
Premier Mind & Soul have teamed up with Scottish Churches and Charities to create a practical, hands-on, one day event focussing on emotional health. The day is designed to equip, encourage, and empower you to engage with mental health problems in your local community. Sessions will be delivered by recognised experts from counselling and health backgrounds.
Celebrating the Paralympics in Disability Week
To celebrate the Paralympics TTR is joining with partners in the Churches for All network and Premier Life to promote a Disability Week between the 2nd – 9th September.
The week’s ‘ceremonies’ will open and close with Disability Sundays. Free resources are available to churches include the Disability Sunday pack, ‘Redefining Ability’ (Follow this link to visit the CFA site and read Redefining Ability).
Churches will also be encouraged to reach out to their local disabled people in their local communities through a Luke 14 banquet (Follow this link to read about the Luke 14 banquet).
Premier radio will interview our CEO, Tim Wood, on the morning of the Opening Ceremony (29th). They will also feature short audio ‘thoughts’ on disability every day that week, including one from TTR’s Youth Ambassador, Philippa Woodcraft, whilst TTR’s Youth Manager, Alan Whetherly will join their Breakfast show at 9.00am on the 9th.
(Photo by Flickr user 'Jonas in China' -- his photos from Paralympics 2008 can be seen byfollowing this link)
Out Now! The Summer 2012 Vital Link
The latest Vital Link newsletter (for August to November) is now available. Follow this link to download the Summer 2012 Vital Link Newsletter PDF.
Please get in touch (on 01372 749955 or by following this link to email us) if you have any problems downloading this, or if you’d like to receive future newsletters by post or email.
Ideas and Inspiration...
Without your support in raising awareness and funds for us, we couldn't do what we do. Our new "Ideas and Inspiration" pack gives real examples of disabled people whose lives have been changed thanks to our generous donors, fundraisers, speakers and all the other volunteers involved with TTR.
We think this pack demonstrates the real difference you're making and hope it will encourage existing supporters to continue supporting, and new supporters to join in!
In case you're stuck for fundraising ideas, the pack also includes are some examples of activities that have been successful in the past. Please download the pack, and feel free to share it with others too.