It’s taken a while to get down to writing anything since the Olympics. I guess I was not aware how much energy the Olympics zapped… and then we had a holiday …. but last night’s amazing opening ceremony for the Paralympics has been my personal inspiration to reflect on all that happened for me over that 3 week period.
First and foremost … what a privilege! I don’t think I have ever, or will ever repeat, volunteering in such an amazing, spectacular and special event. Being a volunteer chaplain at the Olympics was such an amazing experience and quite a unique way to support, encourage and sometimes even challenge people. I must admit I started wondering how being a chaplain to the workforce (ie other volunteers) would work …. but we were clearly needed and welcomed by the other volunteers there.
I had four particular locations to look after as chaplain: Horseguards Parade, Wembley Stadium, Wembley arena and the Wembley Plaza hotel. In all four places I found people who wanted to talk, who wanted to be listened to, and who wanted to be prayed with or had someone they wanted me to pray for.
Being a football fan, having the opportunity to walk around Wembley stadium on a daily basis was kind of a schoolboy dream come true. On one occasion I found myself in one of the Wembley boxes praying with two people while we looked out over the empty Wembley which had a match the night before. We needed somewhere quiet and the box was to hand. It was surreal … looking out over the ‘sacred’ ground of Wembley while asking God to intervene in these peoples lives. Of course … I took a pic … it had to be done!
I was amazed to find myself praying with people in stairwells, in the rest area, and even at the top of the Bowl in Horseguards while Beach Volleyball was played out below us. That was a unique venue in itself … and the press have made much of the amazing party atmosphere that was there. It was wild, and it was special and it may surprise some that amongst all that party stuff a chaplain was still needed and both of us there were always engaged with people from opening to close.
There are many amazing experiences that I will treasure for years and years to come. Those diamond moments of listening to people share their stories and being able to help them connect with God in some way were very very special. I was surprised by how many wanted to talk seriously about their lives and faith and how it all connected. The whole experience has left me with one new aim …. to learn Portugese in the next couple of years so that I might have a chance to do it all again at Rio 2016! Yeh … I wish!!